Last Saturday at Richardson Stadium, the Wildcats took on Pioneer League opponent Valparaiso in an intense game that came down to the last drive. While Davidson lost 42-35, the team made significant strides.
Valpo started the game off by scoring a touchdown in the opening three minutes. But the Wildcats answered back with a 3-yard David Rogers ’16 touchdown run. A 37-yard pass from Taylor Mitchell ’18 to William Morris ’16 saw the Wildcats take a 14-7 lead going into the half.
The Crusaders charged back ahead in the third quarter on two Ryan Clarke touchdown throws, but the Wildcats answered the second one within 20 seconds. An 81-yard kickoff return from Ben Rowell ’18 set up a John Cook ’17 pass to Derek Jones ’18. Valpo then took the lead once again heading into the fourth with a 50-yard touchdown pass.
The Wildcats gained momentum in the fourth quarter, scoring twice in two minutes on receptions by Jones and Morris after one of two William Curran ’16 interceptions on the day had given the Wildcats the ball back. However, Valpo scored on the following kickoff to knot the score up at 35. The Crusaders then regained the lead for the final time with 1:55 to play on Clarke’s fifth touchdown pass of the game.
While the Wildcats didn’t get the result they wanted, there were many positive takeaways from the game. Austin Wells ’18 led the charge in the running game with 65 yards, followed closely by Rogers with 45 in his first game back from a tough knee injury. Hub Cirame ’18 added 32 to what was a balanced attack.
“Being able to run the ball effectively, we were able to open things up in the passing game and get the ball to our receivers down field,” Jones said. The successful running attack and a solid front line bought Mitchell time to throw for 196 yards and three touchdowns. Mitchell found his favorite target Morris often, as the receiver finished with 114 yards and two huge TDs. “Taylor made good decisions under pressure and made great throws all game long,” remarked Jones.
Of his fellow receiver, Morris, Jones added, “Will is an amazing receiver and good things are bound to happen when we get him the ball. Will Morris is always a huge factor just by the skills that he has as a route runner, we’ve come to expect nothing less from him.”
Jones himself finished with two key touchdowns, each to tie the game. The defense also had a strong showing. DL Chris Woods ’16 led the charge with 10 tackles, and Curran had six to go along with his two picks.
Although the Wildcats had the lead late in the fourth quarter, they were unable to seal their first win of the win. Jones believes the most important thing for the Wildcats to improve upon is learning how to finish games. “We played well and put ourselves in a good position to win the game,” he said. “We just need to find a way to put it away.”
Despite a disappointing result, the game showed a lot of progress and offered hope for the games to come. The Wildcats refuse to dwell on the loss and are excited for next week. “Next week we just need to continue to build on the success we had [Saturday],” Jones asserted, “while eliminating the mistakes we made late in the game.”
The Wildcats face Kentucky Wesleyan College at home this Saturday at 1 p.m.