It’s a rematch three weeks in the making. And this time survival is on the line rather than a Gulf South Conference championship.
On Saturday, the University of West Florida football team battles reigning national champion Valdosta State in the second round of the NCAA Division II playoffs.
These two teams met Nov. 9 in Georgia. The GSC title was on the line. The Blazers prevailed 26-21, holding off a second-half rally by the Argos, who trailed 20-0 at halftime.
No. 20 UWF is hoping to avenge that loss and continue its march to its first national title.
But to keep that journey going, the Argos (9-2) need to get past the top-ranked team in the nation. VSU (10-0) has won its last 25 games and is 4-0 lifetime against UWF.
The Blazers are led by one of the best players in the nation in Rogan Wells. Wells is a candidate for the Harlon Hill award, the equivalent of the Heisman. He has thrown for 2,135 yards and 17 touchdowns while rushing for six scores.
The Blazers are averaging 523.2 yards per game and allowing 299.2.
Jamar Thompkins has been a big part of the offense with 872 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns.
Defensively, Cory Roberts has been tough to slow down, recording 51 tackles and picking off four passes.
UWF has the weapons to match the Blazers, looking like a different team in that second half of the first game they played against each other.
The Argos are averaging 396.7 yards per game and giving up 313.7. UWF has won nine of its last 10 games and has yet to lose a true road game in the postseason.
Now, UWF, already the fastest team to reach the playoffs twice in its first four years, is hoping to make more history Saturday when it battles the Blazers.
Kickoff for the showdown is Noon central at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium in Valdosta.
Austin Reed has thrown two or more touchdowns in a game seven times and has rolled up 2,604 passing yards to go along with 27 scoring strikes.
Anthony Johnson rushed for a 109 yards in the victory over Wingate last week. He has churned out 468 yards and four touchdowns.
Navarre’s own Quentin Randolph has caught six touchdown passes in the last three games and leads the Argos in receiving with 32 catches for 674 yards.
Chanler Ferguson and Trent Archie anchor the UWF defense with 64 tackles apiece. They lead a defense that has forced 25 turnovers.
UWF is 5-1 in the postseason and 17-10 overall on the road in its four-year history.
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