(Photo credit Dennis Switzer)
ATLANTA, Ga. – The Benedict College Tigers blocked two field goals in the last 4:34 of the game, including the second one with just 45 seconds left, to hold on to a 27-24 victory over the Clark Atlanta Panthers on Saturday and spoil the Panthers’ Homecoming at Panther Field.
Benedict improves to 5-1 overall with its fifth straight win, and 3-0 in the SIAC. Clark Atlanta falls to 2-5 overall and 1-2 in the SIAC.
Clark Atlanta had a 21-20 lead at the half, but the Tigers were able to hold the Panthers to just a field goal in the second half. And then it came down to making a pair of big stops at the end.
“I thought it was a hard-fought game,” Benedict head coach Mike White said. “It was a typical SIAC battle. Clark played a great game. Just some big plays at the end allowed us to come out on top. It was a hard-fought game and I’m just glad we had one more point than they did.”
Clark Atlanta got a 31-yard field goal from Carlos Saldana with 10:14 left in the game to cut the lead to 27-24. The Tigers punted the ball back to the Panthers on their next series, and Clark Atlanta drove to the Benedict 3-yard line, where Saldana’s 20-yard field goal attempt was blocked. Benedict’s 6-foot-5 offensive lineman Christian Taylordeflected the ball. The Tigers recovered the ball at the 1-yard line and were only able to pick up a few yards before having to punt the ball again. Clark Atlanta took over at the Benedict 22-yard line after a short punt and a holding penalty against the Tigers.
The Panthers moved the ball down to the Benedict 4-yard line, with Rashaad Miller and Joshua Siaosi stuffing the Panthers on an important third-and-two. Saldana came in with 45 seconds left to try and tie the game, but Taylor was able to push through again and block the kick.
“We’ve got some pretty tall guys inside and we put that in a few weeks ago. We use it from time to time. I kind of wish we could have turned them into some points, but those were just big plays by our block team. It was the difference in the game.”
Benedict needed the big special teams stops after the Panthers threw for 412 yards against the Tigers and outgained Benedict 482-269 in total offense. Charles Stafford, who came into the game in the first quarter when starting CAU quarterback Elijah Odom was injured, completed 21-of-36 passes for 397 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.
“We had a few blown coverages,” White said. “We didn’t have the pass rush all day that I thought we would have. Hats off to their staff, but I thought we could play a little better pass defense than that. That was the most disappointing part, that they had so many receivers who were wide open.”
Dominique Harris completed 10-of-21 passes for 188 yards with two touchdowns for the Tigers. Harris also led the Tigers with 37 yards on the ground with a pair of rushing touchdowns. Drelon Freeman was the top receiving target with four receptions for 92 yards. Danye Washington and Keivonte Gallmon each caught a touchdown pass.
The Panthers opened the game with a touchdown on their opening drive, as Odom rushed 48 yards on the first play of the game and later threw a 5-yard scoring pass to Johnathan Sanders.
The Tigers answered by marching down the field, going 76 yards over 12 plays before Harris connected with Gallmon for a 6-yard scoring pass. Rigoberto Tinocomissed the extra point and Benedict trailed 7-6 with 7:15 on the clock.
Clark Atlanta’s Saldana missed a 51-yard field goal attempt on the next possession, his first of three straight misses (from 51, 46 and 35 yards).
A 53-yard pass from Harris to Washington in the second quarter put the Tigers ahead 13-7 with 10:46 left in the first half. The Panthers quickly answered with Stafford throwing a 22-yard touchdown pass to Caleeb Roberson with 8:23 left and CAU regained the lead, 14-13.
After Benedict’s Traviontae Brown recovered a CAU fumble, the Tigers drove 40 yards, with Harris picking up the final 20 on a rollout to give BC a 20-14 lead with 3:15 left in the first half.
Stafford and the Panthers needed just six plays to travel 75 yards in just a little over two minutes to retake the lead. Stafford’s 11-yard pass to Corey King Jr. gave the Panthers a 21-20 halftime lead.
After Saldana missed a 46-yard field goal in the third quarter, Harris completed a deep pass to Freeman for a 64-yard pickup. Three plays later, Harris scrambled in from two yards out to give the Tigers a 27-21 lead.
Benedict returns home to take on the Morehouse Maroon Tigers in a key 2 p.m. conference showdown next Saturday. Morehouse was scheduled to take on Albany State at home on Saturday, but that game was moved to Sunday due to campus damage from Hurricane Michael and other issues in Albany, Ga., which prevented the team from fully preparing for the game. If Morehouse wins that game, the Tigers and Maroon Tigers will be fighting for first place in the SIAC East Division next week in front of a large Homecoming crowd.
“We’re going to have to play a lot better,” White said. “We’re going to have to get ready for another tough game. There’s going to be so many logs you can throw on this fire, from a conference game to those guys being undefeated coming in and being on fire the way they’re playing. We’ve got to play better and put on a good show in front of our Homecoming crowd.”