The Clark Atlanta Panthers gave up 24 unanswered points during their 24-13 loss to Livingstone College at CAU Panther Stadium on Saturday night. The game was not only the season and home opener but tripled as the debut of new head football coach Tim Bowens. “Credit to Livingston, they did a great job of executing,” said Bowens, who most recently worked as the Georgia State University running backs coach. “We have to make sure we execute at a high level.”

Clark Atlanta, playing in front of what looked like a capacity crowd, went ahead by a touchdown midway through the first quarter when senior quarterback Charles Stafford, also making his Panther debut after transferring from Albany State University, found freshman running back Darrell Nichols for a 10-yard score. Nichols, a Westlake High School graduate, made the most of his first game as a Panther by fast becoming one of Stafford’s most trusted receivers out of the backfield.

The Panthers added to their lead when early in the second quarter Stafford threw his second touchdown pass of the night when he found junior receiver Drakar Jerry on a crossing route for a 64-yard score. It was Jerry’s only reception of the game. Fellow junior receiver and former University of Georgia Bulldog Caleeb Roberson was another Panther making his first appearance and led the team with three receptions (for 19 yards). Roberson was targeted seven times, once on a flea-flicker attempt that fell flat during the second half.

Livingstone scored twice before halftime; first on a 67-yard catch by Anthony Mullis from sophomore quarterback Miles Hayes. The Blue Bears took their first lead of the game at 14-13 with three minutes remaining in the half when they converted a flea-flicker attempt that found senior receiver DeAndre Vickers from 46 yards. They would score again, closing the first half with a 19-yard field goal to go ahead by four points.

The second half belonged to the Blue Bears. The defense kept the Panthers from threatening to score for the entirety of the game. On offense, Livingstone scored the only points of the second half when Hayes found Brandon Duncan down the middle of the field for a 44-yard touchdown. The Blue Bears would intercept Stafford twice during the game, the final time was on a scoring attempt on a fade pass to Roberson with four minutes to play in the game.

Asked about how he thought Stafford play Bowens said, “It was tough for him because a couple of times he had some pressure. We have to make sure to give him some time.”

The Panthers offensive line is currently made up of freshmen and in a couple of occasions a defensive linemen that worked on pass-blocking during practice this week according to Bowens. “I think [Stafford] executed the offense well during fall camp, and he will be better next week when you see him.”

The Panthers defense had its moments, forcing four fumbles (recovering just one during first quarter) and holding the Blue Bears to 5-14 on third downs and 0-2 on fourth down conversions. “Defensively, at times, we ran to the ball well,” said Bowens. “On special teams I thought [senior] Ty Woods punted the ball pretty good, I thought he hit the ball well. We covered the kick really good.”

The Panthers are back in action on Saturday at Allen University before coming back home to host Central State University on Sat., Sept. 21.

“I’m not shaken by any stretch of the imagination,” said Bowens about the loss during his post-game presser in the bowels of the stadium. “We will be better.”

Clark Atlanta University Athletic Director J. Lin Dawson seemed to second those sentiments after the game.

“I thought there were some positive signs,” Dawson said.

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