Florida Tech sneaks past UWA in conference play

Published 9:33 am Monday, October 13, 2014

After trailing West Alabama for 55 minutes, Florida Tech scored a pair of touchdowns in the last 4:58, including the game-winner with two seconds left, to defeat West Alabama, 33-32, in Gulf South Conference football action Saturday at Tiger Stadium.

Mark Cato found tight end his tight end, Gabe Hughes, on a 5-yard touchdown pass with two seconds left to give Florida Tech its first-ever GSC road win and improve the Panthers to 4-2 overall and 1-1 in the league.

The Panthers drove 77 yards in 12 plays for the game winner after UWA had taken a 32-27 lead on a 17-yard pass from Kyle Caldwell to Daryl Collins with 1:41 to play. Cato passed for 28 yards and ran for 33 more during the game winning drive.

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“We didn’t do enough to win. That is the bottom line,” UWA head coach Brett Gilliland said. “This is a hurting football team and a hurting coaching staff right now, but I believe we have some seniors who won’t let this team quit.”

West Alabama dropped to 3-3 overall and 0-2 in conference play. The Tigers have a short turn-around, traveling to Rome, Ga., to face Shorter on Thursday at 6 p.m. The game will be televised by ESPN3.

“Florida Tech made the plays when they had to,” Caldwell said. “I thought we improved on offense this week. They were giving us the underneath stuff early in the game and we took advantage of that. They made some adjustments at the half.”

Caldwell and Chad Toocheck hooked up five times in the first half, including a 34-yard touchdown pass on the Tigers’ first possession of the game. Toocheck finished with seven receptions for 111 yards, moving him into a tie for seventh on the UWA career reception list with 95.

“I don’t care about how many catches I have. I just want to win games,” Toocheck said. “Florida Tech did their thing when they had to and you have to give them credit. We just had to many turnovers.”

Caldwell completed 17-of-29 passes for 248 yards and three touchdowns, including a 23-yard catch and run to Collins to put West Alabama up 17-6 with 11:51 left in the first half. His two TD passes gives him 58 for his career, just two short of the UWA record.

UWA safety Fred Barnes intercepted Cato twice while also recording nine tackles and a broken up pass. Linebacker Quinton Harton led Tiger tacklers with 10 tackles, eight solo. Brandon Lilly also recorded an interception for UWA.

“We didn’t get what we came here to get, so anything I did doesn’t mean anything,” Barnes said. “We didn’t execute on all cylinders, so now we start from the bottom and grind it out. We come back to work.”

Cato was 20-of-43 for 239 yards and two touchdowns, but was intercepted three times. Sand led all rushers with 110 yards on 17 carries and Xavier Milton had six catches for 84 yards and a TD for the Panthers.

Mark Grant made four field goals for West Alabama, including a career-best 51-yarder in the first quarter.

Javae Swindle was UWA’s leading rusher, picking up 76 yards on 12 carries. He also caught three passes for 24 yards.