West Georgia used 402 yards of offense Saturday in their 29-0 win over the Miles Golden Bears. The win moved the Wolves to 2-0 on the year with both wins coming vs defending conference champions. The Wolves keep their #2 ranking in the D2football.com poll this week, but they fell to #3 in the American Football Coaches Association poll.
Three teams on the UWG schedule have now made their way into the Division II top 25. North Alabama is ranked #9, Valdosta State is ranked #18, and Florida Tech is ranked at #25. This gives the Gulf South Conference 4 ranked teams in the D2football.com top 25.
How it Happened:
Miles received the opening kickoff and were forced to a 3-and-out by West Georgia’s defense. After receiving the punt, West Georgia had the ball on their own 45 yard line. The game started in a very similar fashion to the Catawba game as junior QB Will Gardner hit a West Georgia receiver for a big gain. This time, it was junior receiver DeNiko Carter with the 25-yard reception.
Two penalties and a sack forced West Georgia into a tough spot as they were forced to punt back to Miles. This time, the Golden Bears were able to get a first down, but not much further. Three plays later, they were punting back to the Wolves.
West Georgia started this drive in great field position on the Miles 40 yard line, but were forced backwards in three plays and had to punt. Miles was able to get to midfield on the next drive, but senior DE Jason Hatcher stopped a fourth down try to give the Wolves the ball at the Miles 48.
The West Georgia offense used multiple runs from junior RB Travis Custis and two Will Gardner completions on this drive to make it down to the Miles 14 yard line. Unfortunately, that is the farthest they got as they were forced to try a field goal. Hunter Heck came in and nailed the 31-yard try giving his team the 3-0 lead with 4:43 left in the first quarter.
The first mishap of the game came on Miles’ end in the next drive as UWG senior DT Jason Carr forced a fumble that senior LB Alex Armah JR recovered. This was also a sack for Carr, as he got to the Miles QB five yards behind the line of scrimmage. This gave West Georgia the ball on the Miles 32 yard line with 14:15 left in the opening half.
The offense again could not get in the endzone on this drive but were able to net another 3 points by way of Hunter Heck’s leg. This time, Heck nailed a 43-yard field goal which gave his team the 6-0 lead.
West Georgia had the ball soon after kicking it off to Miles by forcing another punt. Six plays into the drive, Will Gardner threw an interception. This allowed Miles to take over on their own 38 yard line. Five plays after Miles intercepted Will Gardner, UWG senior DB A.J Leggett intercepted a pass and returned it 18 yards to the Miles College 35 yard line.
The West Georgia offense again could not get anything going as a penalty forced them into a 4th-and-12 situation that they could not convert on. On the other hand, the defense was rolling as the next Miles drive ended in another fumble. This time, senior DT Ethan Hopla had a sack-fumble that sophomore DT Demarcus Davis recovered.
West Georgia now had the ball in excellent field position on the Miles 26. Unfortunately, disaster struck the offense again as sophomore RB Devontae Jackson fumbled the ball and Miles recovered. The field position and sack-fumble were squandered as the Golden Bears took over with 5:10 left in the second quarter.
The UWG defense then forced Miles to punt for the 4th time in the 1st half. West Georgia took over on their own 27 yard line with 2:43 left until halftime. Senior RB Lamarcus Franks then had two catches for a total of 37 yards and a run for 17 yards. This moved the Wolves all the way down to the MC 25 yard line. With 1:13 to play, Will Gardner found DeNiko Carter for a 25-yard touchdown. After Heck’s PAT, UWG had the 13-0 lead on Miles.
This was the last action of the first half and UWG took that lead into the locker room. The first half was very similar to the Catawba game as a whole. In both games, UWG took a 13-0 lead into the half coming from two early field goals and a late score.
The UWG defense was outstanding in the 1st half. They allowed only 67 yards of offense and forced three turnovers. Unfortunately for Wolves fans, the offense had two turnovers and only 135 yards. 73 of those yards came on their final drive. Penalties were really hurting the West Georgia offense in the first half. Luckily, the defense was picking up the slack.
In the third quarter, the offense came out firing as they put together an 8-play, 79-yard drive that resulted in a Lamarcus Franks touchdown run. Lamarcus had gains of 32, 11, and 9 on the drive while Will Gardner had 2 completions for 27 yards. This score gave UWG the 20-0 lead with 11:31 to go in the third quarter.
After trading punts, then forcing Miles to punt again, West Georgia had the ball on their own 25 yard line with 6:57 remaining in the 3rd quarter. Will Gardner then hit sophomores KJ Parmer JR. and Brandon Walton for gains of 39 and 16 respectively.
This drive stalled on the 11 yard line, and Heck came out for his fourth attempt of the day. The 28-yard field goal was good and it made Heck 7-of-8 on the year after only two games. This gave UWG the 23-0 lead over Miles.
The last of the scoring was done on the defensive side of the ball as junior safety Zed Brown intercepted the Miles QB late in the fourth quarter and took it 65 yards to the house. This brought the score to its final, 29-0.
Will Gardner finished his day 13-of-35 for 198 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. This gives him an average of 209 yards a game through the first two weeks of the season. He is also averaging 35.5 attempts per game.
Lamarcus Franks was the leading rusher for the Wolves as he carried the ball 9 times for 86 yards and a touchdown. After not playing in the Catawba game, Travis Custis had 8 carries for 60 yards. Devontae Jackson also added 8 carries for 52 yards.
Junior WR Qa Walker was held to only 1 catch for 15 yards in this game while DeNiko Carter had 3 catches for 62 yards. KJ Parmer JR added 2 for 51 yards while the West Georgia backfield had 4 catches for 43 yards.
Chris Harthorne led the defense in tackles with 8 in the game. AJ Leggett added 4 while Dylan Donahue, Alex Armah Jr and Marcus Sayles had 3 tackles. Leggett also had an interception on the day which gives him the lead with 2 on the year. He was the active interception leader at Marshall when he left and his transition to DII looks to be going well for UWG.
The defense allowed only 140 total yards on the day while forcing four turnovers. This brings their average to 187.5 yards per game. They have intercepted the opposing team 5 times in two games and have forced two fumbles as well. This unit has also not yet allowed a touchdown.
West Georgia now has two quality wins under their belt after the first two weeks of the season. This Saturday they will open up conference play against Delta State. These two teams have a very long history on the gridiron. The Wolves are 11-18 all-time vs Delta State, but have defeated them 4 times in a row and 5 of the last 6 times they have met.
An interesting fact to note is that Coach Hall has never lost to Delta State in his head coaching career, even in his West Alabama days. He is 5-0 all-time vs Delta State in his 5 years coaching.
Delta State is 1-1 on the year. In Week 1, they defeated Kentucky Wesleyan College 50-29. They lost in week 2 to 8th ranked Texas A&M University – Commerce, 40-28. Delta State’s quarterback, Tyler Sullivan, is an All-Conference player. In last year’s game, he was sidelined due to injury. Last week in their loss, he threw for 3 interceptions and no touchdowns.
If West Georgia can disrupt Sullivan’s rhythm early, I believe they will have little problems with Delta State. However, he is 42-of-55 on the year with 463 yards and 3 touchdowns. So, the secondary will definitely be facing the toughest challenge thus far, and potentially of this regular season.
Thanks for reading my recap of the game, Go Wolves!
*Only pictures marked with my stamp in the bottom right corner were taken by me, Brandon Wright*