7th ranked West Georgia defeated Shorter 35-9 at University Stadium Saturday in the final game of the regular season. This UWG performance came after a 28-26 loss at the hands of Florida Tech last Saturday, November 7th, which knocked the Wolves out of the number one spot in national polls.
West Georgia got down early on the road vs Florida Tech, and the deficit proved to be a tad too much for a comeback as they fell two points short.
FIT got out to an early 7-0 lead vs UWG on their first drive, and did not look back the rest of the game. The first half was all FIT, as they racked up 3 offensive scores and a special teams score, and took a 28-6 lead into halftime. The lone UWG score came from redshirt freshman Will Garret.
Florida Tech really took advantage of UWG’s mistakes in the first half. Dallas Dickey was intercepted and it was returned to the 4, setting them up for an easy score. Not only that, but the punt team mishandled a snap that was recovered by the Panthers in the end zone, as I mentioned earlier. To go along with the other 1st half mishaps by UWG, a field goal was missed by their outstanding kicker Hunter Heck, who was a perfect 10-of-10 on the year prior to the kick.
The UWG defense did its part in the first half @ Florida Tech, only allowing 14 points, but the offense could not seem to get it going, a rarity for them to say the least.
The second half was a much different story. UWG came out of the gates firing on all cylinders as they ripped off 20 unanswered points and found themselves down 28-26 with a whole quarter to play. Unfortunately for the Wolves, an hour long lightning delay (at least) stalled their momentum and that ended up being the final score.
The three touchdowns all came on the ground as two came from freshman Devontae Jackson, and another from Will Garrett, giving them both two on the day. During that span, UWG missed an extra point attempt, something they have not done all year. The defense also forced a turnover as Marion Chapman picked off Mark Cato at the FIT 30 yard line. This set up the second score for Devontae Jackson.
UWG had a chance at the end of the game. There was 1:48 left on the clock when Dallas Dickey and the Wolves took over for a potential game-winning drive. On 3rd-and-1, UWG took a huge blow when Will Garrett was sacked for an 11-yard loss, making it 4th-and-12.
The next play was even more heartbreaking for UWG fans as Dallas Dickey delivered what looked to be a perfect pass to senior Shaq Hall, but the pass was incomplete, ending the game. The catch would have put UWG in field goal position, giving them a chance to potentially continue their perfect season.
Devontae Jackson ended the game with 167 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries, a performance that earned him GSC Freshman of the Week. Dickey added 85 yards on 14 carries, and Will Garrett had two rushing scores for a total of 9 TDs on the year. Dickey ended the day 6-of-12 for 46 yards and two interceptions. The UWG offense as a whole had 320 rushing yards. This is their third straight 300 yard rushing performance in a row.
The defense allowed 350 yards on the day while the offense put up 328. This is the first time UWG did not put up more yards than their opponent all year. Juniors Alex Armah and Dylan Donahue, as well as senior Carlos Hutton all had 6 tackles on the day. Donahue had a sack and a forced fumble as well.
What the Loss Meant
The loss made the GSC a three-way tie for first place (North Alabama, Florida Tech, and UWG). All teams had one conference loss, making this past Saturday’s games very crucial for these three schools, as well as one other (Valdosta State). Also, it knocked West Georgia out of the #1 spot nationally, and put their first round bye hopes in jeopardy.
Around the Gulf South Conference, Week 11.
In-state rival Valdosta State played Florida Tech Saturday and defeated them 39-21, giving UWG and UNA the Gulf South Conference Title after each team won. UWG defeated UNA very convincingly earlier in the year by a score of 31-10, and also has a better overall record at 10-1 rather than 9-2, but the only thing that mattered was conference record.
If Valdosta would have lost to Florida Tech Saturday, then there would have been a three-way tie for first place in the GSC, rather than a two-way. With that being said, UWG fans found themselves cheering for the Blazers Saturday, something that would have been considered blasphemy at the start of the season.
One could tell there was a lot on the line for both programs Saturday as they both won convincingly. UNA defeated West Alabama 52-14, and UWG defeated Shorter 35-9, making the two teams Co-Champs of the GSC. This is West Georgia’s first conference title since 2000.
UWG vs Shorter
The offense of West Georgia looked back to normal Saturday as they put up 35 points, 28 in the first half. Dallas Dickey also looked like he got back on track as he threw for 133 yards and two scores, both to Qa Walker.
West Georgia scored on four straight possessions in the first half, two coming from Dallas Dickey to Qa Walker. Both Qa Walker touchdowns were significant plays, as one came form 19 yards out and the other from 27.
