West Georgia’s miraculous season came to an end Saturday as they fell to Northwest Missouri State on the road, 38-23 in front of 5,522 fans. UWG got down 17-0 before storming back to make it a one point game with a chance to take the lead with just 4:39 left in the fourth quarter. A couple plays later, the game fell out of reach.
A lot of people, including myself, thought this game would be defensive juggernaut. Coming into the game, NWMS had the best defense in the country, and UWG was a close second (fewest points per game). Well, we were wrong, as both teams put up 390+ yards and more than 23 points.
The first half was all NWMS, as they outgained UWG 250 to 82 and went into the half up 24-6. UWG’s offense, who had not scored less than 27 points all year, was held to 0 points and just 14 yards in the first quarter.
The first score of the day came just a few minutes into the first quarter. Cameron Wilcox ran the ball in from 3 yards out, and the Simon Mathiesen PAT made the score 7-0 in favor of the Bearcats. This score capped off an impressive 11-play, 78-yard drive that lasted only 4 minutes and 36 seconds.
UWG took over and was forced to a 3-and-out. A booming 78-yard punt by senior James Dugan put the ball into the end zone for a touchback, giving the Bearcats the ball at their own 20 with 8:27 left in the first.
16 plays and 73 yards later, NWMS was on the board again by way of a 24 yard field goal. This gave them the 10-0 lead with 2 minutes remaining in the 1st.
The next drive for UWG ended in a Devontae Jackson fumble, giving the Bearcats the ball back in excellent field position.
The last play of the first quarter was a 22-yard completion that put the Bearcats on the UWG 7 yard line. 3 plays later, Brady Bolles completed a 3-yard pass to TJ Schieber for a NWMS touchdown. The successful PAT made the score 17-0 in favor of the home team.
Dickey and the Wolves then took over down big, and mounted a scoring drive that took 9 plays, 61 yards, and lasted 2 minutes and 46 seconds. On this drive, Qa Walker caught a 46 yard pass from Dickey. This was just the beginning of big plays between these two that day.
UWG got down to the NWMS 15 yard line before their drive stalled, and senior Hunter Heck kicked a 32 yarder making the score 17-3 with 10:56 left in the second.
UWG’s strong defense then showed out as they forced a punt, giving the ball back to the struggling offense. NWMS went for a fake punt on 4th-and-9 on their own 38 yard line on this drive. This move must have raised some eyebrows around Maryville as the pass fell incomplete, giving the ball to the Wolves in Bearcat territory.
Again, UWG could not find the endzone on this drive as they stalled on the 20-yard line. Hunter Heck came in and made a 37 yarder, making the score 17-6.
Now with only an 11 point lead, Bolles and the Bearcats took over and drove to the UWG red zone. Junior Marcus Sayles then came up big as he picked off a Brady Bolles pass with 2 minutes left in the half.
After completing a 9 yard pass on first down, Dickey threw an incomplete pass on 2nd down, and Devontae Jackson was stopped for no gain on 3rd down. This made it 4th-and-1 for UWG with 1:39 left in the half.
The next play proved to be catastrophic for the Wolves as a high snap nearly sailed over the head of Punter James Dugan, giving the Ball back to the Bearcats on the UWG 11-yard line.
A couple plays later, Brady Bolles ran it in from 7 yards out, making the score 24-6 going into halftime.
900 miles from home, down by 18 with just a half left to play, Coach Hall must have made the halftime speech of the century because in the third quarter the Wolves came out on fire.
The first drive of the second half started with the ball in senior Dallas Dickey’s hands. By the way, Dallas is the winningest QB in school history, so he knows how to win. I knew that he would not go out easily and would make this a game. Little did I know, that would be an understatement.
The fourth play of the drive was a 58 yard touchdown pass to junior Telvin Brown. Dickey dropped back and had plenty of time from his spectacular line, and hit a wide open Brown streaking down the middle of the field. Brown adjusted to the pass, and nearly walked into the endzone. The Hunter Heck PAT made the score 24-13.
After forcing a NWMS punt, UWG took back over. Unfortunately, they could not get anything going, and had to punt it back to the Bearcats. Luckily for the offense, the defense looked like a new team in the second half, forcing another punt.
Dallas Dickey connected with Qa Walker again on this drive. This time, it resulted in a touchdown. Coach Hall dialed up another bomb, and it proved to be successful as Qa Walker beat the corner and made a phenomenal 40-yard catch in the endzone. Dickey also made a great play as he scrambled around and made this perfect TD throw on the run. The Hunter Heck PAT made the score 24-20.
NWMS was feeling the pressure now, as they have never lost a home semi-final game in the history of their school. Now just up four points and relatively no momentum to feed off of, Bolles and the Bearcats mounted a 13-play, 66-yard drive that brought them down to the UWG 1 yard line.
This was the biggest play of the season for the Wolves, as they needed a stop on this fourth down to take over and have a chance to take the lead. Senior Wayne Williams and sophomore Zed Brown came up huge and stopped the play for a loss of one, giving the ball back to the red hot UWG offense.
With little to no room to work, this drive was just about getting our punter some room. If you remember, we already had a bad snap result directly in a NWMS touchdown.
After gaining a little yardage, West Georgia punted it back to the Bearcats. Again, not having scored since the end of the 2nd quarter, the Bearcats were forced to punt.
