NCAA Division-II Semi-Finals: Wolves v. Bearcats

West Georgia Wolves Northwest Missouri State BearcatsNCAA Division-II Football Playoffs

No. 7 West Georgia Wolves (12-1)
No. 1 Northwest Missouri Bearcats

The West Georgia Wolves are in the semi-finals for the second straight season, but this year they are looking to go all the way. The Wolves won the National Championship in 1982, and it would not be a surprise to see them raise the trophy again.

The Northwest Missouri Bearcats have won four national titles, most recently in 2013. They have been to four other championship games and have been in the title game six times since 2005.

How They Got Here:

The West Georgia Wolves won the Gulf South Conference after completing a 10-1 regular season. This was a team that was an absolute powerhouse on offense, scoring at least 30-points in all but two of their games. This included back-to-back games where they scored 57 and 56.

The Wolves had a first round bye in the NCAA Division-II football playoffs, but in Round 2 their opponent was No. 17 ranked Valdosta State. West Georgia lead 10-0 just five minutes into the second quarter, but Valdosta State was not done. The two teams battled until the score was 20-19 with 5:25 left in the game. Dallas Dickey plunged into the end zone on a nine-yard run to seal the victory and the Wolves advanced.

Last weekend the Wolves took on No. 23 ranked Tuskegee. The Tigers took the lead 4:39 into the game when Kevin Lacey scored from a yard out. Then the Wolves took over. They scored less than two minutes later when Dickey found Brandon Walton for the 35-yard touchdown. Devontae Jackson would add two touchdown runs as West Georgia scored 35 unanswered points on their way to the 35-6 victory. Dickey had struggled the previous week, but not in this one. The QB was 16-24 for 398-yards and 3-touchdowns. Qa Walker had 3-catches for 153-yards and a touchdown and Shaq Hall made 7-receptions for 141-yards and a score.

Northwest Missouri State won the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Conference after an 11-0 regular season. They dominated every game they played but one, and put up huge points all season long. This included an October 10 victory where they won 69-0.

The Bearcats had a first round bye before facing No. 11 ranked Humboldt State. NWMSU jumped out to the 47—point lead before winning 54-7. The defense was smothering, holding Humboldt State to just 48 total yards of offense, including 24 on the ground. The Bearcats recorded five sacks and intercepted the Jacks QB twice. Shawn Bane had 7-catches for 134-yards and a touchdown in the contest.

Last Saturday Northwest Missouri State took on No. 18 Emporia State. Like the previous week, this was not much of a contest. NWMSU took a 17-0 lead on a field goal, a 2-yard touchdown pass from Brady Bolles to Jordan Grove, and a two-yard run for a score by Cameron Wilcox. The two teams then exchanged scores as the Bearcats won 38-17. Bolles threw for 329-yards and 3-touchdowns and the defense got 18-tackles and 1.5-sacks from Jacob Vollstedt.

Team Comparison

Rankings: (National Rankings in Each Category Are in Parenthesis)

Northwest Missouri State Bearcats
Offense: Passing: 291.5 (21) Rushing: 150.2 (105) Total Offense: 441.8 (40) Points Per Game: 42.2 (8)
Defense: Passing: 157.3 (15) Rushing: 63.5 (1) Total Defense: 220.8 (1) Points Allowed Per Game: 11.9 (1)

West Georgia Wolves
Offense: Passing: 195.4 (105) Rushing: 98.7 (12) Total Offense: 424.5 (58) Points Per Game: 37.8 (25)
Defense: Passing: 139.4 (3) Rushing: 229.2 (22) Total Defense: 238.1 (2) Points Allowed Per Game: 14.6 (2)

Note: The Bearcats players are listed first in each comparison

Quarterbacks: Brady Bolles vs. Dallas Dickey

This is an interesting contrast in quarterbacks. Bolles is your classic drop back passer who makes most of his plays with his arm. The Bearcats QB has thrown for 3,513-yards and 27-touchdowns. He has completed an impressive 60.9 percent of his passes, and is very accurate with his throws.

Dickey is one of the most dynamic players in Division-II. The Wolves QB has thrown for 2,219-yards and 20-touchdowns, plus he has been a little more accurate, completing 62.5 percent of his passes. Add to it, Dickey is an outstanding runner, gaining 546-yards and 4 TDs on the ground. He creates time for himself and is deadly on the move.

Advantage: West Georgia

Runnings Backs: Phil Jackson vs. Devontae Jackson, Lamarcus Franks

NWMSU does not run the ball a whole lot, but they have the back to keep teams honest. Phil Jackson has rushed for 782-yards this season with an impressive 14-touchdowns. What is most impressive about the Bearcats running back is that he has only accumulated eight-yards on plays where he lost yards. He keeps the ball moving past the line of scrimmage.

Jackson is a beast for West Georgia. He has gained 1,046-yards and 9 scores and, most impressively, has a per carry average of 6.9. Jackson is quick and hits the hole with authority. Franks is a quality No. 2.

