Don’t bother pinching yourself. Because what the University of West Florida football team accomplished Saturday afternoon in chilly Pennsylvania is no dream.
Unless you want to call it a dream come true.
The Argonauts are headed to the NCAA Division II national championship game in only their second year of existence after defeating top-ranked Indiana (Pa.) 27-17 at George P. Miller Stadium.
They will battle Texas A&M Commerce, which is also making its first title game appearance. Game time is 5 p.m. central from Sporting Park in Kansas City.
It’s an unexpected place for a program that won only five games in its inaugural season. No one on the outside could have imagined a playoff run for the ages for the Argos, who have won four consecutive postseason games on the road to reach this point. They have won six consecutive games in all and are 11-3.
A month ago, UWF was on the outside looking as far playoff hopes were concerned. The Argos were ranked 10th in the South Region poll and because only the top seven make the playoffs, they needed a win over West Georgia in the regular-season finale to have any shot at making it to the postseason.
They won that game 34-29 and it’s been a crazy ride ever since, a ride that has included a shutout win over nationally ranked Wingate and a 28-21 win over Gulf South Conference champion West Alabama.
That set the stage for a semifinal showdown with the Crimson Hawks, who came in unbeaten at 13-0 and with a history of tradition and success.
The record, the history and the cold didn’t faze the Argos, who led 24-0 at one point before the Crimson Hawks tried to put together a miracle rally.
But the Argos held strong and held their third opponent in this postseason to less than 20 points. IUP came in averaging 36.9 points.
Chris Schwarz scored on a 7-yard run with 1:49 left in the opening quarter and the Argos never looked back. Schwarz finished his day with 175 yards off 29 attempts. His ability to average 6 yards a carry was crucial to the Argos’ success.
A 30-yard field goal gave UWF a 10-0 lead and Mike Beaudry’s 6-yard scoring strike to Tate Lehtio with 26 seconds left in the half gave the Argos a ton of momentum heading into halftime.
Beaudry threw his second touchdown pass early in the third, connecting with Kevin Grant on 15-yard pass play that stretched the lead to 24-0. It was one of 15 passes he completed on a day when he attempted 23 and threw for 152 yards. Most importantly, he didn’t turn the ball over.
IUP scored the next 17 points, trimming the UWF lead to 24-17. A 25-yard field goal by Williams capped the scoring and helped punctuate a victory only the Argos saw coming.