Things went from bad to worse in a hurry for the Centre College football team Saturday.
Millsaps scored on three straight possessions in the second quarter, led by 18 points at halftime and went on hand the Colonels a 33-16 defeat in the first-ever game in the Southern Athletic Association for both teams at Farris Stadium.
“We’ve got to get better. It exposed our weaknesses, that’s for sure,” Centre coach Andy Frye said.
Centre outgained Millsaps 347 yards to 340, and quarterback Heath Haden was 19 for 34 for 189 yards, but he fumbled three times in the first half alone and four overall and lost two of them.
Haden ran 22 times in the first half alone and finished with 112 yards on 34 attempts. Frye said the Colonels’ coaches called Haden’s number so much because Millsaps was giving it to him.
“It was our design, because we knew we could get it from him, and we did,” Frye said. “It was just that we didn’t finish.”
An early gamble did not pay off and was the start of a rough afternoon for Centre (3-2, 0-1 SAA), which won at Millsaps last season.
Late in the first quarter, Haden was stopped twice for no gain and the Colonels turned the ball over at their own 35.
“I took the risk on fourth-and-1 and they took the risk on fourth-and-1. They got it, we didn’t. Both teams were trying to win. Am I going to feel bad about that? No. I thought we’d get that one and we’d keep it going,” Frye said. “In the first half, we were moving the ball, we just weren’t finishing.
“Then again, that’s been our problem against good football teams. It was the same thing against (Washington & Lee), we moved the ball but didn’t finish.”
Millsaps’ Mike Bathelemy then capped an eight-play drive when he went in from a yard out on fourth down as the Majors took a 7-0 lead with 12 minutes, 26 seconds left in the first half.
On the ensuing drive, the Colonels used a 12-yard run by Matt Farrell got down to the Millsaps 30-yard line, but Haden fumbled the ball for a 5-yard loss. After an incompletion, Jordan Gay booted a school-record 53-yard field goal into the wind to make it 7-3 with 9:45 left in the half.
Gay’s kick broke his own school record of 52 yards in a 2010 game against Millsaps.
“I just got out there and I was trying to play the winds, so I aimed for the right upright and it started tailing off towards the left, and I was just happy it went in,” Gay said. “But it’s hard to celebrate a record when you lose.”
Millsaps answered, as Pinciotti hit Barthelemy for a 16-yard gain, Keegan Joplin for an 18-yard gain and Trevor King for a 34-yard gain to the Centre 5-yard line. Two plays later, Dustin Fawcett took an end-around left and scored for a 14-3 lead with 6:36 left in the half.
After forcing another Centre punt, the Majors marched right back down the field to take control of the game.
Pinciotti was 4 for 4 for 63 yards in a five-play, 72-yard drive, capped by his 26-yard scoring pass to LeCharles Washington to give Millsaps a 21-3 lead with 3:08 to go in the half.
After Haden was sacked and fumbled away the ball at the Centre 24, the Majors went for more. Pinciotti was looking for Washington again in the end zone, but Casey Vatter picked off the pass in the end zone.
Centre blew a huge scoring chance from there.
The Colonels finally got their passing game going, as Haden completed four straight passes and had a 14-yard run to get down to the Millsaps 14. After an 8-yard run by Monte Scotton, Haden threw two straight incompletions, and was sacked on a broken play with 5 seconds left in the half. Gay attempted a 52-yard field goal, but it was blocked by Millsaps’ Zach Cart to give the Majors an 18-point halftime cushion.
Haden ripped off a 26-yard run on Centre’s first play of the second, but fumbled the ball away three plays later. For the game, Centre fumbled five times, losing two.
“Up until this game we had just one turnover,” Frye said. “But when you play a good football team, that’s what happens.”
Centre used a 58-yard kickoff return from Rob Melillo to open the third quarter to set up a 49-yard field goal from Gay to cut the lead to 20-6.
On the Majors’ first drive, Pinciotti lofted a high pass that was intercepted by Selwyn Mallah and returned 7 yards to the Millsaps 45-yard line. Centre drove down to the Millsaps 7, but Haden was sacked by Dustin Harscher for a 4-yard loss on third down, and the Colonels had to settle for a 28-yard field goal from Gay to make it 20-9 with 8:02 left in the third quarter.
But Millsaps answered with a 14 play, 75-yard drive, capped by Taz Watson’s 1-yard run. The two-point conversion failed and Millsaps led 26-0 with 1:15 left in the third. Millsaps converted on three first downs on the drive and was 7 of 14 for the game.
“That broke our back there,” Frye said. “Hat’s off to them they did what they had to do. We just didn’t stop them.”
Centre did finally get in the end zone late in the game when Haden hit Greyson Janeway for a 9-yard score with 2 minutes to go. Millsaps answered on Watson’s 3-yard run to close out scoring.
Millsaps 0 20 6 7 — 33
Centre 0 3 6 7 — 16
Millsaps — Mike Barthelemy 1 run (Beau Brady kick), 12:26.
Centre — FG Jordan Gay 53, 9:45.
Millsaps — Dustin Fawcett 5 run (Brady kick), 6:36.
Millsaps — LeCharles Washington 27 pass from Garrett Pinciotti (kick failed), 3:08.
Centre — FG Gay 49, 13:07.
Centre — FG Gay 28, 8:02.
Millsaps — Taz Watson 1 run (pass failed), 1:15.
Centre — Greyson Janeway 9 pass from Heath Haden (Gay kick), 2:00.
Millsaps — Watson 3 run (Stephen Gates kick), :52.
First downs 20 20
Rushes-yards 41-108 45-158
Passing 232 189
Comp-Att-Int 17-27-2 19-34-0
Return Yards 57 103
Punts-Avg. 5-39 3-33
Fumbles-Lost 1-0 5-2
Penalties-Yards 4-50 4-44
Time of Possession 43:53 31:07
RUSHING—Millsaps, Mike Barthelemy 17-56, Taz Watson 12-39, Jalen Jones 3-17, Zach Cart 1-7, Dustin Fawcett 1-5, Jett Williams 1-4, Jonathan Moore 1-1, Garrett Pinciotti 5-minus 21. Centre, Heath Haden 34-112, Monte Scotton 9-26, Matt Farrell 2-20.
PASSING—Millsaps, Pinciotti 17-27-2-232. Centre, Haden 19-34-0-189.
RECEIVING—Millsaps, Trevor King 7-100, Charlie Srauss 3-23, Kegan Joplin 2-32, Fawcett 2-11, LeCharles Washington 1-27, Bethelemy 1-20, Zander Romano 1-19. Centre, Andrew Tuller 6-64, Jason Osterman 2-35, Harry Meisner 3-25, Austin Jones 2-19, Bryan Carroll 2-19, Rob Melilllo 2-13, Greyson Janeway 1-9, Brandon Kamp 1-5.