June 22, 2018

Wolves open 2016 with win over No. 22 Catawba

(Carrollton/uwgsports.com) — The second-ranked West Georgia Wolves football team used a strong defensive effort to notch a 23-3 season opening win over 22nd ranked Catawba at University Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

For the Wolves, the win gets them off to a 1-0 start and notches the 17th straight win at University Stadium, remaining undefeated under head coach Will Hall. It was a banner day for Hall, who won his 50th game, moving his record to 50-15 in his five years as a head coach.

The defense held Catawba to just three points on the day and allowed 235 yards of total offense and only 95 rushing yards. The Wolves forced three turnovers on the day, all by way of the interception. The last time a UWG defense picked off three passes in a single game was at Delta State in the 2014 playoffs.

Offensively, the Wolves used 340 yards of offense, with the bulk of those yards coming in the passing game. Transfer junior quarterback Will Gardner was 14-of-36 through the air on the day for 220 yards and a touchdown.

His favorite target was junior Qa Walker, who caught five passes for 116 yards and a score. That marked Walker’s third straight game with at least 100 yards receiving and fourth overall, with his streak dating back to the 2015 Super Region Championship game.

Catawba got the ball to start the game and ran three plays before Marcus Sayles intercepted the Indians Mike Sheehan’s pass for his first pick of the year. That set up a seven play, 60-yard drive that ended with a 22-yard field goal by Hunter Heck, giving the Wolves their first lead of the season.

After the two teams traded punts, Heck was at it again, capping off a nine play, 50-yard drive with a 41-yard field goal to extend the UWG lead to 6-0 at the 13:12 mark in the opening half.

The Wolves would score their first score touchdown of the season on a one yard score by Devontae Jackson with 16 seconds left in the half.

The West Georgia defense was outstanding in the opening half, allowing just 102 yards in the opening half. Catawba was held to only five first downs in the first half.

Coming out of the gates in the second half, the Wolves would fumble the opening kickoff and the Indians would recover, but the Wolves defense was up the task and kept the Indians out of the endzone.

Brennan Lambert would connect on an 18-yard field goal, putting Catawba on the board and cutting the UWG lead to three with 11:19 left in the third quarter.

That would be all the scoring in the third quarter as neither team got anything going. Catawba had only 35 yards of total offense in the third quarter while UWG only managed 32 yards as the two defenses continued to play well.

It was more of the same for the first half of the fourth quarter with defense dominating the offense for both teams, but a Jeff Fulwood interception with just over six minutes left would set up a 42-yard touchdown strike from junior quarterback Will Gardner to Qa Walker to extend the lead to 20-3.

A.J. Leggett got the third interception for West Georgia as he then returned it 56 yards to the Catawba 10-yard line.Hunter Heck then added his third field goal of the day, a 30-yarder that made it 23-3 with 2:30 left and that’s how it would end.

Will Gardner threw for 220 yards in his UWG debut with one touchdown. Devontae Jackson and Lamarcus Franks each had over 60 yards with 64 and 62 respectively. Qa Walker was his normal self as he had five catches for 116 yards and the touchdown.

Curtis Lindsay led the defense with 10 tackles including six solo stops, including two tackles for loss. Marcus Sayles, A.J. Leggett and Jeff Fulwood each had an interception on the day, and Sayles picked up his 11th career blocked kick with a blocked punt in the second quarter. Sayles has now had a blocked kick in three of his four season openers at UWG, including two against Catawba.

West Georgia takes to the road for the first time in 2016 this Saturday as they take on SIAC foe Miles at 5 p.m. EST in Fairfield, Ala.

For up to date news on all University of West Georgia sports visit www.uwgsports.com.

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