Andy Davis

Historical Run Continues for Cinderella Argonauts

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Lavender's blue, dilly dilly, lavender's green,
When I am king, dilly dilly, you shall be queen:


More dilly dilly? Plenty more!

From Budweiser’s commercial to Cinderella’s singing, this old English phrase has become trendy the past couple of years. That’s the same amount of time AFCA Region 2 Coach of the Year Pete Shinnick and West Florida have fielded a competitive football team.

Now, they are the Super Regional 2 Champions. Simply amazing.


Glass Slipper Fitting

Will it slide on? This weekend, the UWF Argonauts (10-3) will travel to face off against the Indiana University (PA) Crimson Hawks (13-0) in the D2 National Semifinals. Their run the past few weeks is the textbook definition of playing the part of Cinderella in athletics.

West Florida got a visit from their Fairy Godmother and went to the Playoff Ball with one thing on their minds – keeping the fairytale story going as long as possible. They won the region before the clock struck midnight and now the Committee is making a trek around the kingdom to see more about this Cinderella team that is making headlines.

Will the slipper fit enough to live “happily ever after?” Stay tuned.


Two states in their name?

Not really. The Argonauts will be traveling to Indiana, Pennsylvania to take on undefeated and top-ranked Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

IUP plays in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) and has a storied tradition in their conference and region with numerous postseason appearances. The Crimson Hawks won the SR1 regional title last week in a back-and-forth contest with Assumption from the Northeast-10 conference. This is IUP’s first berth into the semifinals since 1999.

Their closest margin of victory this season was the opening weekend against another eventual regional finalist (Ashland from SR3) when they won by three points while their second-closest game this year was last weekend with a five-point win over the Greyhounds.

IUP is riding an 18-game home winning streak dating back to 2015.


Road Warriors

Are we there yet? West Florida is 7-1 in away games this season and avenged their only road loss this past weekend at West Alabama.

It’s only fitting (see what I did there?) that the Argos remain on-the-road during this storybook journey. This week, they’re off to the wintry north. There is a forecast of near-freezing temps during the game, which could produce snowfall.

UWF players are used to seeing stark white sand along the gulf waves, not fluffy white crystalized water falling from the sky. The venue and weather might play a factor but I think the adrenaline of the possibility to play for a national title will warm them up enough to compete.


The Big Difference

Cha- cha- changes. While I think part of this current team’s momentum was born out of getting dominated to close out their inaugural campaign, there’s one glaring aspect of the team that has changed.

In the off-season, the Argos hired a new Defensive Coordinator and it has been a great fit (another one there). DC Darian Dulin had spent five years on the staff at Abilene Christian as they transitioned from D2 to FCS before coming to Pensacola. His presence has pivoted the team into a more balanced squad after having to rely so heavily on the offense last year.

It’s cliché to say but defense wins championships. The Argos got their first title in the program’s history last weekend after winning the region with another strong performance on that side of the ball.

Now, it’s time for another test for the UWF Defense.


Corralling the Bulls

Or Hawks, that is. IUP is a run-first team, which was evident as they put up 340 yards on the ground last week in their victory.

Along with their dual-threat quarterback, three-time Harlon Hill Trophy nominee Lenny Williams, the Crimson Hawks have a stable of backs that contribute to their stellar rushing attack. Four IUP running backs, along with Williams, have combined for 3,421 yards on the ground this season.

West Florida will be challenged, once again, to stop the run and pressure the quarterback. The Argos have 43 sacks on the season while holding their past six opponents to an average of 85.2 rushing yards per game.

Something’s gotta give here and whoever wins this battle will probably punch their ticket to the national title game.


Airing it Out

Sling that ball! The UWF Argos prefer to pass the ball for the bulk of their yardage on offense. This has carried over from last year but, this season, they have an established rushing game to assist the passing attack.

West Florida has completed 248 passes for 3,018 yards this season and averages 12.2 yards per catch. They were a little above their average last week as GSC Offensive Freshmen of the Year Mike Beaudry passed for 247 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

The onus will be on the UWF offensive line to control the line of scrimmage and keep a very good Crimson Hawks defense on their heels. IUP has 34 sacks this year and 23 interceptions.

If the Argos are to have a chance to win, they must be efficient in their passing game.


Anything to worry about?

Cautiously optimistic. That’s the phrase I’m using as there are, of course, certain aspects of the game that contribute to the outcome of every gridiron battle such as turnovers, penalties, injuries and the like. Obviously, those things must be kept to a minimum for either team to come out on top. Then, there’s the play of special teams, which has been a bit inconsistent for the Argos lately.

It’s inconsistent because it’s been really good most of the year and then when normal plays happen, it feels a bit shocking. For example, UWF’s Austin Williams has been money for much of the season but has missed 10 field goals this year including three in the past two weeks. His accuracy plays a big part in the offensive strategies for the Argos. Meanwhile, IUP’s kicker has connected on 77.8% (14 of 18) of his attempts this year.

Also worth mentioning, even as UWF failed to recover the only onside kick attempt against them all year just last week, the Crimson Hawks have allowed two against them this season.


Don’t Pinch Me!

Am I dreaming? Living in Pensacola and watching this entire process for several years now, I did envision a day when UWF would be competing for conference titles and running deep into the playoffs.

That’s the case with most all of their teams in other sports as the university has won eight national championships. I just thought it would take a few seasons for football to join in on the winning. I guess two is “a few” in this case. Look, if the Argos aren’t victorious this weekend there will be some disappointment but followed quickly by a sense of immense accomplishment. It’s been an unbelievable year already.

That said, I feel this team is playing well enough to win the game and would love nothing more than to pull for the local Argos out in the national title game in Kansas City!

And, the Ace in their pocket is that Beaudry spent his childhood in Canada where cold weather is normal.

My pick: West Florida by 9


(Cover photo courtesy UWF Athletics)


Andy Davis has followed GSC sports since 1985 and proudly covered the conference for D2Football.com since 2014. He is a past contributor to the D2 Football Preview, TimesDaily, and Franklin County Times as well as having appeared on ESPN Pensacola radio. Follow him on Facebook or Twitter.

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Updated 12-08-2017 at 07:38 PM by Andy Davis

Categories
GSC , ‎ PSAC

Comments

  1. Wide_Right's Avatar
    Great synopsis. I think this game will come down to penalties and turnovers.

    I like UWF chances.
  2. TheBraveWolf's Avatar
    I too hope UWF wins it all... I think they are a team mission and will do just fine on the road.

    Andy really enjoyed your synopsis and have enjoyed reading your blogs all season...

    I wish the Argos the best and they are a great representative for GSC Football.