Eighth-Ranked Argos Break Rivalry Trend, Blow Out West Georgia In GSC Opener

September 25, 2023

The oddest element of UWF’s eventful history with a football team has now become a footnote.

The Argos emphatically on Saturday made sure of it.

In their most dominant performance of September, the eighth-ranked Argos blew past West Georgia in a 49-21 victory at Pen Air Field, delighting a near capacity crowd of 5,048 and ending the trend of the home team never winning in the seven previous matchups.

The Argos (3-1) led 35-7 at halftime of their Gulf South Conference opener, then increased it to 49-7 after three quarters, which enabled starters to rest in the fourth quarter and mass participation much of the second half.

“Very excited with how our guys responded to the challenge,” said UWF first-year coach Kaleb Nobles, whose team next plays on the road against North Greenville on Sept. 30 in a 6 p.m. (CDT) game.

Obviously coming off a loss (last week at Division I member Florida A&M), it was something we really challenged the guys to improve and get better,” Nobles said.  ”The (home team never winning in series) is something our guys told me about, and I never really thought about it much.

“We are trying to just win every game and be at our best, but it’s good to break a streak and get that monkey off our backs. But we have to play at a high level no matter who we play. (Game atmosphere) was electric. It was awesome and our guys feed off it.”

The game brought an emotional backdrop for Nobles, going against West Georgia coach David Dean, his former head coach at Valdosta State, who has built at 44-18 record at UWG.

Nobles played 23 games with Dean as Valdosta’s coach, before the quarterback transferred as a grad student to play his final year of collegiate eligibility in UWF’s 2016 inaugural series.

The two embraced at midfield following the game.

“We were really able to talk more before the game,” Nobles said. “We are good friends. I have great respect for him. He has done a lot for the GSC and won a lot of games and coached at high level.”

This game may have unfortunately been the last meeting between the teams.

West Georgia (2-2, 1-1 in GSC) announced earlier this year of its intention to become a Division I member, beginning in 2024, leaving the Gulf South Conference to play football in the United Athletic Conference and other sports in the Atlantic Sun Conference.

Some of the most memorable games in UWF’s football tenure have been against the Wolves.

This latest one was noteworthy for being UWF’s most points against West Georgia. The Argos racked up 416 yards total offense in three quarters, finishing with 479 yards.

Quarterback Peewee Jarrett led the offensive explosion by completing 20 of 27 passes for 298 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions before exiting prior to the fourth quarter.

Senior receiver John Jiles caught 11 passes for 175 yards and two touchdowns.

Defensively, the Argos forced quick possessions in the first half and third quarter. Sophomore linebacker Walker Robinson, a Fort Walton Beach High graduate, led the defense with six tackles, helped contribute to one of UWF’s two quarterback sacks and broke up a pass.

Fellow linebacker Ralph Ortiz, a Leesburg native, had a pick-six interception return for score in the second quarter.

“We had a bad ending to the FAMU game and we had to prove ourselves this game,” Ortiz said. “We had to come out firing and keep the foot on the gas and that’s what we were able to do. The defensive was firing on our cylinders.”

The game’s defining sequence occurred in the first quarter. West Georgia swarmed UWF’s Jalen Bussy as he strived for more yards, then had a defender punch the ball loose. The Wolves Jeremy Smith returned the fumble 28 yards for a score that tied the game 7-7 with 2:15 left in the first quarter.

In two plays, UWF answered by regaining the lead. From his own 35-yard-line, Jarrett threw a perfect deep pass to Jiles, who caught the aerial in stride and was pushed out at the Wolves 1-yard line on the 64-yard completion. On the next play, C.J. Wilson rushed into the end zone.

It only took 37 seconds for UWF’s go-ahead score and the Argos never looked back.

“The whole plan was that we knew if there was a certain guy (defensive back) out there on the perimeter (for West Georgia), we were going to take advantage of him and we really did,” Jarrett said. “We executed the play well. I wish (Jiles) could have gotten into the end zone, but it was a great drive.

“I think the past couple games, when we had something (negative) happen in a game, we kinda sat on it for two or three drives and didn’t overcome it right away. But in that moment (Saturday) we were able to overcome really quick.”

In the second quarter, the Argos engineered an 81-yard scoring drive that Jarrett finished with a 9-yard TD pass to Caden Leggett. On the ensuing possession, Ortiz was sitting back in coverage when UWG quarterback Ben Whitlock was pressured and threw an errant pass right into Oritz’ arms that he turned into the interception for score.

The Argos defense then forced a stop with 1:24 left in the half and Jarrett quickly brought the Argos into position for a 25-yard touchdown pass to Jiles with 25 seconds left in the half.

“Our defense has played phenomenal,” Nobles said. “They have been phenomenal for four games. I have high expectations for them. They can create a lot of pressure and chaos for other teams.

“Anytime we score on defense it raises your chances of winning enormously.”

Nobles also showed his emotions on UWF’s first touchdown drive. After a reverse run, Nobles felt a West Georgia defensive player went low to try and take out Jarrett’s legs.

Nobles was furious, racing on the field and getting a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty. The Argos offense responded with a big-play pass from Jarrett back to the 1-yard line for C.J. Wilson’s first of two scores.

“Obviously I have been talking about penalties and I didn’t want to contribute to that, but we had a reverse called and defensively, you are not allowed to cut anybody on offense,” said Nobles, who had to be restrained by coaches instantly.  ”I felt they went low on our quarterback and I wanted to let our guys know I got their back.

“The referees really didn’t have a good explanation for it and I wanted our guys know I’m trying to protect them. I’ve gone through battles with them, and I want to make sure everyone on our team knows that.

“I don’t want to get an unsportsmanlike conduct, but I want to make sure referees know we have to make the right call and protect guys.”

His players responded. They blew open the game before halftime and cruised to the ending.

by Bill Violona / photo Scott A. Miller


Comments are closed.