Carrollton, Ga. – October 15, 2005 – Something had to give when West Georgia and Southern Arkansas locked horns. The Braves, facing an SAU defense ranked second in the Gulf South Conference in total defense, racked up over 400 yards of offense en route to a 31-14 victory over the Muleriders Saturday night at Grisham Stadium.
I was happy with the way we ran the ball tonight and the defense was as good as Ive seen it, said UWG head coach Mike Ledford. But we were able to throw the ball also and that really gave us a considerable advantage.
West Georgia established the passing game directly out of the gate, as quarterback Keats Baldwin hooked up with Jaybriel Holbrook for a 43-yard pass down on the first play from scrimmage.
The SAU defense stiffened on the drive, and the Braves managed just five more yards on the drive. But it was enough to give Adi Brkic a shot, and the freshman kicker from Lawrenceville nailed a 51-yard field goal to give UWG an early 3-0 advantage.
Southern Arkansas mounted a drive of their own on the ensuing possession, putting together an impressive march before stalling at the UWG 23. David Korffs 41-yard field goal sailed wide right, giving the ball right back to West Georgia.
Five plays later, the Braves again took to the air, and Baldwin found Beau Whitmire wide open in the end zone for a 29-yard score and a 10-0 cushion.
The defenses settled in after that, forcing a combined four punts and two missed field goals over the next six possesions. But on the seventh possession, SAU struck.
The Muleriders took the ball at the West Georgia 20 and quarterback Josh SanFilippo hit a wide-open receiver for a 37-yard gain. Over the next three plays, the Braves defense held Southern Arkansas to -7 yards and forced a punt. But on the kick, West Georgia was called for roughing the punter, giving SAU new life.
Again West Georgia pushed the Riders back, forcing a third-and-29 situation. On the play, SanFilippo ran the option and was hit in the backfield. He somehow bounced off and rumbled down the UWG sideline for a 35-yard gain and a first down. Four plays later, D.D. Holyfield took a pitch around the left side for a five-yard touchdown, cutting the West Georgia lead to 10-7 going into the locker room.
The touchdown breathed new life into the Muleriders, who marched right down the field on the opening drive of the second half. But with the ball on the UWG four yardline, Brandon Jamison blasted SAU running back Ryan Sworn, forcing the ball free. Adam Carter jumped on it, giving the Braves the ball and the momentum.
A three-and-out forced a punt, and Southern Arkansas returner Torrance Hoye returned the punt to the UWG 26, putting the Riders back into striking distance. Two plays later, SAU took the lead on an 18-yard touchdown pass from SanFilippo to Moye.
In situations like this in the past, the Braves have folded. But not this team.
Baldwin and the UWG offense answered quickly, taking just four plays to go 66 yards for the score. The touchdown again came through the air, this time a 42-yard strike from Baldwin to Channing Price
The play was set up by a 25-yard run from Abe Felix on the first play of the drive. But facing a third-and-11 from the SAU 42, Baldwin hit Price on a 10-yard out pattern. The Southern Arkansas defender tried to jump in front of the pass, leaving Price with no one in-between him and the endzone.
That touchdown was all the UWG defense would need. Led by Jamison, John Perkins and Kelvin Morris, the Braves allowed just 45 yards over the final 24 minutes of the contest, which essentially sealed the win.
Felix kept the defenses adrenaline up, rushing for a pair of touchdowns over that stretch to give West Georgia some breathing room. His scores came on runs of 52 and 11 yards. On the night, he led all rushers with 21 carries for 173 yards. But as a team, the Braves rushed 48 times for 227 yards. Baldwin was 6-of-15 for 180 yards on the night and a pair of touchdowns.
The trio of West Georgia linebackers were the biggest impact players for the UWG defense on the night. Morris was the man, collecting 13 tackles, including three for a loss and a sack. Jamison had six tackles, including a sack and Perkins had five tackles and an interception.
The Braves move to 5-3 on the year and 5-1 in the Gulf South Conference with a trip to Henderson State coming up next weekend.