It’s the biggest game in NCAA Division II football this week.
The University of West Florida squares off with top-ranked Valdosta State Saturday at 7 p.m. EST at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium in Georgia. A share of the Gulf South Conference title is on the line. The game is set to be televised live on ESPN3.
Ranked 20th in the nation, the Argos (7-1, 6-0) have won their last seven games. Their start is their best in program history.
The Blazers (8-0, 6-0) are the reigning national champs, the winners of 23 in a row, including 12 at home. A win Saturday would set a conference record for consecutive wins.
The fact that UWF is in this position is a statement to how far the Argos have come in their four-year history.
“This conference has sent a team to the national championship game the last three years. It’s one of the best conferences in the nation,” UWF head coach Pete Shinnick said. “What our guys have done is a testimony to the returners and the new guys buying in and believing we can make this happen.”
The Argos have never played for a GSC title before, though they did make a run to the national title game in 2017.
What has defined the Argos during this year is their ability to find a way to win even when things aren’t going great. Last week at Blue Wahoos Stadium against North Greenville, UWF turned the ball over four times, including on the first two possessions. It found itself in a 7-3 hole at halftime. The Argos rallied for a 17-14 victory.
“It shows we are very resilient. It shows we can get it done even in bad circumstances,” quarterback Austin Reed said.
The coaches preach being resilient every week.
“We have talked to the guys about playing through the course of the game. We tell the guys to keep believing, keep fighting and keep scratching,” Shinnick said.
VSU has never lost to UWF, sporting a 3-0 mark in the all-time series. Rogan Wells leads the offense, throwing for 15 touchdowns and rushing for six. He has 1,771 yards on the season.
Jamar Thompkins has rushed for seven touchdowns and Brian Saunds is one of the top receivers in the country with 44 catches for 729 yards and five touchdowns. The Blazers are averaging 40.6 and 523.4 yards per game.
Defensively, the Blazers are giving up 16.4 points per game and just 290 yards per outing. Dalton Mydell leads the team with 39 tackles.
UWF is fifth in the latest South Region poll. The Argos are hoping to earn their second playoff berth in program history.
Austin Reed has thrown for 1,806 yards and 19 touchdowns. He’s rushed for six scores.
Jervon Newton leads the Argos in rushing with 363 yards and three scores. Shomari Mason is also over 300 yards (321) on the season. He’s scored thee touchdowns as well.
Navarre’s own Quentin Randolph leads the Argos in receiving with 19 catches for 415 yards, recording nine games in his career with at least three passes.
The Argos have allowed only 68 points during their win streak. Trent Archie leads the team in tackles with 43.
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