By Jim O'Hara
ROME -- As they came out trying to bring an end to a two-game losing streak, the Shorter Hawks were looking for something or somebody to help turn the tide.
Caleb Collins answered the call.
Thanks to one of the best all-around performances in his career, the senior slotback from Savannah rolled up 163 all-purpose yards, caught a touchdown pass and ran for another – the majority of the damage coming in the first half – to help the Hawks get back into the win column with a 35-13 non-conference win over Point University on Saturday at Barron Stadium.
The victory evens Shorter's overall record to 3-3 heading into Shorter's final non-conference game next Saturday at Barron when the Hawks host Ave Maria.
"Getting a win was important for us," Shorter head coach Phil Jones said after the win, one that saw the Hawks' offense that was held to its lowest output of the season a week earlier in a loss to North Alabama return to form by gaining 408 yards in total offense – 340 yards of that on the ground.
"We came out and scored early, which we wanted to do," Jones said, "but we didn't take care of business like we wanted to."
Collins was certainly focused on his business at hand as the 5-5 speedster stepped into the spotlight early in the game, giving the Hawks their first two touchdowns of the game – a 23-yard scoring reception and a 30-yard run to paydirt – and setting up the team's third TD late in the first half. All told, Collins ended the afternoon rushing for 26 yards, caught all three of Shorter's passes for 68 yards and added 69 more yards when he served as SU's kickoff returner.
""He's a great kid and he plays like that in practice every day," Jones said of Collins. "He means so much to the team and he had a great game today."
While Collins played a versatile role for the Hawks, junior fullback Bradley Moon turned in another solid outing to head up Shorter's ground game as he finished the game gaining 132 yards – it was his fourth 100-plus yard effort this season – on 17 carries and scored two touchdowns.
Shorter wasted little time taking command of the game, taking the opening kickoff 57 yards down the field, with Collins covering the final 23 yards when Dodson dropped back on a first down play and lofted a perfect pass into the left corner of the end zone to the slotback who hauled in the ball behind the outstretched hands of the Point defender. Troy Postell connected for the extra point, the first of five on the day.
The Hawks found paydirt later in the opening period when, on their third possession of the afternoon, needed just seven plays to cover 48 yards with Collins adding his second touchdown of the game, this time taking a pitch to the right side of the field on a fourth-and-4 situation and finding room to run down the sideline for a 33-yard score.
Collins, however, was not done with his big play production in the first half.
After Point appeared to have Shorter backed up in their shadow of its own end zone after a punt and a penalty put the ball at Shorter's 6-yard line, the Hawks put together their longest scoring drive of the season, marching the 94 yards on nine plays – the big gainer a 43-yard pass from Dodson to Collins – and culminating the series when Bradley Moon scored from seven yards out with 4:26 left in the half.
Shorter had one more scoring opportunity with less than a minute to play, but came away empty-handed when Postell's field goal attempt from 37 yards out drifted just left of the upright.
Trailing 21-0 heading into the third quarter, Point (0-5) broke into the scoring column on its second series of the second half, putting together a nine-play, 56-yard drive that was capped when Devon Thames hooked up with Anthony Armstrong for a 5-yard touchdown pass with 4:33 remaining in the period.
The Hawks quickly responded.
Thanks to a 43-yard kickoff return by Allen Huntley that gave Shorter the ball at the Su 49, the Hawks needed just four snaps to get back into the end zone, the last one seeing Moon break into the open for a 42-yard scoring run.
The Skyhawks found a crease in Shorter's defense one more time late in the fourth quarter when Thames again went to the air, this time hitting William Eichman on a 13-yard scoring strike early in the final stanza, but Shorter added some breathing room with 3:52 left to play, this time marching 73 yards on eight plays with Dodson taking in it for the touchdown on a fourth-and-goal play from the Point 2.
Point managed to combine for 225 yards in total offense, but while the Hawks all but shut down the Skyhawks on the ground – the visitors rushed for just 68 yards – Point threw for 157 yards, most of that in the second half.
Thames, who came into take the snaps behind center in the second half, led Point completing 10 of 20 passes for 136 yards and the two TDs.
"We had contain problems more than anything," Jones said, "and when that happens the lane assignments change. But we'll take this week," the coach added. "We'll go back to work and try to get better, and we'll be searching to get above the .500 mark next week."