With 9 seconds left in the 3rd quarter, Dickey and the Wolves took over having scored 14 unanswered points, and now down just four points.
After a 35-yard completion to Qa Walker, a 21-yard rush by Dallas Dickey, and a 21-yard trick play to Shaq Hall, UWG found themselves 8 yards away from a touchdown and the lead.
Unfortunately for the Wolves fans, the next two plays resulted in negative yardage, and they were forced to kick a field goal. This was Heck’s 3rd of the day, making the score 24-23 with nearly the whole 4th quarter to play.
UWG’s defense forced yet another punt by the Bearcats, and now the Wolves had the ball down just 1 point.
Starting on their own 21-yard line, 11 plays later the Wolves were on the Bearcat 36 yard line, facing a 4th-and-14.
This was decision time for Coach Hall, should he go for the fourth down even though it is 14 yards? It would put us nearly in the red zone with a new set of downs. Or, should he rely on his trusty field goal kicker who has been incredible all day and all year? Even though, this would be a 53 yarder and his longest on the year is 41.
Coach Hall decided to send in Hunter Heck and the field goal unit. With 4:39 left in the game, the Wolves were attempting a field goal that would give them a 2 point lead, something they had not possessed all game.
The whole city of Carrollton was biting their nails watching this play. Some, I am sure, could not even bear to watch.
The kick looked like it possibly could have had enough distance, but it sailed wide right. After the kick, the camera focused on Heck, who seemed to be in high spirits. He knew that would have been an incredible kick if he had made it. It also showed redshirt freshman Wil Garrett giving him some encouragement.
I caught up with Wil Garrett following the game and asked him what words he shared with Heck after the missed field goal,
“I told him that hardly anyone expected him to make that field goal. A 53 yarder to give us the lead in the national semi-finals? That is a lot on the line. I told him that he needs to stay positive because we were definitely going to need him again.”
The first play of the next drive the Bearcats were looking to put the game away. Brady Bolles completed a 64 yard touchdown pass to George Sehl, putting them up 30-23. The successful PAT then made the score 31-23.
A nice return by Telvin Brown gave the ball to the offense on their own 35 with 4:22 to go. Now down 8, UWG needed a touchdown and a 2-pt conversion to tie the game.
The first play was a 10-yard rush by Dallas Dickey, moving them to the 45 yard line. On the next play, Enyard Bryce jumped a route and picked off the Dallas Dickey pass returning it 61 yards for a NWMS touchdown. The successful PAT made the score 38-23, with 3:34 left in the game.
Just a minute before, UWG was lining up to attempt a 53 yard field goal to take the lead. Now, after the minute had passed, the game was nearly out of reach as they were down 15 points.
The game and the season ended with the Bearcats kneeing the ball after UWG was stopped on the previous drive.
The stats from these two teams were scary similar, the score made it look worse than it really was. UWG outgained the Bearcats 393-390. 289 came through the air compared to 235 from NWMS.
It was a tale of two halves, as NWMS owned the first half, and one could say UWG owned the second half.
Dickey finished the day 13-of-34 with 268 yards and two scores with one interception. He also had 10 carries for 46 yards. Dickey will finish his career having won 24 games in his last two season at UWG, leading his school to back-to-back Super Region Championships and final four appearances. He finishes this season 173-of-290 with 2387 yards. He threw 22 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. Dickey also rushed for 592 yards and four touchdowns on the year.
Devontae Jackson finished the day with 76 yards on 20 carries, making him the 10th UWG player ever to rush for over 1,000 yards in a single season. More notably, he is the first ever freshman at UWG to accomplish this milestone. He finished the year as the leading rusher (yards) with 162 attempts for 1,057 yards and 9 rushing touchdowns.
Qa Walker led all receivers for the Wolves with 4 catches for 130 yards and a touchdown. Qa finished the year as the leading receiver (yards) with 34 catches for 809 yards and 10 touchdowns.
West Georgia will close the year with a 12-2 record, the best record in history at the Division II level for the school.
I want to thank everyone who has supported me during this 2015 football season. Just four months ago I created this blog and had no idea it would grow into what it is today.
I would like to personally thank Matt Cooke of the UWG athletic department for providing me with endless opportunities around the program.
I would like to personally thank my sports communication professor, Andrew Will, for giving me constructive criticism all year and taking me on the tour to 92.9 The Game.
I would like to personally thank sports broadcaster Sam Crenshaw, a UWG alum, for posting all my articles on peachstatecollegesports.com and helping me get my name out there. Also, I would like to thank Sam for setting me up with the radio team for the first annual Celebration Bowl December 19th. I am looking forward to this opportunity to gain some insight in the field of sports broadcast and cannot wait to see some more live college football!
Most importantly, I would like to thank the UWG football team, Coach Hall and his staff, and the entire UWG fan base for being so passionate about this school. The whole demeanor around the football program has changed since I arrived here two and a half years ago, and I believe a lot of that is to be contributed to Coach Will Hall. So I think I speak for everyone at UWG and in Carrollton when I say thank you, Coach.
Next week I will be posting a 2015 season recap full of stats, milestones, accomplishments, recruiting news, and much more! Stay tuned Wolves fans.
Also, follow my blog throughout the rest of the year and into 2016 as I begin to report on the basketball and baseball teams!
Go West, Go wolves!