2023 Valdosta State vs West Florida

Week 9 In The Gulf South Conference: Time To Sort Through The Chaos

Week 9 In The Gulf South Conference: Time To Sort Through The Chaos

There has been a little bit of chaos in the Gulf South Conference, but things will be sorted out soon. That will start with Valdosta State and West Florida.

Oct 26, 2023 by Ron Balaskovitz
Week 9 In The Gulf South Conference: Time To Sort Through The Chaos

This chaotic scenario happened.

West Florida went on the road and topped league-leading Delta State in a comeback victory. Now, there’s four teams in the Gulf South Conference with one tick in the loss column.

Delta State is setting the pace at 5-1, while Valdosta State, West Florida and West Georgia all are 4-1 in conference play.

Don’t worry, the chaos won’t last long, as two of the one-loss teams are set to meet this weekend in what essentially is an elimination game for the GSC title, or at least a share of the title.

This week marks the start of three consecutive weeks to close out the season where two of the current one-loss teams will meet.

No. 24 Valdosta State (7-1, 4-1) At No. 18 West Florida (6-2, 4-1)

When they needed it most, the Gulf South’s best defense came up big against the league’s highest-powered offense, leading the West Florida to a come-from-behind 24-21 win against Delta State. 

The victory put the Argonauts in position to claim at least a share of the GSC title, and potentially a home playoff date.

After putting the first points of the game on the board halfway through the first quarter, Delta State look like it might run away with the game, going on a 21-3 run leading up to halftime. That put the Statesmen in control and just 30 minutes away from a stranglehold on the GSC title.

Instead, the UWF defense came up huge in the second half, with Delta State’s drives after halftime ending the following ways: punt, turnover on downs, punt, punt, punt, end of game.

It was one of the great performances of any team on either side of the ball this season, to slow down not just the best offense in the Gulf South, but the nation, and to blanket them when it mattered most.

West Florida will need to do it again this week against a standout Valdosta State team that has lost just one game this season – to Delta State.

The Argo defense leads the GSC in points allowed by more than five points per game and has allowed the fewest yards by over 40 per game. It will be a tough test for a Valdosta State team built on scoring.

Of course, the defensive effort wouldn’t have matter if the offense couldn’t get it done, and the Argos found just enough in the second half, getting a pair of Peewee Jarrett-to-John Jiles touchdowns to pull out the win. 

That pair has been one of the most dynamic duos in football this season, combining for 11 touchdowns so far. No other receiver in the GSC has more than five touchdowns.

It sets up a unique battle, as Valdosta State comes in like Delta State, with the offense rolling after a 42-14 romp over Shorter last week, where the Blazers scored in every quarter and racked up 449 yards of offense in the win. 

Valdosta quarterback Sammy Edwards continues to make his case for GSC Offensive Player of the Year. He tossed three touchdown passes, rushing for another score and totaled nearly 340 yards of offense in the win, while not turning over the ball. 

Edwards ranks among the 10 most efficient quarterbacks in Division II this year, but he faces his toughest test in UWF, which has allowed the second fewest passing yards in the league this year.

The big challenge for Valdosta will be if its improved defense can find enough stops to beat the Argos. 

While much improved from 2022, the Blazers still are in the bottom half of the league in terms of yards allowed, but they are the third-best in the GSC, allowing just 20.4 points per game.

The two teams played a thriller last season, with West Florida earning a 32-31 win in overtime, when Jarrett and the Argos went for a two-point conversion and the win in the extra session, getting the rushing conversion to end the game.

Gulf South Games At A Glance

*West Georgia and Shorter play Thursday night. The other two games will be played Saturday.

West Georgia (5-2, 4-1) At Shorter (3-5, 1-4)

While all eyes will be on VSU-UWF on Saturday, West Georgia suddenly finds itself back in the title race and tied for first place, essentially making every game a must-win for the Wolves, who were among the top 10 teams in the first Super Region rankings of the season released earlier this week.

UWG dominated North Greenville last week in a 38-14 win, going up 28-0 in the first half and cruising the rest of the way. 

The Wolves rushed for 320 yards in the win, averaging over seven yards per carry against what had been a stout NGU defense to that point, while the UWG defense forced a pair of key turnovers.

Shorter was handled at by Valdosta State a week ago but played a game that was tighter than the 42-14 final indicates. 

The Hawks took a 7-0 lead to open the game, then pulled within a touchdown in the third quarter, before VSU scored the final 21 points over the last 18 minutes.

West Alabama (3-4, 2-3) At Chowan (0-8, 0-6)

After pulling off the upset of the season last time out, West Alabama comes in well-rested, getting a bye last week to prepare for the winless Hawks. 

A win for UWA would get the Tigers back to .500 on the season and in GSC play. They’ll lean on a defense that put the clamps on West Florida in a 10-6 win Oct. 14.

Chowan battled back a week ago at Mississippi College, pulling to within a field goal late in the fourth quarter, but the Hawks gave up a kick return TD on the ensuing kickoff, then a late score, for the final margin. 

Mississippi College (3-4, 2-3) At North Greenville (3-5, 2-4)

While both teams are out of the race for the GSC crown, a .500 season is in reach for whichever team pulls out the win Saturday.

Mississippi College staved off a comeback attempt from Chowan last week, using a bruising ground game that racked up 261 yards and four touchdowns, while also getting a kick return for a score that helped the Choctaws pull away in the fourth quarter.

North Greenville has dropped two straight games after getting to .500. 

The Crusaders put up almost 370 yards against West Georgia, but a pair of turnovers doomed their hopes of pulling off the upset.