TAMPA — The grassy field was a stage, and Michael Penix Jr. put on a show.
He accounted for every offensive touchdown in Tampa Bay Tech's 53-0 singeing of visiting Wharton on Friday night.
Penix finished 13-of-22 for 186 yards and three touchdowns, while rushing for 49 yards and three more scores. His performance wasn't even a clinic, it was a post-graduate course on how to play quarterback and how to orchestrate an offense.
"I'm not surprised," Tampa Bay Tech coach Jayson Roberts said. "This is what we expect out of him. He does that in practice, so when we see those throws tonight, it doesn't surprise me."
Wharton stopped Tampa Bay Tech (2-0) on the opening drive, then the Wildcats couldn't stop much of anything else.
The Titans scored a touchdown on five consecutive drives in the first half — three were passing, three rushing, all from Penix.
His first touchdown was a 1-yard rushing touchdown, then a 23-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Daquon Green, followed by a 22-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jonathan King.
"If it wasn't for the offensive line," Penix said, "we wouldn't have gotten any."
But Penix almost didn't need an offensive line. When the Wildcat defense tried to sack him for negative yards, Penix used his speed for positive ones. Two of Penix's three touchdowns in the second quarter were rushing touchdowns — one from 5 yards on the Titans' first drive, and one from 32 yards on their last drive.
Penix's passing ability forced Wharton's defense to focus on the Titan receivers. So when Penix rushed for yards, the Wildcats noticed too late, allowing Penix to scramble for big runs.
"With us being young in the offensive line," Roberts said, "we turned to the passing game to open up the run game."
Tampa Bay Tech's success also tells the story of Wharton's failures.
"I feel like somebody took my lunch money," Wharton coach David Mitchell said.
The Wildcats had to rely on third-string quarterback Harrison Hawk after starting quarterback Randy Haynes Jr. and Dylan McCain couldn't continue due to injuries. But even when Haynes was in the game, he wasn't able to do much of anything. He finished 0-for-3 and was under constant pressure. He was hit as he threw on all of his passes.
"We did not stop playing," Mitchell said. "I'm proud they played the entire game."
There was a running clock for the entire second half. The Titans only scored one touchdown on a run by Jaquavious Johnson.
After the game, Roberts huddled his team around him: "What happened tonight is what happens when you play as a team."