Panthers Fall in Season Opener to Millikin, 66-24
On a wet, dreary Saturday Sept. 6, the Panthers took a big loss to the Big Blue on their home field. Early mistakes and 99 yards allowed off of penalties left the Panthers with a steep mountain to climb back from.
The Panthers defense began the game allowing a long drive, but was able to hold Millikin to a field goal. Things started to fall apart after Millikin’s second possession however. After a touchdown to go up 10-0, Millikin forced a fumble on the kickoff and returned it for a quick 17-0 advantage. Following another Panther punt, the Big Blue came back with a 63 yard passing touchdown on a busted coverage. Greenville was left with a big 24-0 deficit as the clock sent them into the second quarter.
In the second quarter the Panthers were able to get on the board with a field goal by senior kicker, Josh Morgan. Still, a young, inexperienced team yet to fully mold together, it was a difficult to block the 21 point lead out of their minds. Near the end of the game the Panthers started to connect more on offense, finishing with with 442 yards, but Millikin simply could not be slowed down.
A year ago, the Panthers put together one of their better seasons in recent history. A team led by 19 seniors sported a solid 9-1 record and led the conference in scoring, points per game, and yards per game. It is a very different looking ball team this season however, and the Panthers are looking for guys to step in and fill the void left by their captains Brendan Chambers, the team leader in rushing and passing, and Cody Lopez, the heart of the Panthers defensive intensity.
Although a 66-24 defeat does not render a plethora of positives to the general fan, the Panthers did take some plus sides out of the non-conference match up on Saturday. Both quarterbacks who received playing time, sophomore E.A. Northey and freshman Jacob Battaglia, put up respectable numbers to compete for a starting job. Northey passed for 28 yards and rushed for 97, while Battaglia converted six of 10 passes for 68 yards and rushed for 28 yards including one rushing touchdown. Two other young guys who played very well were freshman running back, Nathan Callaway, who rushed for 110 yards and one touchdown, and freshman receiver, Samuel Northey, who showed versatility with 73 yards receiving and 87 rushing yards along with one rushing touchdown. On defense, sophomore linebacker, Nick Morrow led the team with 11 tackles and a forced fumble.
Despite the unbalanced score, it is obvious that young guys are stepping up to lead this Panthers team. Heading to Minnesota Morris for an away game this weekend, it is not a hefty prediction to say that the Panthers are going to find a way thrive in conference play. If this young team can mold together and eliminate penalties and mental mistakes, their physicality could allow them to maintain their status as an elite team in the UMAC.