Only two games into the 2011 Bulldog football season, and Tech fans have already had two heart attacks. After a disheartening loss to Southern Miss in the final minutes by two points last week, many expected the first game at home against FCS opponent Central Arkansas would be a relaxing and resounding victory. The expected win was right, but what they didn't expect was how they would win -- a nail-biting finish of 48-42 in overtime.
The 48 points showed a solid outing by Tony Franklin's offense. Nick Isham passed for over 300 yards, Lennon Creer rushed for over 175 yards and Quinton Patton had over 200 yards receiving. On the other hand, giving up 42 points was evidence of a disappointing outing by Tommy Spangler's defense.
For the first 46 minutes of the football game (three quarters plus 1 minute in the fourth), the Tech defense gave up a total of 413 yards of total offense to the Bears. They gave up long scoring drives of 11, 10, and 9 plays. These scoring drives went for 80, 79, and 77 yards, and helped UCA eat up about 28 of these 46 minutes. It took just 2 consecutive passes of 24 and 56 yards from Nathan Dick to Jesse Grandy for the Bears to tie the game up early in the fourth quarter (including the 2-point conversion). However, it was from here on out that the "GATA defense" became a key contributor in winning the game and here's why.
THE NEXT FIVE OFFENSIVE DRIVES FOR UCA
After UCA covered 80 yards in 39 seconds for a touchdown, they got the ball back quickly after a Tech 3 and out. They had great field position on Tech's 48 yard line. Instead of breaking again, the Tech defense forced a 3 and out, including a combo sack by Jon'al White and IK Enemkpali. (1)
The offense was about to get another chance to take the lead, except a personal foul - roughing the kicker penalty - on the ensuing punt allowed UCA to get the ball back, this time with even better field position at the Tech 35 yard line. The defense rose to the occasion again, only allowing 9 total yards including 2 tackles for loss, forcing a 43 yard field goal attempt that was wide right. (2)
The offense would move the ball down the field, allowing their own kicker Matt Nelson to take a shot from 46 yards to take the lead. Nelson's attempt went wide right as well. With the defense back on the field again, Tech allowed just 17 yards before 2 incomplete passes, then an interception by strong safety Craig Johnson (a walk-on playing in place of injured Ryan Williams). (3)
The ball went back to the offense again to try and win the game on a final drive. However, UCA recovers a Creer fumble and runs it back for a touchdown to take a 7-point lead. The offense got the ball back again, this time putting it in the endzone with less then a minute left to tie it at 42-42. With still 58 seconds left on the clock, the Bears offense was still capable of producing a scoring drive, except the Tech defense stepped up again and forced another easy 3 and out, forcing the game into overtime. (4)
The Bulldogs won the coin toss and elected to play defense first, and the next 3 plays went like this: complete pass for 2 yards, rush for 1 yard, and an incomplete pass. A blocked field goal by Adrien Cole and 3 rushes later by Lennon Creer resulted in the 48-42 win. (5)
The defense has been heavily criticized the past couple days for their poor play, and rightfully so. However, their effort in the fourth quarter and in overtime should be commended because it played a huge role in this team coming out with a 1-1 record and not 0-2. Even though the Tech defense gave up 445 yards total for the whole game, in the last five UCA possessions, they only gave up a total of 32 yards (an average of six yards per possession).
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