Written & Media by Joe Hubbs
On senior day, in front of a large homecoming crowd, the Panthers, triggered by a Joey Silva interception late in the second half, beat Iowa Wesleyan 52-32. The last home game of the year, the Panthers put up their second highest scoring contest of the season.
A homecoming crowd adds a little more excitement to inspire a football team, but despite the added stadium energy, the Panthers started the game with a tough break as Raul Lozano carried back the opening kickoff for an 88 yard Iowa Wesleyan touchdown return. After a hard loss the previous week to Northwestern in which the Panthers lost E.A. Northey half way through the game with a concussion, the Panthers tried to keep any feelings of doubt from carrying over. Still, it did not look good after the Panthers were forced to punt on their first possession and Iowa Wesleyan scored again with a 16 yard touchdown pass to go up 14-0.Greenville would manage one touchdown in the first quarter with a short run by Jacob Stull, but the usual high speed game of which the Panthers are accustomed did not take off until midway through the second. Jacob Battaglia, a
freshman out of Texas, made his first start at quarterback for the injured Northey, and found a groove managing the offense. On a fourth down with three yards to go, Battaglia tucked the ball and ran for a 20 yard touchdown. Then with three minutes left in the half, the Jacobs got together on the field again and strung together a nine play touchdown drive highlighted by a 42 yard pass from Battaglia to Andre Underwood, and a four yard rushing touchdown by Stull. The Panthers were perfectly content going into the half with a 21-20 lead, but then the homecoming magic occurred. With 10 seconds left the Tigers attempted an ill-advised pass to the end zone. Joey Silva intercepted the pass and returned the ball 80 yards to Iowa Wesleyan’s six yard line. Josh Morgan would then make the chip shot field goal for a 24-20 Panthers lead at halftime.
The Panthers would go on to win the game by 20 points, so three points before half time would not seem too significant. However, the enthusiasm and the momentum that Silva’s interception and those three points brought the Panthers was a fuel more important than the enormous crowd. The third quarter has been a struggle for the Panthers all season, but the fuel of Silva’s last second heroics carried the Panthers to their best quarter yet. In the third quarter of play, the Panthers scored on every offensive possession. Battaglia ran for an 18 yard touchdown, threw to John Dudley for a 44 yard touchdown and former safety Hamid Camara took advantage of a carry and rushed for a 33 yard touchdown. An annihilating third quarter gave the Panthers a 52- 26 lead, and the Panthers cruised through the fourth to finish with a 20 point, 52-32 victory.
Could there be a QB dilemma?
In his first career start, Battaglia completed six of 11 passes with 138 passing yards and one touchdown. The freshman also rushed for 132 yards and two touchdowns with an average of 7.8 yards per carry. With Northey out, Battaglia proved that he is capable of running the offense. To utilize his speed the Panthers have also used him in other positions for their offense, but with the success at quarterback last week, is Northey going to jump right back into the mix, or does Battaglia get another shot? The Panthers know how to utilize their skills on offense, and since it is tough going from week to week altering quarterbacks, it will be interesting to see how Coach Schomaker uses these two Texas freshmen. Northey has done well as the guy all season long with 735 passing yards and 510 on the ground, but Battaglia has made a case for himself with his UMAC offensive player of the week performance.
Silva for Mayor
The dude has been a horse for the Panthers defense all season long. In a 3-4 style defense the Panthers often walk up an outside linebacker as an extra pass rusher, and Silva has proven to be the best pass rusher on the Panthers squad. He claimed UMAC defensive player of the week honors against Iowa Wesleyan with the big interception, but also made one sack, three tackles for a loss, and forced a fumble. On the year, the junior from California has tallied up 44 tackles and leads the conference with a ridiculous 5.5 sacks and 17 tackles for a loss. Against a heavy pass oriented team in Westminster, Silva’s quickness of the line an ability to rush the passer will be key for a win.
What’s on Tap?
The Panthers now sport a 6-1 conference record and have two more games on the year, Saturday Nov. 1 they travel to Westminster College, and Sat. Nov. 8 they play against the conference kings at St. Scholastica. Westminster beat Northwestern last Saturday, so if the Panthers can win out, there could very well likely be a three way tie in conference. The last time this happened was in 2012 when a coin toss gave the playoff bid to St. Scholastica. Still, a fight with Westminster, a very good ball club that leads the conference in passing yards, will determine if the Panthers even have a shot at this. It’s going to be a tough, cold game, but it is getting down to the gritty end, and every down matters.