With a minute left, a glimmer of hope existed for the University of West Florida football team.
Down two, the Argonauts recovered an onside kick at their own 45-yard line.
On the first play of the ensuing drive, Armani Peoples sacked Sam Vaughn, forcing a fumble.
That was the dagger on a tough night for the 19th-ranked Argos, who fell 30-28 to the Panthers in front of a crowd of 5,191 at Blue Wahoos Stadium.
Five turnovers were a killer on a night when this Gulf South Conference game was delayed for a little over 90 minutes by lightning. Rain soaked the field during the delay.
“That’s just bad. There’s no other way to describe it,” UWF head coach Pete Shinnick said. “Very rarely do you win a game with five turnovers.”
The Argos (5-3, 3-2) breathed new life into their victory hopes when Vaughn connected with Kevin Grant in the left corner of the end zone on a 16-yard scoring strike with 1:13 left.
Austin Williams then executed the kickoff perfectly. Vaughn never saw the sack coming.
“That (touchdown) gave us some momentum,” Vaughn said. “But credit their defense and pass rush. They got to me.”
The Argos lost for the second consecutive week and find themselves facing an uphill climb for an NCAA Division II postseason berth.
UWF likely has to win its remaining three games to have a shot at the playoffs a year after reaching the D-II national title game in just its second year of existence.
“We control our own destiny. It’s as simple as that,” Vaughn said.
Once the rain cleared out, the Argos came out like a team on a mission.
David Richardson returned a pick 17 yards for a score and UWF led 7-0 less than two minutes into the game.
Vaughn’s 72-yard touchdown pass to Ishmel Morrow in stride pushed the lead to 14-3.
Antoine Griffin’s 61-yard punt return extended the advantage to 21-3 with 12:08 left in the opening half.
The Argos led 21-10 at halftime.
Tech kept chipping away and took its first lead on a 32-yard field goal by Trey Schaneville with 4:19 left in the third quarter
Romell Guerrier caught his second touchdown pass to make it 30-21 late in the fourth.
The Argos’ offense has managed just 14 points in the last two weeks.They finished with 242 yards. Tech rolled up 452.
As for this rivalry between the only two D-II schools in the state with football, this was the first time UWF lost. The previous two had been decided by three points or less.
“We’ve been fortunate to win the thing the first two years, but give them credit. They played a very good game tonight,” Shinnick said. “They are deserving of the trophy.”
Read more in the Oct. 25 edition of the Navarre Press.