Newberry upsets West Florida in first round of NCAA football tournament
PENSACOLA, Fla. – Redshirt-sophomore Mario Anderson capped off a 19-point comeback for the Newberry College (10-2) football team as they knocked off the third-seeded and defending national champion Argonauts of West Florida in an overtime thriller at the Blue Wahoos Stadium on Saturday, November 20, 2021.
Anderson and redshirt-senior Dre Harris were the two leading rushers for a Newberry program that posted 169 yards on the ground in the contest, with Anderson recording a pair of scores, including the game-winner, and Harris adding a score as well. Redshirt-junior Bryson Woodruff led the receiving core on the afternoon for the Wolves as he hauled in seven catches for 131 yards and a score.
Defensively, the Wolves were led by the usual suspects, including senior Anthony Blue who hauled in two interceptions in the contest, both stopping Argo drives at pivotal moments. Graduate student Nick Yearwood led the team with six tackles, including half credit for each a tackle-for-loss and a sack. Sophomore Ja-Quez Smith recorded the third interception on the afternoon for the Wolves while also recording three tackles.
After taking the opening kickoff for a touchback, the Wolves attacked quickly as after a nine-yard reception by Brentley Allen, Harris would find Woodruff along the right-hand side of the field who then made one move back to the inside of the field and went the distance scampering 66-yards down the sideline to give the Wolves the 7-0 lead just 43 seconds into the contest. The Argos looked shaky in the pocket as their quarterback threw three straight incompletions in their opening drive to give the ball right back to Newberry.
The Wolves took the opposite approach to the second drive of the afternoon as this time they would string together a nine-play 48-yard drive that only have four of those yards gained through the air. The drive was finished off by Harris who took off up the middle of the field for nine yards on a gutsy fourth down call to put the Wolves up 14-0 in the first quarter.
Both teams traded scoreless drives before the Argos were able to put up their first points of the day on a 30-yard field goal to bring the score back to 14-3 and that’s where it stood at the end of the first fifteen minutes of action.
Both squads again opened the action in the second quarter by trading a few scoreless drives before West Florida would put together their best drive of the opening half, aided by a costly pass interference call on third-down, that would see their first touchdown on the board, bring the score to 14-10 at the halftime break, thanks to a huge interception by Blue on his own one-yard line that shut down the Argos drive.
After a fruitless opening drive, the Argos were able to get their second touchdown on the board in the afternoon as following an interception they ran just one play to score a 42-yard touchdown and take their first lead of the day at 17-14. Newberry found themselves in a hole in their next drive as a strip-sack set the Argos up on the Wolves seven-yard line and they would cash in on that opportunity with a seven-yard toss to the corner of the endzone to extend their lead to 24-14.
Carrying that margin into the fourth quarter, the Argos were able to further extend that margin by converting on a 42-yard field goal by Griffin Cerra to put them up 27-14. The Wolves offense again went three and out, but the next score of the day came from the special teams unit as sophomore Ke-Shoun Williams was able to break through the protection of the Argos and not only block the punt, but scoop up the ball and take it across the goal line to bring the margin back to 27-20.
Anthony Blue was again able to prove why he has earned an invitation to the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl later this year as he hauled in his second interception of the day on a first-down play for the Argos on their own 30 to swing the momentum back into the Wolves favor. Then, on what would be the most methodic drive of the afternoon for the Scarlet and Gray, Newberry posted a thirteen-play 70-yard drive that brought the score back level at 27-27 with just over three minutes to play in regulation.
While both teams would have a look at another drive to finish off the contest in regulation, neither team was able to capitalize, sending the contest into overtime. Newberry was able to win the coin toss and elected to go on defense first, but the Argos choice would pit them on the home side of the field, driving into the stands behind the first base dugout.
That didn’t faze the Wolves defense as three straight rushes for the Argos found them looking at fourth and one, in which they chose the safe route and put three points on the board with a field goal, forcing the Wolves to match or better them to continue the contest. The rushing attack provided the finishing blow for the Wolves as Harris accounted for 12-yards of the drive and Anderson provided 14-yards, including the game ending one-yard rush around the left side to wrap up the 33-30 win for the Wolves in the first overtime period.
Newberry will now make the trip up to Bowie, Md. as they will take on the Bulldogs of Bowie State University. While the game date is known for Saturday, November 27, the game time has not been released, but is expected to be 1 p.m.