Advantage: West Georgia

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: Shawn Bane, Jordan Grove, George Sehl, Shane Williams, TJ Schieber vs. Qa Walker, Shaq Hall, Ethan Slate, DJ Ezell

Bane is extremely difficult to cover. He put up huge numbers this year grabbing 72-catches for 1,103-yards and 8-scores. What is really scary about him is that Bane is only a freshman. Grove was second on the team with 40-catches for 463-yards and 7 TDs. Williams, Wilson, and Sehl make this an incredibly deep receiving corps.

Walker and Hall are the two primary targets of the Wolves offense and they are both very good. Walker is the deep threat, making just 30-catches but for 679-yards, an amazing 22.6 yards per catch average. Hall is the guy Dickey looks for when he needs a catch, grabbing 56-receptions for 641-yards and 6-touchdowns.

Advantage: Northwest Missouri State

Offensive Line: Ryan Huff, Dylan Morris, Shane Smith, Daniel Kempf, Chase Sherman vs. Austin Kastl, Jodece Smith, Harley Vaughan, Orion Awa-Dubose, Dominique Robertson

With three seniors and a junior starting on this line, the Bearcats have a very experienced group that has been together for some time. They are all very gifted athletically and have good size and footwork. This is a top five offensive line in Division-II.

The same can be said of the Wolves offensive line. They, too, start three seniors and a junior, giving them a lot of experience, plus they are a bigger and more physical line. Smith is an absolute beast at 328-pounds.

Advantage: West Georgia

Defensive Line: Trist Patterson, Brandon Yost, Collin Bevins, Cass Weitl vs. Marrion Holmes, Jason Carr, Alex Armah, Dylan Donahue

Yost is a guy who simply makes plays. He was second on the team in tackles and adds 6.5-sacks. Bevins is the leading sackmaster of the team, recording 11.5 quarterback drops and Weitl adds 5.5. This is a group that gets after the quarterback, but also play the run exceptionally well.

Donahue is relentless in pursuing the quarterback, recording 11-sacks. He is also a great lineman overall. The whole line is outstanding. Armah was second on the team with 8-sacks and the two make passing a very difficult prospect. The Bearcats offensive line is going to have their hands full.

Advantage: West Georgia

Linebackers: Brock Sherman, Jarrod Bishop, Jacob Vollstedt vs. Marion Chapman, Gabe Freeman,

Vollstedt is an absolute ball-hawk who leads the Bearcats in tackles (104) and is second in sacks (11). He always seems to be in the play and along the line he is deadly. Sherman is an outstanding linebacker as well, ranking third on the team in tackles.

Chapman and Freeman are No. 1 and 2 on the team in tackles, with Chapman adding 3-sacks. These two are solid playmakers who have great instincts and who are rarely out of position.

Advantage: Northwest Missouri State

Defensive Backs: Edward Richey, Kevin Berg, Marcus Jones, Bryce Enyard, Jack Young vs. Jeff Fulwood, Laronji Vason, Zed Brown, Marcus Sayles, Carlos Hutton

Berg has great speed and instincts. That has enabled him to lead the team with 8-interceptions and 16-pass defenses/breakups. Richey and Young both have 4-picks and cover well, as does Enyard.

The Wolves do not have a group that is going to make a lot of interceptions, but they do play the pass well and are not afraid to aid in the running game. They are deep with good speed at this position.

Advantage: Northwest Missouri State

Special Teams:

The Bearcats have a solid, but not spectacular special teams units. The one exception to that is kicker Simon Mathiesen who has hit 22-27 field goal attempts, with a long of 46. He has nailed 18-20 from inside the 40 and is a key in a close game.

Tevlin Brown is an outstanding punt returner, who has returned two for touchdowns, and averages 12.9 yards per return. Hunter Heck gives the Wolves a great weapon, making 11-14 field goal attempts with a long of 41, and James Dugan has done a great job in giving his team good field position on defense. The punter has a 40.6 average, with 16 kicks downed inside the 20.

Advantage: West Georgia

Coaches: Adam Dorrel vs. Will Hall

Adam Dorrel has quickly established himself as one of the best coaches in all of college football. In his fifth season at NWMSU, Coach Dorrel is 59-8 and has led his team to the post-season every season. He already has a championship under his belt (2013) and no one would be surprised to see him win three or four more. Coach Dorrel is a brilliant coach with incredible skills at leading men.

This is Will Hall’s second season at West Georgia after coaching West Alabama for three seasons. In a short time, he has already built quite a legacy for himself. Coach Hall was 25-11 at West Alabama with two post-season appearances, and in two seasons at West Georgia he is 25-3 with his second appearance in the NCAA Division-II football semi-finals. This guy can flat out coach and gets the most out of his players.

Advantage: Even

Outlook: This is going to be an outstanding game. The No. 1 and No. 2 defenses matched head-to-head already makes this an interesting affair, but the way that these two teams move the ball only adds to the feel of it. Northwest Missouri State is a team that loves to pass and they do it well. West Georgia wants to move the ball on the ground and they are one of the best running teams in the country. The key to this game is going to be the defensive line of West Georgia against the offensive line of NWMSU. The edge is with the Wolves so we ride with them. Take West Georgia to narrowly win a very exciting game, 27-24.

By Robert Pannier