DAVIDSON — The scoreboard said the Davidson Wildcats had just absorbed another loss, this time a 27-6 beating from the Drake Bulldogs on Saturday in a Pioneer Football League game.
But in this first season of Paul Nichols’ coaching career at his alma mater, he’s looking for progress however he can find it.
“I thought it was the best we’ve played, and I’m proud of the way the guys performed,” he said. “But we can’t make the mistakes we made against a team that’s won the league championship the last two years and expect to win.”
The Wildcats (0-6, 0-3 PFL) stayed within a touchdown of the Bulldogs (3-3, 1-2) for most of the game in front of 2,347 fans at Richardson Field. But mistakes at critical points, and a couple of empty-handed trips inside the red zone, doomed Davidson to remain looking for its first win of the season.
“The guys played the way we wanted them to play,” Nichols said. “We just have to be smarter when we get opportunities. The hallmark of a program is when you make the plays you need to make.”
The Bulldogs jumped out to a 13-0 lead by the early second quarter on a pair of touchdown passes by quarterback Andy Rice.
Kevin Marshall caught a 3-yard pass from Rice to end a 10-play, 58-yard drive with 50 seconds left in the first quarter. Rice hit Nick Rosa with a 35-yard touchdown pass about four minutes into the second quarter, on a drive that was kept alive by a roughing the kicker penalty on the Wildcats.
An interception and 33-yard return by sophomore defensive back Myles Atkins set up Davidson’s only score, a 19-yard pass from senior quarterback Jonathan Carkhuff to sophomore wide receiver William Morris just 25 seconds before halftime.
Carkhuff completed 20-for-35 passes for 228 yards on the way to topping the 10,000 career passing yards mark. He’s second in passing yards among active players in the Football Championship Subdivision.
In the decisive third quarter, each team had one possession. While the Wildcats couldn’t cash in on theirs, Drake used its to essentially wrapped up the game.
Davidson took the opening kickoff from its own 30 and moved quickly down the field, with the help of a 23-yard keeper by backup quarterback John Cook, to the Bulldogs 2. But a Carkhuff pass fell incomplete in the end zone on 4th-and-goal.
Drake responded with a drive that took up the rest of the quarter and then some. They drove 98 yards in 20 plays, holding the ball for more than 9 minutes. Bulldog running back Gary Scott Jr. scored on a 5-yard run on the first play of the fourth quarter. The extra point try failed, leaving Drake ahead 19-6.
Scott added another touchdown on a 6-yard run with about 7:58 remaining. Rice added the two-point conversion on a keeper for a 27-6 lead.
The Wildcats took one last shot, driving from their own 25 to the Drake 10 before turning the ball over on downs with 4:41 left. They didn’t get the ball back.
“We have to get our defense off the field quicker,” Nichols said. “(Drake) ran 83 plays, and that’s way too many.”
Drake had 480 yards total offense to Davidson’s 303.
Notes: It was the first meeting between the two teams since 2010. …Carkhuff was recognized before the game for breaking Davidson career and single-game passing records. He set the single-game mark with a 459-yard performance against Johnson C. Smith on Sept. 21. … The Wildcats host Pioneer League opponent Marist, a team they’ve never beaten in Richardson Stadium, at 1 p.m. Saturday.