Monday, 02 October 2017 23:41

Wildcats trying to get over the hump

Written by  Keith Cannon
Quarterback Stockton McGuire has returned from a leg injury suffered in the season opener. Quarterback Stockton McGuire has returned from a leg injury suffered in the season opener. Liam Nitka Photography

Almost, but not quite. It’s the way things have been for Davidson football for the past several seasons. 

And the beginning of Saturday’s 31-9 loss to Marist at Richardson Stadium was a perfect example.

The Wildcats marched efficiently down the field on the game’s opening possession and reached the Red Foxes’ 9, highlighted by a 47-yard completion from sophomore quarterback Stockton McGuire to wide receiver William Wicks. 

Davidson went for the first down on 4th-and-1 from the 9, but the snap from center got away from McGuire, who fell on the ball back at the Marist 18, ending the threat. The Wildcats wouldn’t get any closer to the visitors’ end zone for the rest of the game. 

“I was encouraged by some things we did at various points in the game,” Davidson coach Paul Nichols said. “It wasn’t as if they really stopped us a lot, and that’s the good news.” 

But, Nichols said, the Wildcats (2-2) need to stop stopping themselves. 

“I’m frustrated by the execution,” he said. “When your number is called in high pressure situations, you just have to make a play.” 

In a statistically close game like Saturday’s, that can make a difference. Marist gained 379 total yards to Davidson’s 319. Each team had 20 first downs and the Red Foxes won the time of possession battle by only 40 seconds. 

The Wildcats’ only points came from field goals of 30, 39 and 26 yards by junior kicker Trevor Smith. Davidson took its only lead on the first one, three-and-a-half minutes into the second quarter.

But turnovers hurt. The Wildcats lost two fumbles, one on a punt return by Ben Rowell which led to a Red Foxes touchdown. And an interception of a McGuire pass by Marist’s Jeremiah Gholston resulted in a 59-yard pick-six in the second quarter.

“If we had executed better in a couple of these situations, that’s the difference in having a chance to win the football game and in just hanging in there,” Nichols said. “In a lot of respects it was a very even football game.” 

The Wildcats are on the road at Jacksonville and Stetson for the next two Saturdays, and these opening weeks of the Pioneer Football League season may be the best indicators of what the season will hold, Nichols said. 

Davidson’s wins— 30-7 over Brevard in the opener and 42-21 over Guilford on Sept. 16 — have been against Division III opponents. In between came a 63-17 loss at Western Carolina, which is currently 4-1 and expected to contend for the Southern Conference championship.

“I think we can still have a good season,” Nichols said. “We can be a competitive football team. I think we demonstrated that today. I think we’ve made progress, but just not enough.”

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