Despite Losses, Football Team Makes Strides to Success

Davidson football off to historically good start under Head Coach Abell. Photos courtesy of Davidson Athletics

Jacob Margolis ‘20

Football correspondent

Two weekends past, Davidson suffered a disappointing loss to Morehead State at home, 28 to 35. The game was expected to be close as Davidson entered the contest as a five-and-a-half-point favorite. The game lived up to this prediction as the two teams were never separated by more than seven points.

There were three ties and three lead changes, and the game was not decided until a late Morehead State touchdown with 3:22 left in the fourth quarter. The loss drops Davidson to 5-2 overall and 2-2 in conference; Morehead State improves to 2-4 overall and 1-2 in conference.

As of the game’s end, the two teams were close in most of the important statistical categories, indicative of the tight final score. Davidson earned 24 first downs while Morehead State followed suit with a close 23 first downs. Davidson netted 368 total yards which was only 10 more than Morehead State’s 358 total yards.

However, Morehead State’s offense is much more aerial based than Davidson’s, evidenced by the disparity in passing and rushing yards. Davidson rushed for 72 more yards than Morehead State but threw for 62 less yards.

Besides that, the two teams were again close in most categories. Davidson ran 77 plays and Morehead State ran 73, Davidson gained 4.9 yards per play while Morehead gained 4.8 yards per play, and Morehead State controlled the ball for approximately only four more minutes than Davidson. There was not a lot to separate these teams on the field and in the scoresheet.

As for standout performers, it was the usual suspects for Davidson. Wesley Dugger ‘21, James Story ‘20, Will Wicks ‘20, and Tyler Phelps ‘21 accounted for all of Davidson’s touchdowns (one touchdown was a throw from Tyler Phelps to junior Hunter Louthan), and over 91% of the team’s yards.

Phelps did struggle somewhat through the air, as he only completed 35% of his passes and threw an interception. This was surprising as Phelps had been on a hot streak since playing Guilford; excluding Saturday’s game he had a completion percentage of 73.33% in his past 4 games. His touchdown streak is still intact, however, as he has now thrown a touchdown in every game this season.

Davidson lost on Saturday to Marist in a barn burner and eventual heartbreaker in double overtime, 48-41. However, from 2013 to 2017, Davidson lost to Marist by an average of almost four touchdowns per game. Last year, Davidson lost to Marist at home by 22. It is clear that Davidson has a better football team now than it has had in quite some time.

On the field, the usual suspects for Davidson stood out. Yet again, Phelps, Duggar, Story and Wicks and accounted for the vast majority of Davidson’s offense. This quartet was responsible or played a hand in almost 90% of Davidson’s 486 total yards. This group also scored all six of Davidson’s touchdowns.

Marist was led by their star quarterback and wide receiver combo, Austin Day and Juston Christian. Day threw for 440 yards and five touchdowns. Christian caught eight passes for 246 yards and three touchdowns. Christian and Day also teamed up for a particularly impressive stretch late in the third and early fourth quarters. First, Day hit Christian for a 68-yard touchdown pass that reduced Davidson’s lead from 17 to 11. Not done, Day found Christian for another touchdown pass on the very next drive. This time, the pass and catch went for 74 yards and brought Marist within three points.

One area in which Davidson had a significant advantage was the turnover category. Davidson had a +2 turnover differential thanks to two interceptions, one by sophomore linebacker TJ Elliot and one by first-year safety Dreylan Hines.

Marist’s win will also haunt Davidson for a while. Davidson held a 17-point lead late into the third quarter. This has been a troublesome trend for the team this season. In three games, Davidson has had multiple possession leads completely erased. In another game, Davidson had a 35 point lead reduced to just seven. Finishing games will certainly be an aspect that Coach Abell addresses.

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