MELBOURNE, Fla. Tre Jackson drilled a 33-yard field goal as time expired to lift West Alabama to a 13-10 Gulf South Conference football victory over Florida Tech Saturday at Panther Stadium.
West Alabama improved to 5-4 overall with the win, 2-3 in GSC play. Florida Tech lost its fifth consecutive game, falling to 3-6 and 1-5.
"It was awesome to see our guys finish," UWA head coach Brett Gilliland said. "I am so proud of our players for playing for each other after two hard weeks.
"I was excited to see us play for 60 minutes and make the plays to win the game," Gilliland said. "Florida Tech is a very good football team and it was a great GSC battle. Now it's time to refocus on a very good Mississippi College team."
Florida Tech jumped to a 10-0 lead with 4:39 left in the first quarter, but the West Alabama defense threw a big goose egg at the Panthers the rest of the way. The Tigers limited Florida Tech to just 36 total yards, only one yard rushing, in the fourth quarter while UWA gained 114.
Trailing by 10 points with 7:53 left in the first half, Jackson hit the first of his two 33-yard field goals to make it 10-3 FT at the half. The Panthers had taken advantage of UWA turnovers on its first two drives to build an early advantage.
Trailing 10-3 and facing 4th-and-6 at the Florida Tech 26-yard-line Jack McDaniels connected with Qua Boyd for 14 yards to the Panther 12 in the waning minutes of the game. The conversion kept what was a 13-play, 82-yard scoring drive alive.
On the next play Boyd completed the drive with a one-handed stab of a McDaniels pass in the left side of the endzone to give Jackson an opportunity to tie the game at 10 with 1:06 to play. Jackson obliged.
The Panthers began a possible game-winning drive with 1:13 left to play. After picking up a pair of first downs, the FT offensive line couldn't contain West Alabama defensive ends Jordan Jones and Kwanzi Jackson, who sacked quarterback Mike Diliello, forcing a 19-yard loss and a fumble that was recovered at the FT 20-yard line by Trey Elston.
A couple of rushes to get Jackson lined up and West Alabama called timeout with four seconds to play. Jackson did the rest.
"I am also proud of Tre (Jackson) for battling everything this season and then doing that today," Gilliland said about his place kicker who has battled a lower body injury for the bulk of the season.
Jones' sack was his 40th career tackle for loss and placed him among the Gulf South Conference all-time top 10 list.
Shamar Lewis recorded eight tackles to lead West Alabama. Jones, Tavarius Hutchinson and Josh Hatcher had seven stops apiece. Hatcher had two tackles for loss.
Florida Tech's first score came when Diliello connected with Damien McGhee for 23 yards with 9:59 left in the first period. The scoring drive covered 82 yards in nine plays.
Trey Schaneville's 48-yard field goal with 4:39 left in the first period ended the scoring for the Panthers. Schaneville also missed from 32 and 27 yards.
Florida Tech ran for 151 yards and West Alabama for 149. The Panthers threw for 198 and UWA passed for 175 yards. Both teams averaged 5.1 yards per play, while both defenses recorded four sacks. FT intercepted three passes.
McDaniels completed 14-of-18 passes for 151 yards, an interception and the TD to Boyd. Murphree was 4-of-14 for 42 yards and was intercepted twice.
Derrick Underwood led UWA and all ball carriers with 108 yards on 17 carries. Boyd had five receptions for 59 yards and Christian Saulsberry had four catches for 79 yards. Zach Gaines averaged 40.2 yards on five punts.
Diliello completed 20-of-33 for 213 yards and one score. He also led Florida Tech rushers with 72 yards on 15 carries. Robert Foy caught six passes for 73 yards and Miles Kelly five for 51.
Evan Thompson recorded a game-high 11 tackles for Florida Tech, including a sack, two broken up passes and two tackles for loss. Cornelius Doe picked off two passes for the Panthers and Tyrone Cromwell one.
West Alabama closes its home scheduled Saturday when Mississippi College visits Tiger Stadium for Senior Day and the GSC-TV Game of the Week on ESPN3. Kickoff is set for 12:04 p.m. Florida Tech travels to North Greenville on Saturday.