UWF Advances To National Semifinals With 45-14 Win Over Wingate

December 4, 2022

In another mind-boggling way, UWF’s football team produced its latest gem and newest rarefied place.

The Argos wowed with four defensive touchdowns, a feat which may be unmatched in recent college postseason history, en route to rolling past Wingate, 45-14, Saturday to win the Super Region 2 championship at Pen Air Field. The blowout win, matching the Argos’ biggest point differential in postseason, sends them into the NCAA Division II national semifinals for the third time in UWF’s six-year, program history.

Three of those defensive scores came in succession to start the second half. It meant by the time UWF’s offense actually took a snap in the third quarter, less than a minute remained and it was 45-7.

“What an amazing game,” said UWF coach Pete Shinnick, who then added, jokingly. “Just really disappointed in our offense that only had the ball for 56 seconds in the third quarter. I have never seen a third quarter like we had.

“It might be one of the best, if not the best defensive effort I have ever seen in my life. Fired up about that.”

Adding to the emotional joy, the sixth-ranked Argos (12-1) will play next Saturday at fifth-ranked Ferris State (12-1), located in Big Rapids, Michigan, next Saturday at 11 a.m. (CST) for a chance to reach the Division II national championship game for a third time and extend a record as the fastest startup college football program to attain this kind of success.

UWF won at Ferris State 28-14 on December 14, 2019, in that year’s semifinals to advance to the national title game the Argos won against Minnesota State in McKinney, Texas.

Already, UWF’s third region championship is fifth-best, all-time, among South Region teams in D-2 history.

“It really has been different groups each time,” said Shinnick, who was hired in 2014, two years before UWF’s inaugural first game. “(2017) was a special time with it being the first. We won (national title) in ‘19 and this is a brand new start of another group.

“The University of West Florida is an amazing place. We’ve known that since the beginning. And we just continue to find the right pieces to make this program what it is.”

Seven different UWF players scored touchdowns. Only two were offensive guys. Three were pick-6, interception returns from Anthony Johnson Jr, Keon Voison and Kode Lowe, who combined to tie the NCAA Division II playoff record for interception scores in a game.

“It was something special. I have never seen something like that,” said UWF star linebacker Will Breland, who recovered a fumble, forced a fumble, had an interception and a quarterback pressure that led to one of those pick-6 scores.

“Two or three of those defensive scores, I was on the sideline, waiting to get in and right back out there, when we had guys scoring.”

All of this flurry of astonishment occurred after Wingate scored the game’s first touchdown with under five minutes left in the first quarter. UWF only led 10-7 with less than three minutes left before halftime.

And then, dynamite ignited.

As linebacker Lowe applied pressure, Wingate grad-senior quarterback Shaw Crocker rushed a throw that Johnson Jr. swiped out of the air and returned 36 yards for a score to make it 17-7 with 2:33 left.

“I felt that was a big play in the game,” Johnson Jr. said. “We really needed that. We trust our offense always, but sometimes we (defense) have to make plays, too.”

On the ensuing possession from the Wingate 40, Breland intercepted a Crocker pass and returned it 22 yards with 53 seconds left in the first half. Eight plays, two timeouts later, UWF quarterback Peewee Jarrett took a snap with 4.9 seconds left from the 5 and threw a perfect dart to Jakobe Quillen for a touchdown as time expired.

“I was like, okay we owe the defense here and we owe them a couple touchdowns,” said Jarrett, who passed for just 149 yards in the game with limited possessions.

Said Shinnick: “Pewee is on the sidelines (during timeout) telling me, “Coach I will get (pass) off in time. I will get it before 4.9 seconds. And he didn’t… but he threw a touchdown.”

In all, UWF forced six turnovers. The defense outscored the Argos offense 28-17.

“We never really got to do what we planned,” said Wingate coach Joe Reich, whose team was playing in the Super Region 2 championship/national quarterfinals for the first time in team history. “We turned the ball over and It’s like you never get a chance to get started.”

Wingate (11-3) ranked No. 22 entering the game, was UWF’s first-round playoff opponent in 2017 and 2019, both years the Argos went to the national title game.

This Wingate team, however, boasted a defense that had allowed opponents just 10.2 points per-game and was ranked second nationally in scoring defense, third nationally in total defense.

“We’re thinking okay (after scoring first), this is what we expect,” Reich said. “But I had a concern coming into the game, we play really hard and I was concerned about penalties, because we played this song before on occasion.

“And then you add the turnovers into it and it’s a recipe for disaster. And that’s what happened.”

Wingate committed six first-half penalties, four of which were personal fouls, as both teams engaged in post-play jawing and shoving at times.

And when Wingate got the ball to start the third quarter, the Bulldogs committed the first of three turnovers on consecutive possessions to put the game out of reach.

On the seventh play of the second half, Will Breland made a big hit on Crocker to dislodge the ball. Johnson scooped up the fumble and went 37 yards for a touchdown. Wingate ran five plays the next time it got the ball. On the sixth play, Voison made his big interception and went 64 yards for a score.

“We were going good, and I really felt like it was going to be a back-and-forth game and we never got back on track,” Reich said. “Turnovers just crushed us. And we lost some discipline. That’s on me. I take responsibility for that. We got to do better than that.

“Pete Shinnick, we’ve been competing against each other for a long time, and he’s one the best coaches in any division right now. His teams are just phenomenal. So well coached. I give them the credit.”

Lowe’s interception and 31-yard score came with 6:59 left, which meant UWF’s offense with Jarrett taking a snap did not occur until 3:03 left in the third quarter.

“This is the first time I have ever made the playoffs with any team, so to be able to be a factor and help our team win games is great,” said Jarrett.

— While it was a tough day for UWF placekicker Griffin Cerra, who missed two field goals (he made a 32-yarder to give UWF the lead for good in the second quarter) and had an extra point go awry on a bad snap, he had a heart-warming week.
On Monday, Cerra missed practice and traveled to Seattle, Washington to donate special plasma needed to save a life through the Be The Match. The 4-hour procedure was successful, and Cerra returned the following day.
“He’s had an amazing week,” Shinnick said. “He’s probably done more in a week than any of us will ever do in a week in our lifetime.”
— Since 1990, a school from the Gulf South Conference has advanced to the Division II national semifinals 25 of the last 31 seasons.
— The Argos have now forced 42 turnovers in 14 playoff games.

Photo: Morgan Givens/UWF


4 Responses to “UWF Advances To National Semifinals With 45-14 Win Over Wingate”

  1. Bill Turner on December 7th, 2022 3:30 pm

    As a member of the charter class of UWF, I’m amazed at the accomplishments of the athletic programs. I only wish local tv would cover these games. They deserve our support. Go Argos, pack your woolies!!

  2. Jlb on December 5th, 2022 7:17 pm

    Congratulations. Wish channel 3 would do alot more coverage on our local team.

  3. CK on December 5th, 2022 11:51 am

    Bundle up Argos! Real feel temperature will be around 30 degrees!

  4. NPC on December 4th, 2022 9:14 pm

    Thus should get much more coverage, especially in out area. Thank you northescambia.com for the thorough coverage of a national championship team.