CARROLLTON, Ga. - One of the biggest matchups of the year looms in Pensacola, Florida, this weekend, as the fourth-ranked West Georgia Wolves visit 10th-ranked West Florida for a top-10 showdown on Pensacola Bay.
This game marks the biggest test of the season to date is on tap for West Georgia football in a battle of undefeated teams in the Gulf South Conference. The matchup will be the third between UWG and UWF in the past two seasons, as West Florida knocked the Wolves from the 2017 playoffs in the second round.
UWG at West Florida - October 13, 7 PM - Blue Wahoo Stadium
Tailgating Open: 12:00 PM
Gates Open: 5:30 PM
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This week will mark the third thus far this season where West Georgia has been featured in a televised game. The Wolves opened the season on regional television with the Catawba game, then hosted the GSC-TV Live Game of the Week against North Greenville last weekend on ESPN3. This week, West Georgia and West Florida will face-off as the NCAA Division II National Game of the Week on ESPN3.
LAST WEEK WRAP
Both teams picked up a big victory last weekend, as the Wolves stayed undefeated with a 31-7 Gulf South Conference victory over visiting North Greenville. West Florida played their final non-conference game of the regular season, taking on former GSC power and now Division I-FCS opponent North Alabama. The Argos scored a touchdown just before halftime to tie the game, then outscored UNA 14-9 in the second half to take the road victory.
BREAKING DOWN THE OFFENSE
In three of the Wolves’ first six games of the season, Willie Candler and the West Georgia offense have produced 500 yards of offense. One other contest, against Albany State, the Wolves went for 495 total yards. Against North Greenville last week, the Wolves had 507 yards of total offense, including 283 rushing yards in the victory. Candler led the way with 84 yards on the ground, followed by 74 from freshman running back Christian Royalston and 65 from senior Devontae Jackson. Candler is 10th in the nation in passing efficiency, coming into the week with a rating of 166.7.
BREAKING DOWN THE DEFENSE
The West Georgia defense is back in the top-10 nationally in total defense, giving up an average f 259.3 yards per game. That number is good for ninth in the nation. A big part of that is against the pass, as the Wolves allow just 159 yards per game through the air, eighth-best in the nation. Senior linebacker Barron Burns was especially good against the pass last week, with two passes defended and an interception return for a touchdown against the North Greenville Crusaders. Opposing quarterbacks have an efficiency rating of 96.00, which is 10th in Division II.
SPECIAL TEAMS SCORING IN 2018
The return game has been a strong point for the Wolves thus far on the year, especially on kickoffs, where West Georgia leads the nation in kickoff returns, averaging more than 32 yards per return. Three different returners have returned a combined four kicks for a touchdown, including two kickoffs and two punts. The Wolves are also stingy on kickoff coverage, allowing 14.53 yards per return on the year. Much of that has to do with kicker Omar Cervantes, who has 16 touchbacks this season.
A LOOK AT UWF
The West Florida Argonauts have been in this position before this season. UWF has taken on two ranked opponents in the 2018 season, beating Carson-Newman at home in Week 1, then falling on the road to Midwestern State in Week 2. The West Florida Argonauts have been in this position before this season. UWF has taken on two ranked opponents in the 2018 season, beating Carson-Newman at home in Week 1, then falling on the road to Midwestern State in Week 2. The Argos have won four straight since that loss, beating Shorter, Mississippi College, and Delta State in GSC play before beating Division I North Alabama on the road last weekend. Led by quarterback Sam Vaughn, the Argos have passed for over 1,500 yards on the year thus far, with Vaughn connecting with Tate Lehtio 29 times and Ishmel Morrow 24 times on the year. Ezra Saffold has been the touchdown-maker, hauling in four of Vaughn’s 14 scoring strikes. On the defensive side, senior linebacker Gavin Burford leads the way this season with 48 stops on the year, helping the Argos to allow an average of 19.2 points per game.
IN THE GSC
A pair of battles at the top of the Gulf South Conference is on tap for the week of October 13, headlined by a top-10 battle in the National Division II Game of the Week between 4th-ranked West Georgia and 10th-ranked West Florida in Pensacola. A pair of battles at the top of the Gulf South Conference is on tap for the week of October 13, headlined by a top-10 battle in the National Division II Game of the Week between 4th-ranked West Georgia and 10th-ranked West Florida in Pensacola. The two teams met twice in a three-game span last season, with UWF taking both battles en route to a spot in the NCAA Division II Championship Game. Another huge matchup is between Florida Tech and Valdosta State in Melbourne, Florida. The Panthers are a talented team that received votes in this week’s AFCA poll, while the Blazers are eighth in the nation. The GSC-TV Live Game of the Week on ESPN3 will originate from Livingston, Alabama, where the Delta State Statesmen will take on defending GSC champion West Alabama. The two teams are regular powers in the conference but come into the week with a combined 1-6 record against league competition. North Greenville will host Shorter in Tigerville, SC in conference play on Saturday afternoon. The final game of the week will come with former GSC power North Alabama taking on Mississippi College in non-conference action in Florence, Alabama.
