Argonauts make a statement in NCAA Division II playoff debut

It’s safe to say the University of West Florida football team made a statement Saturday afternoon.

In the NCAA Division II postseason for the first time in program history, the Argonauts dominated 16th-ranked Wingate 31-0 at Belk Stadium in North Carolina.

Jalen Spencer opened the game with a bang, returning an interception 23 yards for a score and UWF (8-3) never looked back as it set up an All Gulf Conference showdown next Saturday with West Georgia, the team the Argos defeated 34-29 last week to catapult themselves into the postseason.

Mike Beaudry threw three touchdown passes, including a 10-yard scoring strike to Tate Lehito with five seconds to play in the half, and the Argos rolled into the locker room with a 17-0 advantage. The other points of the half came off a 51-yard field goal by Austin Williams.

Beaudry also connected with Antoine Griffin and Austin Blake-Smith on touchdown tosses of 17 yards and 13 yards, respectively.

On top of his game in a big moment, the redshirt freshman quarterback completed 18 of his 31 passes for 160 yards. UWF finished with 289 yards as a team en route to its third consecutive win.

The Argos owned the day defensively as well, forcing four turnovers and holding the Bulldogs (9-2) to 205 yards. What is perhaps most impressive about the performance is that prior to Saturday, Wingate, the champion of the South Atlantic Conference, had scored 30 or more seven times, including 40-plus in three of its last four games of the regular season.

A year ago, the Argos finished 5-6, losing the last three games of their inaugural season. They’ve become the story of the year in small-college football this season and are a win away from playing for the South Region championship. Next week, they will take on a Wolves team  that topped Virginia State 35-9 Saturday in their playoff opener.

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