Derick Seward scored one of the other four first-half touchdowns, a nice sight to see for Wolves fans. Seward is a senior from California and he has struggled with injury during his career at UWG. This year, Seward has been healthy but has taken a backseat in the rushing game to some young, talented UWG backs: Devontae Jackson, Aares McCall, and Lamarcus Franks. It was great to see Seward get a score Saturday, something he has not done since early in the year.
The last score came from Will Garrett as he ran it in from two yards out capping off a 14-play, 65-yard drive. This gave UWG a 28-0 first half advantage heading into halftime.
The second half stalled for the UWG offense as some younger guys were able to receive some playing time.
West Georgia did in fact put some points on the board, though. Late in the fourth, Will Garrett hit junior wide-out P.J Harris for a 37-yard touchdown.
Shorter University also put up points in the second half, sacking Will Garrett for a safety and scoring a touchdown with only 11 seconds remaining.
Jackson was the leading back for the third straight week as he had 84 yards on 13 carries. This performance earned him GSC Freshman of the Week for the second straight week. Sophomore Qa Walker had 7 receptions for 67 yards and two scores and senior Shaq Hall had 48 yards with six catches.
Dickey finished the day 16-of-23 for 133 yards and two touchdowns, and Will Garrett completed a pass on his only attempt producing the touchdown to P.J. Harris. Garrett also had the rushing score giving him two total for the day and four total scores in the last two weeks.
Seniors Marion Chapman and Kentrell Reynolds were the leaders on defense, both finished with 8 tackles and Chapman had a sack. The defense as a whole had seven tackles for loss, two interceptions (Zed Brown, Lorenzo Ford), and two sacks (Marion Chapman, Josh Walker).
Special teams also looked good for West Georgia Saturday as Marcus Sayles blocked another kick and De’Rell Freeman returned a punt 30 yards. D.J. Ezell also retuned a Shorter kickoff 53 yards.
This win gives UWG a 10-1 record to finish out the regular season, and a number one seed heading into the 2015 playoffs. West Georgia will have a bye this Saturday, and will need to pay close attention to Valdosta State for the second week in a row.
4th-seeded Valdosta State hosts 5th-seeded Carson-Newman this Saturday and the winner will come to Carrollton the 28th to face the Wolves. This will be the first ever West Georgia playoff game in the city of Carrollton, all others have come on the road.
If Valdosta State and West Georgia meet in the playoffs, it will be the second year in a row that they have played twice. Last year, Valdosta dismantled UWG 40-6 in the regular season, but UWG won when it mattered, defeating them 31-17 in the playoffs.
This year, UWG dominated Valdosta 49-28. I believe it is definitely safe to say that Wolves fans should watch out for VSU. After a loss to UWG eliminating them from last year’s playoffs, and an embarrassing loss to UWG earlier in the year, they will be hungry for revenge against this West Georgia team (assuming they beat Carson-Newman). They also have finished out the year with four straight victories, and just handled a Florida Tech team that gave UWG its only loss of the year.
I believe the Florida Tech loss may have been a blessing in disguise for West Georgia, even though it did not seem like it at the time. A lot of players on UWG are freshman and had no idea what it was like to lose a game at this level. Heading into the playoffs undefeated, the number one team in the nation, and outright conference champs may have been setting them up for defeat. Now that the players have been humbled by a loss, they can come back even stronger than they were before. Also, there is a little bit less weighing on these young men’s shoulders.
West Georgia has been getting a lot of exposure as of late. Stories about the football program’s success have been arising on various news outlets such as Times-Georgian, the AJC, Fox 5, and ESPN, among many others.
92.9 The Game (previously DaveFM), had Coach Hall on this past week for a short phone interview on the Dukes and Bell Show. This show is usually filled with stories about UGA, GT, Georgia State, or Atlanta professional teams, so Coach Hall and West Georgia getting this exposure is huge for the program, and the school itself. I toured the station (92.9) the week before this interview and made sure to spread the news of the football team’s success to everyone at the station. Most, of course, already knew. Throughout the interview, Mike Bell was heard multiple times saying that they have received numerous calls, texts, and e-mails, about getting some stories on UWG (they probably know my number and e-mail by heart haha). So, keep at it UWG fans. I will be sure to continue my part as well!
The atmosphere will be electric come November 28th in the small city of Carrollton, Georgia, especially if Valdosta is coming to town. After having to travel for all playoff games last year, one as far as Pueblo, Colorado, the UWG faithful will be very happy to have a short drive to campus for this year’s playoffs.
If you live between Carrollton and Atlanta or the surrounding areas and do not make the drive to the game, I can guarantee that you will be missing out.
Stay tuned for a playoff matchup preview as soon as Saturday’s game (Valdosta State vs Carson-Newman) is finalized.
Here is a link to the 2015 Division II playoff Bracket
Go West, Go Wolves!