This is an excerpt from my week 2 article that I posted September 7th, 2015…
“With all this freshman talent and useful experience, it seems as if UWG football fans can expect great things from their beloved Wolves this year.”
This is an excerpt from my week 5 article that I posted October 8th, 2015…
“If all you Division II college football fans are not already on the UWG bandwagon, I suggest you hop on now because this team looks as if they will turn a lot of heads this year.”
The wolves have proven to be nothing short of spectacular in their 2015 regular season campaign. Never would I have thought that these two excerpts would become immense understatements.
Second Round Playoff Matchup: UWG vs Valdosta State
West Georgia will play the Valdosta State Blazers at noon Saturday in the second round of the 2015 NCAA Division II playoffs. This will be the second meeting between the two schools this year, and the fourth meeting in the last two years. The game will be at University Stadium in Carrollton, Georgia. This will be the first ever home playoff game at University Stadium, and is sure to be a thriller.
West Georgia finished the regular season 10-1 with their only loss coming on the road to Florida Tech. The Wolves had many convincing wins on the year; their closest margin of victory was 18 points (outside the loss). They started the season 9-0 with impressive wins over playoff teams North Alabama (31-10), Valdosta State (49-28), and Catawba (44-13). They also defeated Delta State for the fourth time in a row, 28-7 and West Alabama 32-14, both games were on the road. The Wolves finished the regular season #7 in the national power rankings, but they are the 1 seed from Super Region 2. This season earned them a share with North Alabama of the GSC championship for the first time since 2000. It also earned them a 1 seed and a first round bye in the playoffs.
Valdosta State finished the regular season 8-2 but now have 9 wins after their 61-59 win over the 5th seeded Eagles of Carson-Newman. This game featured many lead changes and ended with a Blazer touchdown on the last play. This gives Valdosta 6 straight wins coming into Saturday’s rematch with UWG. VSU’s losses came at home to North Alabama and away at West Georgia. Both UWG and VSU defeated Delta State, West Alabama, Shorter, and Mississippi College during the regular season. Valdosta State finished the regular season ranked 15th in the national power rankings. This season earned them a 4 seed in the playoffs.
Here is a link to the Division II Week 11 Power Rankings
Why This Game is Interesting
The Gulf South Conference was able to fill 3 of the 7 playoff spots for Super Region 2, and all teams are still alive. North Alabama blew out Newberry 50-7 in the first round, and will face Tuskegee this Saturday. After Saturday, only one or two GSC teams could be remaining.
West Georgia and Valdosta State have been rivals for a long time. A lot has been on the line the past couple times these teams have played, and Saturday will be no different. First, I must inform you all of what happened last year.
West Georgia traveled to Valdosta in the first matchup and was beat easily by the Blazers, 40-6. Then, the Wolves beat VSU in the quarterfinals of last year’s playoffs to become the champions of Super Region 2. This win sent UWG to the final four where they fell 3 points short to Colorado State-Pueblo, who went on to win the championship.
So, the two teams split the series last year. Valdosta State winning convincingly during the regular season, then losing in the playoffs. By the way, both of these games were set in Valdosta.
This year, as I mentioned earlier, UWG won convincingly in the first game of the series. Now, the two teams will face off again in the playoffs. Both of these games will be set in Carrollton.
The only difference in the scenario is that this time, the winner will go onto the quarterfinals, rather than the semifinals.
If North Alabama wins vs Tuskegee at home Saturday, then the quarterfinal game will feature two teams from the Gulf south Conference for the second year in a row. It also means that the GSC will have a representative in the final four for the second year in a row.
Everyone knows it is incredibly hard to beat a team twice in the same year, Valdosta found that out the hard way last year. The Blazers have ripped off 6 straight wins, one of those wins was vs Florida Tech, the team that beat UWG. A win is an understatement, VSU blew out Florida Tech 39-21 in the final game of the regular season.
The odds will not be on Coach Hall and his players’ sides Saturday. Before this season, UWG had not beaten Valdosta State at home in 17 years. After losing every game in the last 17 years against VSU at home, winning twice in the same year is nearly unexpected.
Valdosta State is very accustomed to winning in the playoffs as well. Under their current head coach, David Dean, the Blazers have won two national titles (2007, 2012). The Blazers won a title in 2004 as well, and played for one in 2002. David Dean was the offensive coordinator in those two games.
Coach Hall was the quarterback at North Alabama during the 2002 and the 2003 season, where he played against David Dean while Dean was offensive coordinator at Valdosta. In 2002, Valdosta State won 45-28, and lost in 2003 to the Will Hall lead Lions, 17-10. Coach Hall won the Harlon Hill Trophy that year as well, which is given to the top athlete in Division II football (similar to the Heisman of Division I).
Before traveling to Valdosta, David Dead was an assistant coach at West Georgia from 1992-1997 and offensive coordinator from 1998-1999.
The first game of this year’s Valdosta matchup, UWG’s offense was unstoppable as Dallas Dickey exploded for 237 yards passing and three touchdowns. Lamarcus Franks also had his coming out party as he rushed for 172 yards on 17 carries and even threw for a 28-yard touchdown. Senior Shaq Hall surpassed 1,000 career yards in this game as he hauled in 5 catches for 66 yards and a score. Redshirt freshman Will Garret also had a rushing and a passing touchdown in the first matchup vs Valdosta State.
The defense was outstanding in the first matchup, too. They forced three turnovers on the day, two interceptions and one fumble recovery. Dylan Donahue also racked up 2.5 sacks. The defense as a whole only allowed 305 yards, 145 passing and 160 on the ground.
Dylan Donahue finished the year with 12.5 tackles for loss, 2 forced fumbles, and a team/conference leading 8.5 sacks. Dylan also sat out 2 games this year against opponents that the Wolves outscored 113-27 (Fayetteville State, Clarke-Atlanta). His 2015 campaign has earned him a spot on the ballot for the 2015 Gene Upshaw Division II Lineman of the Year Award. He is one of two people from Super Region 2 on the ballot (total of 8). If selected as winner, Dylan will receive an invitation to play in January’s East-West Shrine Game in St. Petersburg, Fla.
VSU has owned this series and has an overall record of 22-11 against UWG.
Saturday, November 28th
The UWG faithful will get to see their first ever home playoff game in the new Stadium, against a team they already beat. The two teams are rivals, of course, too. Valdosta will be very eager to regain bragging rights and do what UWG did to them last year.
Almost every local business has flyers or posters advertising for the game Saturday and UWG is even announcing programs to help give back to the community. The school has also offered to pay for half of every student ticket, making them $5 instead of $10.
West Georgia will definitely have their hands full in this matchup with the history behind it and what is at stake for the coaches and schools, but will have a whole University and City behind them.
If you have the opportunity to make it to this game, I highly suggest it.
Here is a link to the updated 2015 Division II playoff bracket