Another week and another move forward for West Georgia, as the Wolves jumped to fourth in both polls in this week’s ranking after Texas A&M-Commerce took down Midwestern State last week. Three Gulf South Conference teams are ranked in the top-10 nationally, with VSU ranked eighth and West Florida 10th in the AFCA rankings. In the D2Football.com poll, UWG is fourth, followed by the Argos in fifth and the Blazers ninth.
Senior linebacker Barron Burns had a somewhat quiet game against the North Greenville Crusaders last week. Burns had no tackles but came away with two passes defended and an interception return for a touchdown. The score gave the Wolves a commanding 17-0 lead in the second quarter against the Crusaders.
CANDLER CAREER WATCH
Junior quarterback Willie Candler practically rewrote the UWG single-season passing record books as a sophomore in 2017 but is well on his way to a similar season in 2018. Against North Greenville, the Atlanta native was 20-for-30 for 211 yards and a touchdown. The score was the 50th career touchdown pass for Candler, making him the fourth quarterback in West Georgia football history with 50 career touchdown passes. He is 94 yards away from becoming the sixth quarterback in school history with 5,000 career passing yards.
Through the first six games of the year, West Georgia has had five touchdowns that have come from either special teams or from the defense. Four of those have been in the return game and one was an interception return for a touchdown last week against North Greenville. The Wolves have had a non-offensive touchdown in five straight weeks.
PERRY POWERS KICK RETURN
Henry had the fourth touchdown in the UWG return game against Shorter two weeks ago, but redshirt freshman Laperion Perry was also solid, returning two kicks for a combined 78 yards. Perry has four kick returns on the year, amassing a total of 274 yards, for an average of 68.5 yards per kick return.
While Devontae Jackson was breaking the school career all-purpose yardage record during the Shorter game two weeks ago, another UWG standout was just getting started. Receiver Malik Henry had 127 yards on punt returns in that game but also had five receptions for 72 yards in the game for a grand total of 199 all-purpose yards against Shorter, leading the team. Henry now has 474 all-purpose yards on the season, averaging 118.5 yards per game. He has five touchdowns on the year, including four receiving scores.
Seniors Emoni Williams and Malik Henry are the Wolves’ leaders in receptions this year among the 16 different receivers with a catch. Both have 16 catches this season, with Williams holding the edge in yardage with 239 yards to Henry’s 221 yards. Junior John Hurst is right in the mix, hauling in 237 yards in 15 receptions. Henry leads the team in scoring receptions with four, followed by Hurst, Williams, and Thomas Lester. That trio has two receiving touchdowns each this season. K.J. Parmer and Shannon Smith also have at least 100 yards receiving, with Parmer at 114 and Smith at 157.
JACKSON RECORD WATCH
The first major record fell against Shorter two weeks ago for Devontae Jackson, as the senior running back had 151 yards rushing and 23 yards in the return game. Those numbers allowed Jackson to pass Mark Evans for the career record in all-purpose yardage. Jackson now has 5,261 career yards and the Wolves have a minimum of five regular-season games left. Jackson is currently averaging 126.0 all-purpose yards per game. If he keeps that pace, Jackson could become the first 6,000-yard man in West Georgia football history.
JACKSON RECORD WATCH - PT. 2
The next record on the chopping block for Jackson is the career rushing record, where the senior currently sits in second place after becoming the second back in school history with 3,000 career rushing yards. Jackson currently has 3,289 rushing yards in his UWG career and needs 118 to break Nick Price’s school record, which was set in the 2001 season
PUNTING FOR DOUGH
Senior punter Christian Ramirez has turned into a weapon for the West Georgia Wolves this season. He is averaging 43.7 yards per punt on the year, which is second in the Gulf South Conference, but in 19 punts thus far on the year, Ramirez has dropped opponents inside the 20-yard line on 11 separate occasions. Three have been for 50 or more yards, and his longest on the year is 61 yards.
BIG PLAY ROYALSTON
Freshman Christian Royalston had just three carries against North Greenville last week, but he made the most of his carries. He had 74 yards in those three carries, including a career-high 71-yard touchdown romp in the second quarter, giving the Wolves a 24-0 lead in the process. On the year, Royalston has 45 carries for 271 yards and two rushing touchdowns.