The 20th-ranked UWF football team dug itself a big hole and was unable to complete the comeback in a 26-21 loss to top-ranked Valdosta State at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium Saturday.
The Argonauts (7-2, 6-1 Gulf South) finished with 282 yards of total offense and 190 passing. The defense held VSU to 136 yards in the second half.
Austin Reed was 19-of-32, including 14-of-23 for 156 yards after halftime. Shomari Mason carried the ball 12 times for 87 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Tate Lehtio had 103 yards receiving on eight catches. It was the second 100-yard game of his career.
For the fourth-consecutive year, the Blazers jumped out to a double-digit lead on the Argos, taking a 20-0 margin into the locker room at half. The scores came in the form of a rushing touchdown, a passing score and two field goals.
From there, UWF regrouped and played Argo football to get back into the game.
UWF scored on the opening possession of the third quarter with a 10-play, 79-yard drive that finished with a Mason score from four yards.
The Argos got the ball back six plays later when they stripped Jamar Thompkins and Andrew Wilcox recovered for the only turnover of the game. Reed was perfect on five passes including an 8-yard flag route to Quentin Randolph just inside the front right corner of the end zone to bring the Argos within six, at 20-14 with 4:19 to play in the third.
The Blazers responded with a long drive of their own, extending the lead to 26-14 early in the fourth quarter on a Seth McGill run from the four.
After the teams traded punts, UWF drew to within five with a drive that saw a heavy dose of Mason carrying the ball and a clutch fourth-and-nine conversion on the seventh play of the possession. Mason had five carries for 42 yards, including the 6-yard burst with 5:53 in the game.
UWF got the ball back near midfield following a VSU punt but wasn’t unable to get a first down, electing to punt and play defense as the Blazers started on their own 14 with 3:33 remaining. VSU got one first down and after UWF used both of its remaining timeouts, Rogan Wells was able to run out the final two seconds on fourth down to end the game.
Wells finished with 350 passing yards and rushed for another 63 to lead the VSU (9-0, 7-0) offense. Thompkins had 65 yards on the ground and McGill scored twice.
The Blazers totaled 538 yards of offense but also had 127 penalty yards.
VSU claimed at least a share of its second-consecutive GSC Championship with the win. The Argonauts can be co-champs with a win over West Alabama and a VSU loss to West Georgia next Saturday.
The game with UWA (6-4, 3-4) is set for a 4 p.m. kickoff at Blue Wahoos Stadium. It is Salute To Service Day with a number of military and law enforcement vehicles on display pregame and the Army Golden Knights delivering the game ball via a parachute jump.
***This report was provided to ESPN Pensacola by Brian Henry, the Director of Athletic Communications for UWF.