Florida Tech Tops No. 12 Tarleton State, 37-31
Panthers win first-ever game over a ranked opponent as offense racks up 572 total yards
ARLINGTON, Texas – Trevor Sand gained 152 yards and three scores on the ground, and Tyler Bass scored the game-winning touchdown on a seven-yard pass from Mark Cato with 3:56 remaining, as Florida Tech overcame the powerful offense of the 12th ranked Tarleton State Texans, 37-31, at AT&T Stadium. It is the first time in FIT’s first two years of football competition that the Panthers came out victorious against a ranked opponent.
Tarleton State got the scoring started with a Zach Henshaw four-yard rush for six points midway through the first quarter. FIT responded with an 11-play 78-yard drive capped with a four yard scoring run from Sand to tie the game at seven apiece.
The Texans didn’t take long to recapture the lead as Collin Strahan connected with Bubba Tandy on a 77-yard touchdown strike. The Panthers countered with a pair of Sand touchdown romps, one from three yards out and another for 51 yards, which gave FIT its first lead of the game at 21-14.
Tarleton State was able to answer back with 10-straight points to close the half, including a 21-yard scoring reception from Le’Nard Meyers as time expired to send the Texans into the locker room with a 24-21 advantage.
Gabe Hughes gave the Panthers the lead back early in the third quarter, taking a short pass from Cato and toeing the sideline for 64 yards and a score. Brion Ashley added a 36-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter to extend the Panther lead to 31-24.
Following a fumbled exchange between Cato and Sand, Strahan faked a handoff and glided into the endzone from seven yards out to knot the game back up at 31 aside with 8:56 remaining in the game. However, the Panthers wouldn’t be denied as Bass took a pass in the flat and scooted into the end zone for a seven-yard touchdown of his own, giving FIT a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. J.J. Sanders ripped the ball from the Texans’ Cody Burtscher, and the Panthers were able to hold off the Texans with a Tyler Rosenblatt interception as the clock hit zeroes.
In total, Cato racked up a career-high 354 yards and two scores on 25 of 38 through the air to help lead the Panthers to the best record to start a season in program history at 3-0. FIT received two 100-yard receiving performances in the game, as Xavier Milton hauled in nine catches and 138 yards, both team-highs, and Hughes added 104 yards on just three receptions.
In his first game of the season, Sanders had a banner day with 12 tackles and the late forced fumble. Additionally, Sanders recorded a game high 3.5 tackles for a loss, including a sack. Chris Stapleton also put forth a dominating effort for the Panthers, finishing the day with 12 tackles and a sack. Manny Abad and Rosenblatt chipped in one interception each to help hold the Texan offense at bay.
Tarleton State received another strong start from Strahan, who put up 305 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions on 23 of 39 passing and added 75 yards and another score on the ground. Tandy put up big numbers in the receiving game, recording 154 yards on seven receptions, including a 77-yard touchdown catch.
FIT will return to action next Saturday, Sept. 27, against FCS opponent and 12th-ranked Bethune-Cookman in Daytona Beach, Florida at 4 p.m. ET.
Season and individual game tickets remain for FIT’s four remaining home games. Tickets are available by calling 321-674-6228 or stopping by the Clemente Center Ticket Office Monday-Friday from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
A live radio broadcast of Saturday’s game will be available on the new Official Radio Partner of the Panthers, WFIT 89.5 FM, with Jerry Durney and Paul Van Scott calling the game. The feed will also be available by clicking on the ‘Listen Live’ button in the top left hand corner at WFIT.org and through the free TuneIn Radio app. Additional live coverage, if available, will be accessible through FloridaTechSports.com.
Box Score: http://www.floridatechsports.com/media/2014-15/football/stats/FIT03.HTM
2014 Schedule: http://www.floridatechsports.com/football/schedule/