With the 2016-2017 school year now here, it is time for another West Georgia football season. In the past two years, the UWG faithful have completely seen a change in the program with two consecutive final four appearances. Last year was arguably the best season in West Georgia history as numerous records were broken. You can take a look at all the records the 2015 team broke by clicking this link.
The expectations are through the roof this year for the Wolves. So, let's take a look at who they will be up against.
2016 UWG Football Schedule
WEEK ONE: vs #15 Catawba (2015: 9-3)
Saturday, September 3rd / 2 PM / University Stadium
The Catawba Indians had a very successful 2015 football season. After week one, it did not seem as if it would go that way. UWG came to Catawba and beat the Indians by a score of 44-13. The defense was huge in the season opener last year as they only allowed 145 yards to Catawba. The offense sort of struggled in the opener, only amassing 390 yards. Telvin Brown and the special teams made up for the lapse in offense, though.
After the loss to UWG, Catawba went on to win 9 of their next 10 games. They were Champions of the South Atlantic Conference and it gave them a #3 seed heading into the DII playoffs. There, they lost to 6th seeded Tuskegee in the first round. This year, Catawba comes in to University stadium ranked #15 in the NCAA DII Preseason top 25. West Georgia comes in ranked #3 in that same poll.
A top-15 match up in week one of the season is sure to have University Stadium packed full. Coach Hall and the UWG staff have started a social media movement with the hashtag 10kstrong (#10kStrong) at an attempt to get people to stay in town for Labor Day weekend and attend the game. Last year, the Tuskegee playoff game brought out 9,011 fans, which was a University Stadium record. Will you be at the game September 3rd? Remember, you could possibly be a part of UWG history.
UWG All-Time record vs Catawba: 1-1
WEEK TWO: @ Miles (2015: 7-5)
Saturday, September 10th / 5 PM / Fairfield, Alabama
Last year, West Georgia defeated the Miles Golden Bears 33-7 in the home opener. This year, they will travel to Miles to play them in their home opener. Aares McCall rushed for 100 yards in last year's game for his second game in a row. This was the last game that Aares had significant carries in as Devontae Jackson took the reigns soon after. The defense was stifling again in this game as they only allowed 215 yards.
Miles went on to win 6 games in a row late in the season which propelled them to the SIAC Championship game where they defeated Albany State, 20-7. The Golden Bears and UWG had some similar opponents last year as they both played West Alabama, Tuskegee, and North Alabama. UWG defeated all three while Miles College was only able to oust Tuskegee.
These two programs have a long history together as they played in the very first UWG football season after the program's rebirth in 1981. Both teams will be looking to defend their conference titles and will be bringing everything they have come September 10th.
UWG All-Time record vs Miles: 8-1
WEEK THREE: vs Delta State (2015: 6-5)
Saturday, September 17th / 2 PM / University Stadium
West Georgia has had Delta State's number as of late. UWG has won 4 in a row vs DSU and 5 of the last 6. Last year, the Statesmen were ranked #8 in the country when UWG came in and beat them 28-7. The win gave Coach Hall his 3rd win against a top 10 opponent at UWG, all of which had come against Delta State.
Delta State has a rich history of football success but fell short of the playoffs in 2015. Their 2-5 conference record was unusual for them, as they usually are strong contenders for the GSC title. Shorter and Mississippi College were the only GSC teams they defeated last year.
Last year, DSU had one of the most explosive offenses in the country in the earlier weeks of the season. Also worth mentioning is the fact that UWG played DSU in week 7 of last year. This was after they had won 6 in a row and built plenty of momentum. This year, the game falls on week 3. This game falling earlier in the schedule could be something to keep your eye on.
UWG All-Time record vs Delta State: 11-18
WEEK FOUR: @ Albany State (2015: 6-4)
Saturday, September 24th / 7 PM / Albany, Georgia
Last year, West Georgia faced of against Fayetteville State in this game, instead of Albany State. So, this is a newcomer on West Georgia's schedule for 2016. However, the two teams had some common opponents in 2015. Albany State beat Miles early in the year, but fell to them in the SIAC Championship game.
They also fell to Valdosta State, Delta State, and Tuskegee, three teams UWG handled easily. They did manage to pull out a 26-14 win over Clark Atlanta, the team UWG dismantled on homecoming.
