The Panthers had a bad taste in their mouth from last year’s triple-overtime loss to Fort Valley State University, and intended to get payback on Saturday. However, their efforts came up short, as the Wildcats accumulated over 400 yards of offense in route to a 41-24 win at Panther Stadium.
The Panthers’ running backs made their mark early. After Jajuan Lankford’s big catch moved the offense to the FVSU 21-yard line, Roger Thomas scored from eight yards out to give CAU the early lead.
FSVU’s own running back, Chanucey Jackson, tied the game up with his own eight-yard touchdown run to open up the second quarter.
On the ensuing kickoff, senior Deandre Jackson gave the Panthers great field position with a 75-yard return. When the drive stalled, Carlos Saldana reclaimed the lead for the Panthers with a 25-yard field goal.
After a successful field goal attempt by the Wildcats, receiver Lorenzo Smothers gave his team a 17-10 halftime lead after his 10-yard touchdown run.
After the break, the Panthers fumbled on their first play from scrimmage. On their next possession, the Panthers were forced to punt. Smothers fielded the ball at the FVSU 14-yard line, and returned it 86 yards for a touchdown, increasing the Wildcat lead, 24-10.
The Wildcats continued to give the Panthers a difficult time with their running game. On their next drive, Fort Valley State called seven consecutive running plays for positive yardage, before throwing a 12-yard touchdown pass to Tajee Steele.
Down 21 points in the fourth quarter, the Panthers started to play with a
sense of urgency. 38 seconds into the quarter, Johnathon McCrary completed another huge pass to Jackson for a 14-yard score. Two plays later, senior defensive back Jaquatin Victrum forced a fumble by FVSU, which was recovered by the Panther defense. Two plays later, McCrary threw his second touchdown pass of the game, this one to tight end Rodney Morris. This score brought CAU within seven, 24-31.
On FVSU’s next possession, the Panthers caused another fumble, this one forced by linebacker T. J. Cook and recovered by Kenneth Morgan.
After an FSVU field goal pushed the Wildcat lead to 34-24 with 1:25 left in the game, the Panthers looked to score again. But on the second play of the drive, McCrary was intercepted by FSVU’s Nicco Whigham, who returned the ball 40 yards for a touchdown.
McCrary completed 27 of 52 passes for 259 yards and two touchdowns. Jackson led all receivers with 98 yards on seven catches, and one touchdown.
Linebacker Harding Harper led all players with 13 tackles, including two for loss.