2024 Gulf South Conference Football

Gulf South Rematch Headlines Opening Weekend Of DII Football Playoffs

Gulf South Rematch Headlines Opening Weekend Of DII Football Playoffs

A strong showing from the Gulf South Conference led to a trio of teams receiving a spot in the Division II playoffs, earning rematch games.

Nov 17, 2023 by Ron Balaskovitz

A strong showing from the Gulf South Conference led to a trio of teams receiving a spot in the Division II playoffs, and while two of those teams will square off this weekend, it potentially sets the stage for another all-GSC rematch next weekend. 

West Florida at Delta State, 1 p.m. CST

A rematch of what might have been the game of the year in the Gulf South sees West Florida make its second trip of the year to Mississippi to take on the GSC co-champions in Delta State. 

The two teams met back on October 21, where UWF rallied to pull off a 24-21 win, their marquee win this year, and the game that likely got them into the 28-team playoff bracket. For Delta State, that defeat was their lone loss of the season, relegating them to a share of the GSC crown with Valdosta State, and very well may have prevented them from being the top seed in their region.

While DSU and UWF are two of the best offenses in the GSC, they are the two best defenses in the league, and that played out back in October, with both teams coming up big in that game to keep it a relatively low-scoring, and close affair.

Delta State in particular will feel like they let that game get away from them, building a 21-10 halftime lead, only to watch the Argos go on scoring drives late in the third and early fourth to take the lead for good. But the star of that game was the UWF defense, who locked down one of the most efficient offenses in the nation, holding them scoreless after halftime, the only team to blank the Statesmen in any half this season.

Both defenses were heroic in the game, forcing 17 punts between them,

Perhaps the biggest key in determining a winner in this one is if either team can get their running game going against the other. Both teams are known for big plays on the ground from multiple players, but in the regular season showdown, neither team broke 3.3 yards per carry, a far cry from their usual averages.

Because of how stout both ground defenses were, all six touchdowns in that game came via the pass, but that doesn’t mean either team was lighting it up through the air. DSU was just 13 of 33, while UWF was 13 of 21, but took four sacks on 25 dropbacks.

Delta State hopes it’s flip of last season, when the Statesmen won in the regular season over the Argos, only to see UWF take the playoff rematch on their way to a national semifinals run.

Another odd quirk to keep in mind: it’s been more than two calendar years since Delta State last lost a road game, but they have dropped three games at home in that span, two of them to West Florida. The winner of this game will advance to take on the Limestone-Valdosta State winner.

Limestone at Valdosta State, Noon CST

After a down year that saw the Valdosta State Blazers miss out on the postseason, VSU is back in the Division II field, hosting as the No. 3 team in Super Region 2, and will play host to Limestone, who went 8-3 this season out of the South Atlantic Conference.

Valdosta State got to where it is this season on the back of its offense, the top passing unit in the GSC, thanks to the efficient play of quarterback Sammy Edwards. Edwards was one of the 10 most productive QBs in Division II this season, leading the Blazers to a 10-1 mark, a share of the GSC title, with the only loss to No. 2 Delta State.

Edwards and the Blazers come in having won five straight, capping off the regular season with a blowout of West Georgia to get a share of the league title. For the season, Edwards has totaled nearly 3,400 yards on the season, along with 25 passing scores, while hitting at just under 68 percent of his passes. But as he goes, so go the Blazers, and for the most part, he’s been dominant.

That could bode well for VSU against Limestone, who shook off an 0-2 start to go 8-1 in SAC play and find a way into the playoff field.

The two teams that the Saints lost to in those opening games: West Georgia and West Alabama of the GSC, were two teams Valdosta State took care of during the regular season.

For Limestone, they too rely on their offense to get it done, averaging over 440 yards per game this season, including over 280 yards per game through the air, along with 27 passing scores. 

Defensively, their secondary and pass rush is the star, holding opposing QBs to just over 50 percent passing, and allowing just 13 TDs while nabbing 11 interceptions and racking up 30 sacks. However the rush defense has its holes, despite giving up less than four yards per carry, the Saints allowed almost 1,600 rushing yards this year and 15 ground scores. Numbers that would look even worse if you took away the previously mentioned 30 sacks.

Saturday’s game marks the first-ever meeting between the two schools.