Here was the University of West Florida football team, on the 39-yard line of Delta State with 23 seconds to play, and staring at an opportunity to upset the nationally ranked Statesmen. At the very least, the Argonauts were counting on overtime.
But the ball was snapped and hit the turf. Delta State recovered and UWF could only shake its head in disbelief as its valiant effort simply wasn’t enough in a 28-25 loss to the 21st-ranked team in NCAA Division II Saturday night at Blue Wahoos Stadium in Pensacola.
One of DSU’s players jumped off sides on the play but because he got back before it was technically a penalty, the ball was snapped by center Devin Gibson and quarterback Mike Beaudry wasn’t ready for it.
The Argos tried to recover but couldn’t get their hands on it. Had they been able to, clutch kicker Austin Williams would have had an opportunity to nail a kick and force overtime.
“It was unfortunate at the end,” UWF head coach Pete Shinnick said. “Devin felt the guy was in the neutral zone and Mike wasn’t ready (for the snap). It’s something we need to get better at, but I’m extremely proud of our guys. It was a tremendous effort.”
UWF was riding the high of two consecutive wins going into its Homecoming game and in a position to move into second place in the Gulf South Conference, a huge deal for the second-year program.
The Argos trailed 13-7 after one quarter but four consecutive field goals by Williams, including one from 51 yards away, pushed UWF in front 25-14.
On the edge of glory of its second ever win over a ranked opponent, the Argos (4-2, 2-2 GSC) came up short against DSU (6-1, 4-1) because of a couple of tough-luck plays.
Ahead 25-21, Williams lined up for a 52-yard kick a little over two minutes into the fourth quarter. The kick was blocked and returned for a touchdown by JohnQ McBride, giving DSU a 28-25 lead. A punt by the Argos with 9:19 to play appeared as if it went out at the 1-yard line. The official thought differently and the crowd of 5.458 booed loudly.
“He said it was over the pylon. I asked again to make that is what he said he saw,” Shinnick said. “My brother was on the sideline. He gave me a different answer.”
The Argos finished with a season-high 443 yards and held the Statesmen to 384.
“I told our guys when we play our best, we can play with anyone in the conference,” Shinnick said. “We’ve seen our worst. We’ve seen our average. Our average gets us beat. I thought today you saw our best with just a couple of unfortunate plays. I told our guys we’ll come back and go start a new streak.”