2024 Gulf South Conference Football

Potential Rematch Looms As UWF, DSU Open The 2022 Playoffs

Potential Rematch Looms As UWF, DSU Open The 2022 Playoffs

Delta State and West Florida represent the Gulf South in the 2022 NCAA Playoffs — and the two will meet, if they get past tough opening-round opponents.

Nov 18, 2022 by Ron Balaskovitz
Potential Rematch Looms As UWF, DSU Open The 2022 Playoffs

The 2022 football season might be considered a down year by the lofty standards of the Gulf South Conference.

Highlights: Delta State Vs. West Florida
Traditional power Valdosta State stumbled in its first year under a new coach, and the league was limited to just two teams qualifying for the postseason. In typical GSC fashion, however, those two teams are capable of going on a championship run.

West Florida was almost universally expected to make the postseason, and to be one of the highest seeds in the field. Delta State…was not even picked to finish in the top half of the GSC when the preseason polls were released three months ago, say nothing of competing for a national championship.

And yet it was the Statesmen who won the GSC’s automatic bid, going 10-1 on the season, 6-1 in the Gulf South to tie with West Florida for the title. A head-to-head win over the Argos in an instant classic locked up Delta State’s automatic berth.

This week, both teams will play host in the opening round of the Division II Playoffs, and should they both win, a rematch of September’s double-overtime thriller awaits.

Limestone at West Florida

The 9-1 Argos are set to host the Limestone Saints out of the South Atlantic Conference, who went 8-3 to earn their first-ever trip to the postseason.

The Saints enter the postseason having won their last four games, and with the offense on fire, with 34 being the fewest points they’ve scored during that winning streak.

The Saints are balanced on offense, averaging over 200 yards per game on the ground while quarterback Dustin Noller passes for over 270 yards per contest. Touchdowns are split 27-25 between the ground and air.

Tre Stewart is the top threat for Limestone. The running back went for 1,411 yards on the season on just 179 carries, good for nearly eight yards per attempt, and he found pay dirt 14 times. He was also third on the team with 26 receptions, so look for the Saints to try and get him the ball in space in a game that could be a shootout.

The question mark for Limestone is can if it can get enough stops against a UWF offense that’s as high-powered as any in the country. The Saints gave up just under 30 points per game, one of the higher totals of any of the playoff qualifiers.

That West Florida offense was on full display last week in the regular season finale against Mississippi College, racking up just under 500 yards with eight touchdowns in a 56-21 romp.

That effort helped the Argos end the regular season fourth in the nation in scoring offense.

As good as the Limestone offense has been, West Florida has been even better, which could translate to a ton of points in Saturday’s showdown.

Fayetteville State at Delta State

It’s tough to wonder ‘what might have been’ in a 10-1 season that includes a surprise conference title — the program’s first since 2014 — but that might be the case for Delta State. Two weeks ago, DSU sat less than 10 minutes away from running the table in the Gulf South and earning a top-seed.

Instead, that loss dropped the Statesmen to third, where rather than a bye, they’ll take on the 9-2 Broncos of Fayetteville State from the CIAA.

The Broncos opened the year 2-2, putting themselves in a precarious spot for the playoffs, but ended the year by rolling off seven-straight wins, finishing 7-1 in the league.

While Delta State and the majority of the teams in the playoff field got there behind high-powered offenses, FSU did so with a dominant defense that gave up just 14.18 points per game. That 14.18 point-per-game yield was good for sixth-best in the country.

Offensively, the Broncos try to grind it out on the ground, with eight players who took 20 or more carries during the regular. FSU’s passing offense produces fewer than 150 yards per game.

That’s a sharp contrast from the Statesmen, who scored over 40 points per game during the regular season to rank in the top-10 nationally. But DSU also showed it can win with defense, holding off a game West Alabama squad last week for the fourth of four occasions the Statesmen held an opponent to 10 points or fewer.

Delta State is paced by the league’s Offensive Player of the Year in quarterback Patrick Shegog. Shegog became the first Statesmen since 2012 to earn such honors. He was the GSC’s most accurate passer, completing 186-of-284 throws (.655) to go along with 2,480 passing yards and 21 touchdowns. 

Shegog was also a threat on the ground racking up 13 rushing touchdowns, averaging 59.6 yards per game on 122 total carries.

While the opponents for DSU and UWF aren’t pushovers, they could be forgiven for possibly looking ahead since a win for each team would setup a rematch next week in the Round of 16. West Florida would host.