Anthony Johnson Junior’s third touchdown of the day was his biggest.
The Pace grad scored from a yard out with six seconds to play, lifting the University of West Florida football team to a heart-stopping 38-35 win over top-ranked Valdosta State Saturday in the second round of the NCAA Division II playoffs.
The score capped a seemingly improbable 75-yard drive that started with 2:12 to go and the Argonauts trailing the reigning national champions by four at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium.
Facing fourth-and-8, Austin Reed hit Tate Lehtio on a 15-yard pass for a first down.
Three more passes followed to Lehtio. And then a pass interference call on a throw to Navarre’s own Quentin Randolph set up the 20th-ranked Argos at the VSU 9-yard line.
The teams took turns calling a timeout with 10 seconds to play after a third-and-goal throw for 8 yards from Reed to Lehtio. Johnson finished the drive, finding the end zone to put UWF in front for good.
The Blazers had one last chance after receiving the kickoff but time expired after a catch by Brian Saunds.
With the win, the Argos end the Blazer’s 25-game win streak and 13-game home winning streak. It also marks the first time UWF (10-2) has beaten VSU (10-1). The Argos came into the game 0-4 lifetime against the Blazers,. That includes a 26-21 loss three weeks ago on the road.
Ahead 17-7 at halftime, the Argos used a 2-yard run by Jervon Newton with 7:54 to play in the third to take a 24-7 lead.
But VSU came roaring back, scoring 28 of the next 35 points. A 1-yard run by Jamar Thompkins put the Blazers up 35-31.
But the Argos didn’t wilt under the pressure on a beautiful 74-degree afternoon in Georgia. Instead, they responded like a team on a mission to keep the dream of their first national championship alive.
Johnson rushed for 73 yards. He scored on a 1-yard run with 12:11 left in the half to put UWF up 10-7. He scored again on a 4-yard run with 10 seconds remaining in the third to give the Argos a 31-14 advantage.
Reed completed 25 of his 37 passes for 298 yards. He was picked off once and sacked four times. His only touchdown pass was a 33-yard strike to Ka’Ron Ashley.
Lehtio finished with 14 catches for 140 yards. Randolph snagged four passes for 70 yards, giving him 12 career games wtih three or more receptions.
The Argos finished with 434 yards while VSU rolled up 511. Henry Montgomery tallied 12 tackles while Andre Duncombe recovered a fumble that helped set up UWF’s first touchdown of the second half.
UWF has won 10 of its last 11 games after an 0-1 start and has reached the 10-win mark for the second time in the four-year history of its program. It won 11 games during its run to the title game in 2017.
Undefeated and second-seeded Lenoir-Rhyne (13-0) is up next for the fifth-seeded Argos in the quarterfinal round.
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