DAVIDSON The Davidson Wildcats, though still winless, have shown some progress, first-year coach Paul Nichols says.
Trouble is, a lot of it has been followed by setbacks.
“We take a step forward, then two steps back,” Nichols said after the Wildcats’ 51-26 Pioneer Football League loss to Mercer in front of 4,027 fans at Richardson Stadium on Saturday. “We were 4-for-4 on scoring today in the red zone, an area where we haven’t been doing well. But then we have turnovers and penalties. We battled but we made too many mistakes.”
Running back JaTarii Donald rushed for 202 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries and caught a pass for another score for Mercer (8-1, 4-1), which is fielding a football team for the first time since 1943. The Bears rolled up 533 yards of total offense on the Wildcats (0-9, 0-5), who gave up more than 50 points for the second straight Saturday.
“You give up that many points, and that’s a concern,” Nichols said. “We’ve got to get better at the fundamentals, tackling and going after the football.”
When it had the football, Davidson wasn’t bad. The Wildcats had 456 yards of offense, with a little more run-pass balance than has been the case in most of their games. Quarterback Jonathan Carkhuff ran for two touchdowns and halfback David Rogers ran for one score and passed for another.
The Wildcats took their only lead of the game at 8-7 early in the second quarter, finishing a 47-yard drive with a 5-yard touchdown pass from quarterback J.P. Douglas to wide receiver William Morris. Rogers ran for the two-point conversion .
The advantage didn’t last long. Donald scored his first touchdown on a 57-yard run almost three minutes later to put the Bears up 14-8.
Then tough luck struck Davidson the half’s closing minutes. A promising drive starting at the Wildcats’ 42 was derailed when junior running back Robert Klein fumbled through the end zone with 2:43 left in the half.
Then on Davidson’s next possession, Mercer’s Mike Gray returned an interception of a Douglas pass 34 yards for a score with 37 seconds left.
“The football is a prized possession,” Nichols said. “You can’t reach out with it at the goal line. That just gives your opponent an opportunity.”
The Wildcats pulled within a touchdown on their first possession of the second half, taking advantage of a fumble recovery by linebacker Dan Casey. Davidson scored on a 6-yard halfback pass from Rogers to Jeff McDaniels. The Wildcats tried for two, but Mercer’s Sebastian Hicks recovered a fumble at the goal line by Rogers and returned it the length of the field for two points.
That put Mercer up 23-14 with 9:10 left in the third quarter and the Wildcats never got closer. Carkhuff scored on touchdown runs of 8 and 2 yards for the Wildcats.
The Wildcats will travel to DeLand, Fla., to play Stetson in a 3 p.m. game on Saturday. They will close out the season at home against Campbell on Nov. 23.
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