The UWF football team scored 21 unanswered points in the second half and forced six turnovers in a 28-14 win over previously unbeaten Ferris State at Top Taggart Field in the 2019 NCAA Division 2 National Semifinals Saturday.
UWF (12-2) finished beating an undefeated opponent with a long home winning streak for the third-consecutive week. Saturday’s win in 33-degree temperatures ended FSU’s 14-game home winning streak and was just the second loss by the Bulldogs in the last two seasons.
The six turnovers – including fumble recoveries on three-consecutive Bulldog drives in the second half – tied the school record set earlier this season at West Georgia. UWF scored 18 points off those miscues as they turned a 14-7 deficit into a 28-14 lead.
UWF finished with 366 yards of total offense as Austin Reed threw for 299 yards with three touchdowns. He completed passes to six players, led by seven to Tate Lehtio as the program’s all-time leading receiver had 118 yards, two touchdowns and caught a 2-point conversion.
Lehtio got the scoring started for UWF, hauling in a 34-yard reception by catching a ball over the helmet of a FSU defender on he game’s opening possession.
The Bulldogs tied it at 7-7 late in the first quarter on a Tyler Minor 6-yard run. But that was how it stayed at the half as the teams played field position football.
FSU came out to start the second half with seven-straight rushes that ended with a Dion Earls score from the 11.
After a 3-and-out by the Argos, the Bulldogs turned the ball over on downs near midfield. Austin Williams made the first of his two field goals eight plays later to pull UWF within 14-10.
Then the turnovers started. Ferris drove the ball 71 yards before Sharod Oliver punched the ball away from Xavier Wade at the one and watched it go through the end zone for a touchback. 72 yards later Williams made a 25-yarder to get within 14-13 early in the fourth.
After Ty Cox forced an Earls fumble on the next FSU play, Reed needed just two plays to find Lehtio for an 18-yard strike to put the Argonauts up 21-14 after the conversion.
Ferris rans three plays on its next possession before a bad snap hit the motion man and Trent Archie recovered it for UWF. With another short field the Argos used just three plays as Reed and Quentin Randolph connected from the six with 6:59 to play as UWF grabbed a 28-14 lead.
Ferris fumbled one more time in UWF territory as the Argos pounced on it for their sixth turnover.
FSU (12-1) totaled 378 yards with 255 on the ground. Marvin Campbell led the rushing attack with 104 yards on 23 carries.
UWF will now meet No. 4 Minnesota State (14-0) in the D2 National Championship Game next Saturday, Dec. 21 at McKinney ISD Stadium in McKinney, Texas.
UWF is making its second appearance in the national championship game after taking a similar path two years ago, winning four-consecutive road games over higher seeded teams. The program is 34-17 all-time after starting in 2016. The Argonauts are 8-1 in NCAA postseason games and regardless of the outcome next week, will have the highest winning percentage in D2 history among teams who have played a minimum of 10 playoff games.
UWF roads to McKinney has featured wins over No. 16 Wingate (38-17), No. 1 and defending national champion Valdosta State (38-35), No. 6 Lenoir-Rhyne (43-38) and No. 2 Ferris State. The wins over the Blazers, Bears and Bulldogs have ended the three longest home field winning streaks in Division 2.
Minnesota State advanced with a 58-15 win at No. 8 Slippery Rock (13-1).
***This report was provided by Brian Henry, Director of UWF Athletic Communications