Clark Atlanta played its home opener Saturday on the prettiest, sunniest, most perfect Saturday so far this fall. And for most of the game, Stillman did nothing to spoil the brilliance of the day.
In the end, Clark knocked off a surprisingly tough Stillman team 19-14, but it took a last-minute touchdown and then a last-second defensive play for it to happen.
Clark went 93 yards in 1 minute, 10 seconds, scoring on a 1-yard run by quarterback Ronald Thompson with 29 seconds to play. But after a false start on the ensuing kickoff, then a poor squib kick, Stillman had the ball at Clark’s 38 with 27 seconds left.
Stillman (0-5) completed a pass to the 21-yard line. The Tigers failed on a corner fade pattern on the last play of the game, sealing the win for Clark.
But the bugaboo that still bothers Clark is an ineffective offense. The Panthers struggled opening holes for running back Winston Thompson, and Thompson, often under heavy pressure, made some poor decisions and throws.
Clark coach Daryl McNeill talked during the week about how the defense had carried the team to this point. If the Panthers are going to make a serious run in the SIAC, they cannot expect the defense to do all the work.
“We’ve got to get better on offense,” McNeill said after the game. “That last drive showed that we could do it, but we need to not wait till we get our backs against the wall. I’m not pleased with the effort. We might have to simplify the offense this week and only run a handful of plays.”
Clark (3-2, 3-1) kicked off to Stillman to start the game, and Stillman fumbled on its first play from scrimmage. The tone was set. This day would belong to the Panthers’ defense. Later in the first quarter, Clark’s defense proved not only tough to move on, but capable of putting some points on the board. A bad snap in the shotgun formation was kicked out of the end zone by Stillman’s quarterback, giving Clark its first two points of the game courtesy of a safety.
Clark’s offense got on the board on a 46-yard pass from Thompson to Marquise Brown at the end of the first quarter. But that would be it on offense until Thompson's late touchdown run. The offense fumbled in the end zone for one of Stillman’s touchdowns and fumbled a snap at its own 2 to set up Stillman's other touchdown.
“It was our first home game, and [it was] homecoming, and we weren’t as focused on offense as we need to be,” said Brown, who had a potentially costly fumble, but then made up for it with a 39-yard catch and run on the final drive. “I think we showed a lot of resilience by not giving up. Now we’ve got to work hard in practice and make it translate.”
Thompson ran for only 48 yards and was 11-for-32 passing with an interception. Brown caught six passes for 149 yards. Darel Strong and Andre Wicker each had a pair of sacks.