Arkansas State finished the home portion of its Mid-South schedule 2-0 with a 31-25 come-from-behind victory over Davenport Saturday.
The Panthers entered the match eager to prove the 53-0 drubbing they’d taken at Life earlier this season wasn’t going to be the norm in the program’s maiden voyage in DI-A. Davenport led 10-7 at halftime, 22-7 in the second half and 25-24 near the death.
“They played much better than what they had showed themselves against Life. They had really improved quite a bit, and to be quite frank, they really kind of deserved to win the game. We were kind of undeserving winners and stole it from them at the end,” said Arkansas State coach Alex Houser of Davenport.
“It was a combination of maybe a little bit of underestimating them, a ‘We beat Life and Life beat them by however much,’ sort of thing. And the guys are all on spring break now for a couple of days. I’m sure they were thinking about what beach they were going to and what they were going to do for that.”
Davenport utilized some deft kicks to play a strong territorial game in the opening 60 minutes, and the Panthers competed well at the breakdown. Defensively, they turned the Red Wolves over a couple of times via the counter ruck, which isn't an easy feat.
Arkansas State’s comeback bid was sparked and finished by wing Dale Bates. He scored a try to pull the Red Wolves within a couple of scores at 22-14, and he scored the game winner near the death.
After giving up a 15-point lead, Davenport regained it with a late JP Eloff penalty. The Panthers had a lineout in their own end thereafter, and could have potentially rode out the clock had they won it. But the throw overshot its target, and a few phases later Bates ran in the winning try.
The win makes Arkansas State 2-0 in Mid-South play, with road games against Davenport and Life upcoming. Through three matches, the home team has won every game in the country’s toughest conference, making Life 1-1 and Davenport 0-2. If the trend holds serve, there could be a three-way tie for two playoff spots.