Albany State has 9 guys named to the preseason All-Conference list. More notably, their Running back, Jarvis Small, was named SIAC Preseason Offensive Player of the Year. He averaged 103.7 yards per game last year, and led the conference in rushing for the second consecutive year. The UWG defensive front will have their hands full with Jarvis Small on September 24th, but I do not see it as a task those guys can't handle.
UWG All-Time record vs Albany State: 4-1
WEEK FIVE: @ #14 North Alabama (2015: 9-3)
Saturday, October 1st / 7 PM / Florence, Alabama
I definitely think it is safe to say that this game is a must see in the 2016 DII College football season. You can say there is some bad blood between these two teams as last year they split the Conference title. UWG defeated UNA 31-10 in 2015, but due to the late loss to Florida Tech, the two teams had to split the Conference Title. Even though West Georgia had the head to head battle, it did not matter.
UNA's 3 losses last year came to Western Oregon, West Georgia, and Tuskegee. Tuskegee defeated the Lions in the second round of the playoffs last year, or else the two teams would have met again in the quarterfinals. North Alabama had one of the more impressive first round appearances as they defeated Newberry, 50-7.
This year's game has already been tabbed as the Gulf South Conference game of the week, which means it will be broadcast live on ESPN 3. The match up was the Conference game of the week last year as well. Any time the two Co-Champions of the conference are facing off the next year, it is sure to be a great game. If I had to pick one game UWG could potentially slip up in this year, it would be this one. Valdosta State is always scary, but North Alabama is going to be good football team in 2016, mark my words.
UWG All-Time record vs North Alabama: 12-20
WEEK SIX: @ Valdosta State (2015: 9-3)
Saturday, October 8th / 7 PM / Valdosta, Georgia
I don't even have to mention what all is on the line for this game for you to know how big it is. UWG defeated Valdosta twice last year, one of those times knocked them out of the playoffs. The first win that came on October 10th of last year was the first win in against VSU in Carrollton in 17 years.
This rivalry is known as The Battle for the Peach Basket, which currently sits in the office of the UWG football staff. In the 1st game last year, Lamarcus Franks exploded for 172 yards on 17 carries and led his team to victory. The 2nd game did not go as well as the first for the Wolves, but they still came out on top and advanced to the next round. However, a late fourth quarter touchdown run by Dallas Dickey was needed to seal the victory.
Both fan bases always travel very well to each game despite the 217 miles separating the schools. In 2014, UWG and VSU faced off twice as well with VSU destroying the Wolves in the regular season, but Coach Hall and UWG beat them in the playoffs then, too. So, last year marked the 2nd consecutive year West Georgia knocked their arch rivals out of the playoffs. This game is always very chippy in terms of extracurricular stuff going on after the play. It just shows how passionate the players are about their schools and the rivalry between them.
UWG All-Time record vs Valdosta State: 11-23
WEEK SEVEN: vs West Alabama (2015: 7-4)
Saturday, October 15th / 2 PM / University Stadium
This is the second game of the 2016 schedule that UWG has been selected to play in the GSC game of the week. This is only the home game of this kind; the other will be played on the road at North Alabama. Last year, UWG defeated West Alabama 32-14. This was actually the 3rd closest margin of victory for the Wolves all year.
This year's game will be the Hall of Fame Game at University Stadium where plenty of alumni are sure to be in attendance. This game of course has a lot on the line for Coach Hall. He coached at UWA before coming to West Georgia. This is the school where he started his legacy that has continued to West Georgia.
West Alabama has not made the playoffs since Coach Hall left the school and they will of course be looking to change that this year. Last year's game was dominated by UWG in the first half, where the Wolves put up 32 points and 211 yards compared to UWA's zero points and 34 yards. I am really looking forward to this game as it will be broadcast live on ESPN 3 where I hope to assist the guys in the press box again.
UWG All-Time record vs West Alabama: 14-7
WEEK EIGHT: vs Mississippi College (2015: 2-8) - Homecoming
Saturday, October 22nd / 2 PM / University Stadium
West Georgia struggled against Mississippi College last year in a game where rain hindered the attack through the air. The Wolves still came out on top 38-21. 300 yards were gained on the ground in this game by West Georgia, 109 coming from Lamarcus Franks and 90 coming from Devontae Jackson, the two rushing leaders.
