Come Saturday afternoon at University Stadium, the University of West Georgia football team will have a serious case of deja vu when hosting a Gulf South Conference foe.
Only this time, the entire season will be on the line at 1 p.m. when the Wolves battle West Florida in round two of the NCAA Division II playoffs.
"We're excited about being home again in the second round of the playoffs," UWG head coach David Dean said on Tuesday at his weekly press conference. "Getting an opportunity to get your team together and play another week is always exciting."
UWG (9-3) had a bit of luck on its side to even get the opportunity to host a postseason game as a seven seed. Due to an administrative error on the part of the sixth-seeded Argonauts (8-3) not submitting a bid to the NCAA to officially host a playoff game, the honors went to West Georgia for Saturday's contest. Dean and his players are certainly ecstatic about being granted an unexpected extra home game.
"The fact that we get to play another game at home in the playoffs is a nice treat for us," Dean said. "We're excited about this week and the week of preparation. Hopefully, we play a better game than the first time we played West Florida."
To put themselves in the second round, the Wolves had to travel to Ettrick, Virginia, last Saturday where they shut down second-seeded and previously undefeated Virginia State in a 35-9 rout. UWG dominated the CIAA champions on both sides of the football to send shockwaves throughout the entire bracket.
"(Virginia State) went into that game averaging 44 points per game, so to hold them to nine was very impressive," Dean said. "I thought we flew around and executed our game plan pretty well. We knew that they had an outstanding quarterback (Cordelral Cook) that could run the football and an outstanding running back (Trenton Cannon) that has made a lot of people look silly throughout the year and we were able to put some hits on them. It was a heck of an effort by our defense. I thought holding them to less than 100 rushing yards and making them one-dimensional was huge."
UWG now finds itself facing a UWF ballclub that it just hosted two weeks ago to close the regular season. After jumping out to a quick 16-0 lead in the Nov. 11 showdown, the Wolves were overpowered by the Argos for the final three quarters en route to a 34-29 defeat, a loss that at the time put their playoff hopes in serious jeopardy. While nothing will be drastically changed in the Wolves' approach, Dean indicated that Saturday will come down to finishing the game how they started and defensive fundamentals.
"Defensively, we gave up too many yards on first down," Dean said. "They had very easy second-and-short situations from the second quarter on. It opened up their playbook a little bit and put our backs against the wall. The other thing is we have to tackle much better. I think that was our worst tackling game that we've had all year long. We were in position to make plays, but weren't making them. So we have to do a better job of that."
With fifth-seeded Delta State also traveling to top-seeded West Alabama on Saturday, final four representatives of Super Region Two this year are all notably GSC teams. Week after week, Dean has called the GSC the best conference in all of Division II football and he took pride in knowing that the proof is in this year's sweet 16 bracket.
"We say it all the time that the Gulf South Conference is the SEC of Division II football. Each week, you have to show up and play and that's evident with the four teams still standing in our region being all from this conference. It's a point of pride for everyone in this conference and we're poking our chest out a little bit," Dean said. "There's a lot of people that said that we didn't deserve to be in just like a lot of people said West Florida didn't deserve to be in and they were wrong. We go on the road and win 35-9, they go on the road and win 31-0. To me, it speaks volumes for not only the top teams in this conference, but all the teams all the way down the line."
Saturday's contest will broadcast live on KISS 102.7 FM.