2023 Gulf South Conference Football

Div-II Playoffs: West Florida Takes On Cinderella Wingate

Div-II Playoffs: West Florida Takes On Cinderella Wingate

Cinderella Wingate looks to continue its surprise NCAA Playoffs run against powerhouse West Florida.

Dec 2, 2022 by Ron Balaskovitz
Div-II Playoffs: West Florida Takes On Cinderella Wingate

West Florida carries the Gulf South Conference banner from here on out in the NCAA Playoffs after the Argonauts took down league foe Delta State in the 2nd Round.

After rallying to score revenge in a rematch of their regular-season thriller, the Argos advanced past the Statesmen and one win away from the national semifinals. Waiting UWF is a Wingate bunch that pulled off consecutive upsets in the first two rounds of the postseason.

Wingate Vs. West Florida, 1 p.m. CST

For the better part of three quarters, it looked like West Florida might be heading home last week, trailing GSC co-champion Delta State, 24-10, heading to the fourth quarter.

But the Argos found a way, getting a score on the opening play of the final period to cut the lead in half, then scoring on their next drive to tie the game 24-24 with under 10 minutes to play.

Despite a DSU field goal with four minutes to go, the Argos again found a way late, going on a 10-play, 75-yard drive capped by a CJ Wilson run for what proved to be the winning score, then icing the game when Anthon Johnson picked off a pass and ran it back 39 yards for the final margin.

It was a gutsy performance to score 28 points in the fourth quarter against the best defense in the GSC, while holding the league’s second best offense to just three points in that same stretch. If this season leads to big things for the Argos – namely, a second national championship in three seasons – the win at Delta State will be remembered for years to come as the springboard to make it happen.

A big key for UWF was winning the turnover battle, and its ability to run the ball. The Argo defense forced three DSU turnovers, including two fumbles in the first half, which prevented the score from getting even more out of hand before the fourth-quarter rally.

Add in a rushing attack that went for 336 yards on 48 carries, which helped keep DSU off the field as long as possible, and UWF flourished with a ball-control style.

They’ll now gear up for a Wingate team that has been the Cinderella of the Division II playoffs thus far, entering the Regional as the No. 5 seed and ranked No. 22 in the country at the end of the regular season.

So what has Wingate done since getting into the playoff? Give up 13 points in two road games, pulling off a pair of major upsets to reach the school’s first ever national quarterfinal.

It started in the opening round with a 32-7 romp of the No. 4 seed Virginia Union, then continued last week with a 23-6 shutdown of top-seed Benedict.

The Bulldogs defense has done it with turnovers, forcing three against Virginia Union to hold that offense to just 259 yards. Then against Wingate, they picked off a pair of passes, collected a safety for the second-straight game, and sacked the Benedict quarterback seven times.

That stingy defense has been the calling card all season for the Bulldogs, who ranked second in the nation this season, giving up just 10.23 points per game, behind only No. 1 ranked Grand Valley State, while in yards, they’ve given up the third fewest, just 224 yards per game.

It'll be a tall task against a West Florida offense that was top-10 in the country in points per game.

For the season, Wingate was just 87th in scoring at 25.6 points per game.

The key for West Florida will be getting out to a fast start. If they can build an early lead, and force the Bulldogs to play from behind and rely on their offense, it could spell goo things for the Argos, and possibly another trip to the semifinals.