Clark Atlanta University looks to finds its niche with a new offense, after acquiring a new offensive coordinator Willie Totten, a HBCU hall of famer and transfer quarterback, Charles Stafford.
In his debut as a CAU Panther, Stafford had a huge game completing 30 of 53 passes, throwing for 277 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Preseason second team All-Conference Jonathan Sanders caught 14 passes for 120 yards and a touchdown on the night. Early in the first quarter, CAU’s offense drove 25 yards on 10 plays to set up a 43-yard field goal by Carlos Saldana to put CAU on the board first 3-0.
With the Choctaws starting at their own 21-yard line, junior quarterback Detric Hawthorn had a huge 61-yard run to put Mississippi College in CAU territory. On a 3rd and goal play, Hawthorn scored a 2-yard touchdown run putting’ the Choctaws up 7-3 over CAU.
After a three-and-out from CAU, MC regains back possession. Having the ball for only two plays, CAU’s Kenneth Morgan was in perfect position to intercept Hawthorn’s pass. The Panthers drove 41 yards on 7 plays for Carlos
Saldana to kick a 26 yard field goal making the score 6-7. On a 2nd and 10, Mississippi’s Ja’Mori Mark is stuffed by CAU’s defense resulting in a fumble recovered by CAU’s Kameron Rogers. The next play, Stafford’s pass is intercepted by Turner Rotenberry for an 87-yard touchdown return giving the Choctaws a 14-6 lead.
Starting the second quarter, CAU wasted no time marching the ball 65 yards with a seven-yard touchdown catch by Josh Banks bringing the game close, 14-13. On the next drive, MC’s Hawthorn led the Choctaws’ offense with three completed passes for 57 yards and two rushes for three yards upping the score 21-13 over CAU. On MC’s second possession of this quarter, CAU’s defense forced and recovered their second fumble of the game.
Stafford showed how clutch he was with 4 minutes before the half. Connecting with his receiver Jonathan Sanders on two key catches for 29 yards, it resulted in a touchdown, closing out the half with a score of 21-20.
After halftime, the Choctaws’ went right back in attack mode on their second possession with Hawthorn completing a reception to receiver Drew Croegaert for 28 yards. The very next play, Hawthorn explodes threw his offensive line and cuts to the sideline for a 55-yard touchdown run to put Mississippi College up by 8, 28-20.
The Panthers had an productive next possession, taking the ball 71 yards down the field for Saldana to kick a 24-yard field goal, trimming MC’s lead by 5, 28-23.
11 minutes remained in the fourth, on a 2nd and 6 Stafford makes a big time play, connecting with receiver Drakar Jerry for a 45-yard gain to put the Panthers at the one-yard line. Stafford takes a quarterback sneak up the middle, resulting in his helmet coming off, automatically making him come out for a play. Back-up quarterback Elijah Odom, a Texas Southern University transfer, comes in for
CAU scoring a one-yard rushing touchdown to put the Panthers up by two.
On a 3rd and 10 Hawthorn drops back and finds an open Ja’Mori Mark for a 16-yard gain. At 5:05 remaining, running back Tiberias Lampkin had a massive 33-yard run to put the Choctaws at the CAU 9-yard line. The panthers forced MC to kick an 18-yard field goal by Drake McCarter which puts MC up by 1, 31-30.
With 3:51 left in the game, Stafford and the Panthers takes the ball 50 yards on 11 plays to Mississippi College territory. On a 4th and 1 Stafford drops back and starts running to his right when he throws the ball to an intended receiver resulting in a game winning interception by MC’s Elijah Rogers. With Roger Thomas leading CAU running backs with 15 carries for 60-yards and converting on short yardage plays, Coach Totten explained why he decided to throw it on 4th & 1.
“We wanted to try to keep them spreaded, we felt that we had been hitting that out route all day and we just felt like we had it again, but unfortunately it didn’t happen for us.”
In a very close game, CAU out-gained Mississippi College 416 yards to 349, while the panther defense forced two fumbles and an interception. CAU only allowed 111 in passing yards. Amon Crawford led the panther defense with 7 solo tackles and a sack.