Way back on September 2nd Missouri S&T
trailed 20-16 late in its home opener. The Miners had driven to the opponent*s
9-yard line and had a 1st-and-goal with about :40 remaining in the game. S&T
quarterback Tyler Swart had been having a great game, throwing for 357 yards.
In a bit of a surprise move, the Miners decided
to hand the ball off to Deshawn Jones on a draw play. It was a brilliant play
call. Jones burst through the middle of the opposing defense and as he dove for
the end zone, extended his arms out. But with the ball just inches from crossing
the goal line, Jones lost control and fumbled the ball into the end zone where
it was recovered by the defense for a touchback.
The opponent went on to run out the clock,
sending the Miners to a heart-breaking defeat. On the other side of the field
from Missouri S&T that day was none other than the University of West
Florida, a team that will be appearing in the national championship game this
If UWF loses that game, we would not be talking
about the Argonauts appearing in the title game. Instead, UWF would never have
sniffed the playoffs. The arrow would still be pointing up for this young
program, but we would be talking about success at a national level coming in
year four or five, not in an unfathomable year two.
That one play - in what appeared at the time to
be a fairly meaningless early season game - represents a microcosm of the entire
2017 season. There were so many twists and turns and literally inches making the
difference between being in Kansas City this weekend or not even qualifying for
the postseason. This year has been as exciting and challenging to cover as any
year I can remember. I am hoping Texas A&M-Commerce and West Florida can
provide us with one final drama-filled game. It would only be fitting.
-Indiana played poorly in the first half in the
27-17 loss to West Florida. However, I think the Argonauts had something to do
with that. UWF is bigger, faster and more athletic than any opponent IUP had
faced all season and it showed. IUP adjusted some in the second half but it was
too little, too late.
-UWF*s Chris Schwarz carried the ball 29 times
for a school-record 175 yards in the win over IUP. Over 100 of those yards came
in the first half where I think the Argonauts surprised IUP with their
physicality. The remarkable thing is that Schwarz was UWF*s first 100-yard
rusher in a game this season.
-Twice in the fourth quarter Harding was able to
make it a one score game. Both times the Texas A&M-Commerce offense answered
with touchdowns. The second of those touchdowns was a 90-yard pass from Luis
Rivera to D*Arthur Cowan. Great teams answer opponent scores when it counts and
the Lions did that very well in this game.
-Harding was forced to play without starting
quarterback Terrence Dingle, who was suspended and unable to play. The TAMUC
defense made life miserable for replacement Preston Paden, limiting him to just
3-10 passing with an interception and 21 rushing yards on 18 attempts.
Luis Perez Win Harlon Hill
It was announced on Thursday that Perez has won
the award. This season he has completed over 70% of his passes for 4678 yards
and 44 touchdowns. Perez* rise as a player is remarkable, especially when
considering that he never threw a pass in high school! After being moved to wide
receiver as a freshman, he gave up football and chose to devote his time to
bowling. After attending a high school football game as a senior he decided he
missed the sport and walked on as a quarterback at JUCO Southwestern College,
where he had to beat out several others for playing time.
The last Harlon Hill winner to also take home the national championship was Curt
Anes from Grand Valley State in 2002. It would be a remarkable story if Perez
was able to match that feat.
National Championship Game
Texas A&M Commerce (13-1) vs West Florida
Location: Children*s Mercy Park in Kansas City, KS
TV: ESPN2 at 5:00 PM CST
I have been writing all season about the
remarkable ascendance of the UWF program in just its second year. However, the
transformation of the TAMUC program under Colby Carthel has been remarkable as
well. Between 1996 and 2012 the Lions had just one winning season and no playoff
appearances. The winning started immediately when Carthel took over in 2013 as
the team went from 1-9 in 2012 to 7-5 in 2013. The Lions won three straight LSC
titles from 2014-16, with the irony being that this season TAMUC did not win it.
I am sure everyone associated with the program would accept a national
championship as a “consolation” prize.
Obviously when a team has a Harlon Hill winning
quarterback, that is a strength of the team. Luis Perez is not only a great
passer but also a team leader that has come up big for his team when needed the
most. He has a deep and talented group of receivers to throw the ball to with
five receivers between 598 and 950 yards receiving. The offensive line also does
a very nice job of protecting Perez.
The strength of the Lions defensively is depth.
TAMUC has 29 players with at least 10 tackles and 19 different players have
recorded a sack. Defensive coordinator Justin Deason has been outstanding at
making adjustments during games to take away what the opponent does best.
The secret to UWF*s success this postseason has
been on the defensive side of the ball. Coming into the playoffs the Argonauts
were just a bit above average defensively, allowing 350 yards per game. But in
four playoff games UWF has limited opponents to just 256 yards and 13 points per
game. The Argonauts have good athletes all over the field but the big key to the
defensive success has been the development of defensive end John Williamson, who
has 10.5 sacks in the last six games. His ability to constantly get pressure on
the opposing quarterback has been huge this postseason.
The Argonauts do not do anything special offensively. Freshman quarterback Mike
Beaudry was named the GSC freshman of the year, but UWF is best when Beaudry is
not asked to do too much. The running game has been pretty limited this year as
the team averages just 122 yards per game and 3.5 yards per carry.
Prediction: I think both defenses are very good
so I do not expect this to be a real high scoring game. However, I am going with
Texas A&M-Commerce due to the talent and experience of Luis Perez. I think
he will make enough plays when needed to help his team win the game. Texas
A&M-Commerce 24 West Florida 19
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