Mississippi College had a horrendous 2015 season, but there were some close games against some notable opponents. They lost by only one point to West Alabama, and by only 8 points to Delta State. However, even if they win those games, the season is still a disappointment.
With this game being homecoming, the Wolves should be playing with a little bit extra that day. Thousands of alumni and previous players will be in attendance for the game which should give the players even more motivation to win.
UWG All-Time record vs Mississippi College: 5-8
WEEK NINE: @ Shorter (2015: 2-8)
Saturday, October 29th / 1:30 PM / Rome, Georgia
Shorter came into Carrollton last year at possibly the worst possible time. The Wolves had just lost their first game all year to Florida Tech. This loss made them 9-1, knocked them out of the #1 ranking nationally, and it put their outright Conference Title hopes in jeopardy. So, it is safe to say that UWG was pretty angry coming into last year's 35-9 win over Shorter.
Despite going 2-8 last year, Shorter also had some close losses. They lost to Division 1 Kennesaw State 18-10, Carson-Newman University (Playoff team) 20-7, and Florida Tech 28-24. However, one of their two wins was vs Division 1 FCS school Southeast Missouri State. They defeated the Redhawks 26-21.
Rome is only about an hour or so from Carrollton, so look for a lot of UWG fans to be at this game.
UWG All-Time record vs Shorter: 3-1
WEEK TEN: vs #21 Florida Tech (2015: 7-4) - Senior Day
Saturday, November 5th / 2 PM / University Stadium
The Panthers of Florida Tech were the only team that could defeat West Georgia in last year's regular season. The game was heartbreaking to watch as the Wolves lost 28-26, and lost their number one national ranking.
Luckily for UWG, Valdosta beat FIT in the final week of the season or else there would have been a three way tie for first place in the Conference. North Alabama also ousted the Panthers last year for their two conference losses. This was a tough game for UWG to play as they traveled roughly 8 hours on a bus to get to Melbourne, Florida. The drive was just under the NCAA maximum drive time or else the guys would have been able to fly to the game.
This was the second week in a row that West Georgia had a down week last year. They struggled to Mississippi College and then lost to Florida Tech. Look for UWG to get some revenge on the Panthers as they are the ones responsible for making the Wolves 'share' the Conference Title with North Alabama in 2015. Not only that, but West Georgia will want to send their seniors off with a win in what could potentially be their last game at University Stadium.
UWG All-Time record vs Florida Tech: 2-1
WEEK ELEVEN: @ West Florida (2015: N/A)
Saturday, November 12th / 1 PM / Pensacola, Florida
2016 will be the first year of the West Florida football program. They will be competing in the Gulf South Conference and were actually picked to finish ahead of Shorter in the GSC preseason poll.
The team will be coached by Pete Shinnick, previously of UNC Pembroke. He coached Pembroke to a 50-24 record in 7 seasons as head coach. Before that, he was the coach at Azusa Pacific, an NAIA powerhouse. At Azusa, he coached 7 seasons and amassed a 53-22 record while recording two national semifinals appearances.
He has also coached at a few Division one programs including as Clemson, Arkansas, and Oregon State. Since this is the first year of the program, I do not believe they will be eligible to make the playoffs. I HIGHLY doubt they win more than two games, though.
UWG All-Time record vs West Florida: Never Played
West Georgia has added a ton of talent this off season. They will have a new quarterback under the realm, Louisville transfer Will Gardner. They have also added multiple additions to the backfield, receiving corps, and offensive line. Not only that, but they have also reloaded on defense bringing in numerous Division one transfers. Jason Hatcher, from the University of Kentucky, will join the linebackers this year. He was an Army All-American coming out of high school. They have also defensive added transfers from Division one Iowa State, Marshall, and Texas Tech.
Coach Hall and the staff have been extremely hard at work this season putting in the time and effort to get the team ready. The opening game is now only 23 days away and is sure to have a huge turnout. Help myself, the rest of the student body, the football staff, and the administration break this attendance record and lest get #10kstrong to University Stadium on September 3rd.
I am looking forward to bringing you all in depth coverage of the football team this year at my website, Bwrightsports.com. Last year was an amazing ride and it opened me up to many broadcasting opportunities. I can't wait to see what this year has in store!
Go West, Go Wolves!