Davidson Wildcats (1-8) suffer another close defeat

Despite a record that’s now 1-8, the Davidson Wildcats are holding their own in most games.

A 40-34 loss against Pioneer Football League opponent Stetson on Saturday at Richardson Field was the third loss by a margin of six points or less out the past four.

“I think we’ve responded well to some situations we’ve been in, but we need to put ourselves in position not to have to respond,” Wildcats coach Paul Nichols said after his team’s eighth straight loss following a season-opening win.

With a freshman quarterback making his first career start, Davidson led in this back-and-forth game into the middle of the third quarter.

Taylor Mitchell completed 19 of 40 passes for 264 yards and two touchdowns, but also threw three interceptions, which the Hatters (3-5, 1-3 PFL) turned into points.

“He played a gutsy game and didn’t shy away from anything,” Nichols said. “He had a few throws that I’m sure he’d like to have back, but he put pressure on their defense.”

Mitchell replaced senior starter J.P. Douglas, who was suspended indefinitely from the team after being arrested and charged with assault in connection with a dormitory incident Sunday night.

The Wildcats got only the sixth 200-yard rushing game in program history from another freshman. Running back Jeffrey Keil carried 33 times for 215 yards and two touchdowns.

The second one, on a 17-yard run, gave Davidson its last lead at 31-27 with 9 minutes, 47 seconds left in the third quarter.

Stetson answered with a 2-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Tentler to Jonathan Strahl and a 1-yard scoring run by Cole Mazza, set up by an interception to go up 40-31 as the fourth quarter began.

The Wildcats stalled on a couple of drives to just outside the red zone, and got a 22-yard field goal from Trevor Smith with 37 seconds left. Stetson recovered an onside kick to run out the clock.

“We were 5-for-5 in the red zone. You can’t complain about that, but it’s hard to overcome turnovers,” Nichols said. “At the end of the day, the game’s about the small things that we can control. It’s disappointing to see us let an opportunity like this slip through our hands.”

The Wildcats led 24-20 at the half on Mitchell’s 29-yard touchdown pass to senior receiver William Morris about five minutes before the break.

Note: Davidson’s next game is at home at 1 p.m. Nov. 8 against Pioneer Football League opponent Jacksonville.