Andy Davis

GSC Week 3: Conference Action Begins

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And, just like that, we are into Week 3 and the beginning of the Gulf South Conference schedule with a slate of four conference matchups and one non-conference contest.

Last week, the GSC had an uncharacteristic .500 winning percentage going 4-4 with non-conference opponents. It was a fun week to watch, though, with some great games and awesome atmospheres. I love when the SIAC schools take their bands on the road to GSC schools. It looks and sounds great on the screen. I can only imagine it’s much better in person.

Even this early in the season, each week matters and this opening round of conference play is important, especially in one particular matchup. Watch closely this week and see who emerges as teams still on the rise. The Gulf South Conference will have four or fewer squads with undefeated records going into Week 4. Those teams will occupy the driver’s seat in this young start to the 2018 season.


Mississippi College (2-0) @ North Greenville (1-1) – 6 PM ET

Holy Cow! The Mississippi College Choctaws are 2-0. Undefeated. I’m stoked for them! They showed out last week against Southwest Baptist avenging at loss out at their place last season. They put down 328 yards on the ground and, after taking the lead 7-3 late in the 1st Qtr., rolled on to victory from there. Ja’Mori Mark led the rushing assault with five runs for 100 yards and two touchdowns. MC was anchored on defense by Sergio Ayon with 8 total tackles.

Lenior-Rhyne exploded for 27 points in the 2nd Quarter and North Greenville couldn’t ever pull any closer than 17 points in their first lost of the season. Will Hunter passed for 329 yards, two scores, and two INTs. One of his favorite target was Lucas Catalfomo who finished the game with 105 yards receiving and two touchdowns.

The Choctaws will have to limit penalties and convert on third down in order to win this, in my opinion, very winnable game for them. MC had over 100 penalty yards last week and was only 1 for 8 on 3rd Down. The program hasn’t started 3-0 since 2007. The Crusaders want to get back on the winning track and start their inaugural GSC campaign with a victory. This is the first meeting between the two schools and has the potential to be a very competitive game.


Delta State (0-2) @ Florida Tech (2-0) – 6 PM ET

The Statesmen improved against a Top 10 team but are 0-2 for the first time since 2002. Ruddick went out early with an injury to his throwing arm and DSU had only 110 passing yards preferring to keep it on the ground (215 yards). Ovenson Celdanord led the contest with 13 total tackles. However, the story of the game was that all three GVSU scoring drives were on short fields due to DSU special teams miscues.

The Post-Cato Panthers are 2-0 but sputtering a bit in the Chmelik-led offense. FIT managed just 230 yards last week and ended the game with only 19 net yards of rushing. GSC Defensive Player of the Week J.T. Hassell racked up 19 total tackles and had a forced fumble to lead the defense. The defensive unit allowed only 1 of 10 on 3rd Down Conversions, which was surely the difference in this 7-point Panther victory.

Look for FIT to focus on getting more production out of the offense while hoping to go 3-0 for the third time in the program’s young history. On the flip side, the Statesmen haven’t opened a season losing three straight games in over 20 years. You have to know Coach Cooley and staff are doing everything they can to right this ship. Losing Ruddick didn’t help their cause any but getting more reps for freshman Patrick Shegog this week in practice is their best shot at beating the Panthers in Melbourne this week. DSU leads the series 3-2 and the Statesmen won last year’s meeting to close out the regular season. This game is the GSC's Game of the Week and will be streamed live on ESPN3 and the ESPN App.


#13 West Georgia (2-0) @ Albany State (0-2) – 6 PM ET

The Wolves had a great outing against Limestone and are looking good to start the new year. Willie Candler was excellent completing 21 of his 28 pass attempts and tossing three touchdowns. Other standout performances included Devontae Jackson with 101 yards on the ground and two scores and Emoni Williams with 89 yards receiving along with Thomas Lester with four catches for 61 yards and two touchdowns. The defense was led by Chris Blackston with 7 total tackles.

The Golden Rams had another loss (to Tuskegee) this past weekend coming off the opening game loss to Valdosta State. ASU mustered only 192 yards of offense against the Golden Tigers and 111 yards in penalties. Tyler Scott led their defense with 12 total tackles including 2.5 tackles for a loss.

ASU hopes to get a win in front of the home crowd but it will be a tall task. I think this could get out of hand early and folks might be heading for the exits after the bands play. The Wolves lead the series 6-2 after winning last year’s meeting in Carrollton.


Shorter (0-2) @ #11 West Florida (1-1) – 6 PM CT

Unfortunately for the Hawks, Tusculum had a bad week of offense to start the year the opening weekend and wanted to right that wrong. The Pioneers went into Rome and exploded for 61 points and routed Shorter at home. Tyler Pullum passed for 190 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception while Nehemiah Reddis finished the game with 10 total tackles to lead the defense.

The Argos jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead on the road and, then, seemed to run out of steam a bit. In a closely-watched Top 10 battle, UWF was very competitive with Midwestern State having tied the game at 17 with 14 minutes to go but the Mustangs finished out the contest with three straight scores. Sam Vaughn passed for 232 with two touchdowns and 3 INTs. One of his scoring strikes was a 64-yarder to Ezra Saffold. The Argos defensive effort was led by Marvin Conley with 8 total tackles.

I look for UWF to use this as a reset and fresh start on the season being that it is the first Saturday game for the Argos in Blue Wahoos Stadium this year. Shorter will need some things to go their way, like a couple of big plays and turnovers, to stay close in this one. West Florida leads the series with Shorter 2-0.


Valdosta State (2-0) @ #8 West Alabama (2-0) – 6 PM CT

The Blazers jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the 1st Quarter – holding the Wildcats to zero yards of total offense and -12 rushing yards - and never looked back last week against Fort Valley State. GSC Offensive Player of the Week Rogan Wells led the way with 227 yards passing and 4 touchdowns along with 97 yards on the ground. The Blazers are averaging 50 points per game in the first two weeks. In his first start, Jameon Gaskin recorded 9 total tackles a sack earning the accolade of GSC Freshman of the Week.

The Tigers had a bit of a back-and-forth first half with Miles before opening up their lead and taking control of the game early in the second half. The standout performance was by Christian Saulsberry, who had six catches for two touchdowns and ran back a 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown earning him the GSC Special Teams Player of the Week honor. Harry Satterwhite passed for 292 yards and four touchdowns leading his team to another victory. On defense, Terry Samuel led the way with 9 total tackles along with Jordan Jones contributing 8 total tackles, 2.5 TFL, and a sack.

This is the marquee battle of the week. If you recall, it was this matchup in a late-season game down in Valdosta last November that determined if UWA would be sole conference champs or share the title with up to five other schools. Even with just two games under their belts, there are a few stats that jump out for each of these squads. West Alabama is actually giving up more yards on defense on average (428.5) than they are earning on offense (395.5 avg.) while Valdosta State is the opposite averaging 487.5 yards of total offense per game to holding opponents to just 191 yards. Also, on defense, the Tigers have snagged 5 interceptions and the Blazers have 11 sacks already this season.

VSU leads this series 32-5 but it’s been much more even since 2010. West Alabama won last year’s game to secure the GSC title. This should be a good matchup and set the tone for one of these two (possibly both) to make a run at the conference title and playoffs.


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 09-12-2018 at 09:06 AM by Andy Davis

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Comments

  1. UWARTime's Avatar
    Andy, great article. I thought Shorter was 0-2? Also, didn’t you use to make predictions on the weekly games? I would like to see your predictions.