UWA falls in GSC opener to West Georgia

CARROLLTON, Ga. – Dallas Dickey passed for two touchdowns and ran for another as West Georgia defeated West Alabama, 26-17, in a Gulf South Conference football game between a pair of teams ranked in the Division II Top 25.

The win snapped a four-year drought for No. 24 West Georgia against No. 22 West Alabama and improved the Wolves to 5-0 overall, 1-0 in the GSC. West Alabama is 3-2 and 0-1.

Dickey finished with 135 yards rushing and completed 10-of-12 passes for 86 yards.

“We beat ourselves with too many penalties and mental mistakes,” UWA head coach Brett Gilliland said. “West Georgia is a good football team, but we have to look inside ourselves.”

West Alabama was penalized eight times for 84 yards, with many coming at key junctures in the game to either extend UWG drives or kill UWA progress.

“Each of us, starting with me, has to figure out individually what we did wrong,” Gilliland said. “Starting right now we have to decide whether we are going to continue to be a team or let this one bad day send us into a spiral.”

West Alabama opened the game with a ground and pound 96-yard touchdown drive, covering the distance in 18 plays and taking 8:47 off the first quarter clock. Jabari Baker capped off the drive with a 1-yard plunge, marking the first touchdown the Wolves’ defense had allowed since the first game of the season.

West Georgia fumbled the ensuing kickoff, but West Alabama couldn’t make anything happen and was forced to punt after a Brandon Lilly put the Tigers in business at the UWG 39. The Tigers would not score another offensive touchdown the rest of the way.

In fact, the Wolves limited the Tigers to just 65 total yards and three first downs in the second half. UWA finished with 260 total yards. West Georgia had 327 total yards, 211 in the final two quarters.

“We did not execute the little things, didn’t make plays when we needed to make them,” UWA quarterback Kyle Caldwell said. “I did not play to my standards and that is going to change.”

Caldwell completed 8-of-19 passes for 79 yards and was intercepted once. He ran for 37 net yards after sack yardage was subtracted.

Baker finished with 54 yards rushing on 16 carries to lead the Tigers. Javae Swindle chipped in 41 on 12 trips. Chad Toocheck had two receptions for 26 yards.

“There is no reason for us to point fingers of blame. We just all need to look in the mirror,” center Jess Allen said. “They got us on a few twists with the defensive front. We have to have better feet.”

West Georgia sacked Caldwell four times and recorded seven total tackles for loss. Laronji Vason and Tyrell Adams both recorded nine tackles for the Wolves.

West Alabama had sacks from Tirelle Cullen and Sony Theodate. Brandon Lilly and DeQuante Shockley led the Tigers with seven tackles each.

The Wolves then put together an extended scoring drive for their first score, capping a 13-play, 89-yard drive with a 4-yard scoring pass from Dickey to Alex Macaulay to tie the score at 7-7 early in the second period.

Mark Grant kicked a 21-yard field goal to put West Alabama ahead 10-7 with 4:08 left in the first half, but Denarius Appling returned the ensuing kickoff 56 yards to set up the Wolves first lead of the game.

Dickey connected with Brandon Lucas on a 21-yard scoring pass with 2:43 left in the first half. The point after touchdown kick was no good and West Georgia led 13-10 at the break.

After UWA went three-and-out on its first possession of the second half, West Georgia stretched the lead to 23-10 with a 62-yard touchdown run by Dickey with 4:07 left in the third period.

“We just too many penalties, too many mistakes of simple execution,” Tigers safety Fred Barnes said. “It wasn’t a matter of physicality or the game plan. The plan was good. We just did not execute it.”

With West Georgia backed up against its own goal line midway through the fourth quarter, Justin Wright batted a Dickey pass and Ashton Derico picked it off for a 1-yard touchdown interception return to play to cut the lead to 23-17 West Georgia with 7:27 left.

“Justin made that play by batting the pass,” Derico said. “I was just in the right place at the right time and grabbed the ball.”

Lucas set up the Wolves final points on the very next drive with a 46 yard run to the West Alabama 18-yard line, setting up a 36-yard field goal by Heck with 4:30 left to play.

West Alabama returns home to play Florida Tech Saturday. West Georgia travels to Valdosta State next.