After falling to West Florida in its regular-season finale on Saturday in a 34-29 decision, the University of West Georgia football team's playoff hopes were seemingly in peril. Fortunately, good news arrived almost exactly 24 hours later.
Slotted as the seventh and final seed out of Super Region Two by the NCAA Division II Football Committee, the Wolves (8-3) were included in the field of 28 for the NCAA Division II Playoffs, where they will travel to second-seeded Virginia State for an opening-round showdown on Saturday at 1 p.m. in Petersburg, Virginia.
First-year UWG head coach David Dean was both elated and relieved for his team to get another chance to take the field this fall upon hearing the news early Sunday evening.
"Obviously, it was a great joy for us. Our guys were really excited about it," Dean said. "We had everything in our hands and let it slip away after Saturday, so our guys are extremely pleased to get a second opportunity. It's a chance to redeem themselves and a lot of times in athletics, you don't get an opportunity to do that."
After jumping out to a 16-0 lead on the visiting Argonauts on Saturday, things fell apart for UWG as it was outscored 34-13 over the final three quarters. Entering Saturday ranked fourth in the region, the Wolves' postseason aspirations appeared to be over with the outcomes of other games in the region on Saturday. Dean was well aware of the situation, but wasn't going to tell his players to start making their offseason plans just yet.
"The thing that you cannot do is turn your mind off and think that the season is over," Dean said. "I talked to them in the locker room after the game and explained that we have to have some help, but it's not over. It doesn't look great, but you got to believe. You've got to keep the mentality that the season is going to continue. For us, it was a huge shot in the arm when we did receive the news that we did have an opportunity to play. Credit to our guys for keeping a positive attitude through those 24 hours because it was tough."
According to the head coach, it was the Wolves' rigorous schedule this fall that ultimately got them the nod.
"The strength of our schedule in our region was way off the charts," Dean said. "We only played three teams with a .500 or worse record, so that's a testament to just how tough our conference and our region is."
UWG will take to its practice field this afternoon to officially begin preparation for the long trip up to Petersburg to take on VSU. Now that they have a new lease on life, they're aiming to take full advantage of the opportunity.
"We're looking forward to the great challenge and basically start a new season," Dean said.