LIVINGSTON, Ala. (UWA Athletics) - Jonnas Spivey caught one pass in the Tigers 29-22 Gulf South Conference win over Florida Tech Saturday at Tiger Stadium.
The problem for Florida Tech is Spivey's 15-yard reception was not only his first West Alabama touchdown, but was the game-winner for the Tigers over the fourth-place team in NCAA Division II Super Region 2.
With the lead in hand, Jordan Graddy intercepted FIT quarterback Trent Chmelik with 1:35 left and West Alabama ran out the clock to keep its postseason dreams alive. The Tigers are 6-3 overall and 3-3 in GSC play. Florida Tech is 6-3 and 3-3 as well.
"It was a great team win," UWA head coach Brett Gilliland said. "They were fourth in the region, so the win helps us with our goals for the season.
"The defense did a great job of getting them off the field and the offense answered when we needed to," Gilliland said. "The offense put together a heckuva drive for the last touchdown."
West Alabama led for all but three-and-one-half minutes in the game and compiled 386 total yards to 333 for the Panthers. The Tiger defense held FIT to just 1-for-12 on third-down conversions and limited the Panther to just 40 yards rushing.
"That was a great job of scheming them by Coach (Steve) Sisa," Gilliland said. "Defending the running game you have to have each player do their 1/11th and our guys did a great job doing their part."
West Alabama led 14-0 after the first quarter, starting with Harry Satterwhite and Bayley Blanchard hooking up for a 43-yard touchdown pass down the right sideline to cap a six-play, 79-yard drive with 3:45 left in the first period.
Blanchard led all receivers with 132 yards on nine receptions. Satterwhite finished 16-for-34 for 204 yards, two interceptions and two scores. For the second consecutive game he was not sacked.
"Harry put the ball right in my pocket so all I had to do was just catch it," Blanchard said. "We had a good plan, running some rub routes. Our cornerbacks worked me hard all week in practice."
Charles Bester recovered a FIT fumble caused by Abraham Wallace at the FIT 12-yard line, and following a delay of game penalty, Derrick Underwood rambled in from 17 yards to make it a two-score advantage for the Tigers with 2:49 left in the opening quarter.
Florida Tech scored 10 in the second period to make it a 14-10 UWA advantage at the half.
A 6-yard touchdown rush by Antwuan Haynes with 10:39 left in the second quarter cut the UWA lead to 14-7. The touchdown by Haynes was the 24th of his career and tied the FIT school record. Trey Schaneville's 31-yard field goal at 2:48 in the second quarter wrapped up first-half scoring.
Schaneville's 27-yard field goal with 9:59 left in the third quarter cut the West Alabama lead to 14-13. The field goal capped a five-play, 38-yard drive that was set up when Panther safety John McClure intercepted Satterwhite on a deep ball when it appeared the FIT defense had jumped offsides and the Tigers would have a free play.
Tyler Rogers dove in from a yard away for West Alabama's third touchdown with 5:13 left in the third quarter. The touchdown, Rogers' 27th of his career, was set up when Jared Adair recovered a fumbled Panther punt at the FIT 24. Kejuan Feagan caused FIT return man Kiaryn Davis to fumble.
Rogers finished with 73 yards on 17 carries to raise his career rushing yards total to 1,901 yards and move him into sixth on the West Alabama career rushing list. He needs 29 yards to move past Ricky Austin (1973-75) into fifth. He is two rushing TDs away from becoming the all-time leader in that category.
Florida Tech cut the UWA lead to 21-19 on a 53-yard interception return for a touchdown by Richard Leveille. The Panthers try for two was picked off by Tiger safety Nicarius Peterson to preserve the West Alabama lead with 44 second left in the third quarter.
Florida Tech took its first lead of the game at 22-21 with 7:53 to play on a 24-yard field goal by Schaneville. The field goal capped a 10-play, 82-yard drive.
Satterwhite and Qua Boyd followed up Spivey's score with a two-point completion for the final margin.
Chmelik was 25-for-39 for 293 yards and one interception. He was sacked twice, once by Jordan Jones and again by Jones and Jon Michael Edwards.
Underwood rushed for 69 yards on 14 carries and Tevin Moore chipped in 39 more on 15 trips. Christian Saulsberry caught three passes for 31 yards.
Haynes was the leading rusher for FIT with 43 yards on 13 trips. Brian Spurgeon caught five passes for 51 yards and Romell Guerrier four for 75.
West Alabama punter Zach Gaines punted six times for 235 yards, moving him into second place on the all-time Tiger punting yards list with 5,208.
Wallace and linebacker Savon Parker both recorded 10 tackles to lead the UWA defense. Wallace had a pair of tackles for loss and a forced fumble.
"What they were doing in the first half got me in the run defense," Wallace said. "At the end of the game I was reminding our corners to be aware of the deep shot, to clear the quick game and then get deep."
Florida Tech linebacker J.T. Hassell led all tacklers with 16. Evan Thompson had 10 stops. Hassell had 1.5 tackles for loss.
West Alabama travels to Mississippi College (3-5,1-4) Saturday. FIT is host to North Greenville (4-4, 3-3).