The four year, history-making odyssey, which has characterized University of West Florida football has produced many wowing feats.
The Argos just affixed a giant bow around the latest.
In the kind of win no one really could have envisioned, UWF produced a literal homecoming bash in a 48-3 victory Saturday against Delta State that left a crowd of 6,088 at Blue Wahoos Stadium singing, dancing and enjoying every moment.
“To play this kind of game in front of this type of crowd, I really could not have asked for a better situation,” said UWF coach Pete Shinnick. “We played as well as I have ever seen us play. A complete football game. Guys all over the place.”
Points came in bunches, but so did big defensive stops early in the game and jarring hits.
Delta State (3-2 overall, 2-1 Gulf South Conference) entered with the same record as UWF, the same notice of votes just outside the NCAA Division II Top 25 polls, the same placement near the top of conference team statistics.
But Saturday night, there was a wide chasm between the teams.
The Argos (4-1, 3-0), who may return this week to the Top 25 for the first time since early last season, scored less than two minutes into the game, hit a big play touchdown 16 seconds before halftime, then never relented with a 27 point onslaught in the second half.
It proved a better-than-scripted way to impress on the fourth homecoming game in UWF’s brief football history. The Argos can savor the win through a bye week, before hoping to seal a winning season before the next home game on Nov. 2.
“This should make us excited to see what we’re capable off and how good we can be,” said quarterback Austin Reed, who continues to rapidly progress as a redshirt freshman, and playing for the first time since his senior year at St. Augustine High where he was St. John’s County offensive player of the year.
Reed completed 15 of 24 passes for 265 yards and four touchdowns against Delta State.
“When you get the fans out here and when you get the city excited about the team, we want to put a show on,” Reed said. “That’s what we’re out here to do. So, when we come back and play here three or four weeks from now, people will want to come back.”
The entertaining effort began four plays into the game when transfer receiver Demetri Burch had his breakout night. He hauled in a 32-yard touchdown pass from Reed on a perfect throw. He then caught a 35-yarder, dropper over his shoulder on a corner route in the end zone.
A year ago, Burch, who grew up in Apopka near Orlando, was playing for the Oregon Ducks when opting to transfer. An injury opened a spot Saturday in the regular rotation of receivers.
“I got a chance to go out there and show what I could do,” said Burch, whose two catches Saturday both resulted in touchdowns. “Coming out of Oregon, I had to get back here and get used to the weather, so I started off a little slow, but once I got used to it, I was good.”
Also good was Argos defense.
Delta State finished with 177 yards rushing after entering with a 217.7 average. But the Statesmen had only 52 yards in the first half.
The Argos limited Delta State’s offense to just two trips inside UWF’s 20, one resulting in a field goal, the other a fourth-down stop. Three times in the first half, UWF stopped short fourth-down situations, including a 4th-and-1 play from the UWF 11 on Delta State’s second possession.
It was the fewest points Delta State scored since being shut out in a game 16 years ago.
“(Defensive coordinator Darian Dulin) was telling us it was going to be a very physical game,” said linebacker Gael Laurent. “They have running backs blocking for running backs, so just go in and hit everybody to get them to bounce plays to the outside.
‘I think if everybody is on the same page, we’re going to come out victorious. This was a big victory for us.”
The Argos will next make trips to West Georgia and Florida Tech in a second-half schedule looking more arduous than the first.
After trailing during the first half against winless Shorter, then surviving the first overtime game in UWF history to beat Mississippi College, the Argos point to both wins as how far they’ve advanced.
“We just found out what we’re capable of when bonding together, executing every plan,” Laurent said. “Our mindset was the shutout. That was the mentality everybody has.”
UWF running back Shomari Mason, another newcomer and former Fort Myers HS star, touched the ball six times and scored two touchdowns while gaining 100 yards.
It was all part of a game where a lot of elements went well.
“This is really what we were pushing for. We came in on Monday and said, give us great attention this week, give us great focus,” Shinnick said. “We told (players) ‘We need you to have a great week of practice, we need you to be dialed in,’ and I promise you, that you will feel great at the end of the game.”
They listened. And felt great.
***This report was provided by Bill Vilona, UWF Football Senior Writer