PENSACOLA – The Argos pulled off an ugly 36-24 win over West Alabama in even uglier conditions. The game was moved from 4:00 PM to 2:00 PM due to weather. Argos fans still packed the overcast Pen Air Field with a total attendance of 5,018 for Senior Day and Salute to Service along with strong windy conditions.
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PeeWee Jarrett led the Argos rushing attack with 116 yards rushing and one rushing touchdown. He also threw for 93 yards and one touchdown. The Argos totaled 293 yards on 44 attempts as a team.
“They kept leaving one guy one-on-one, so it was up to me to make the right decision whether to keep it or pass it. a lot of loose grass,” Jarrett said.
The Argos scored on their opening drive after Jarrett found the end zone on a three-yard quarterback keeper.
The Tigers responded immediately with their rushing attack as the Demetrius graduate rushed for a four-yard touchdown.
Jarrett had the first turnover of the game when his throw to David Durden in the end zone was intercepted by Tigers linebacker Mario Nichols. The Tigers’ offense responded quickly on junior John Hilbert’s 49-yard 1-yard reception.
The Argos defense stood tall near the redzone and was able to force the Tigers to kick a 40-yard field goal. The offense started to struggle, but the Argos defense continued to play well, forcing a punt on the next three drives to close out the first half.
Griffin Cerra hit three field goals on three consecutive drives to close the half for the Argos and give them a 16-0 halftime lead. He made five in all to set a school record for the Argos.
The Argos defense came up with another big play midway through the third quarter when Shannon Showers intercepted a pass from Tigers freshman quarterback Tucker Melton at their own 39-yard line.
Ten plays later, Ra”veion Hargrove scored on a 28-yard touchdown run to give the Argos a 23-10 lead with 6:25 left in the third quarter.
West Alabama went on a nine-play, 71-yard drive that ended with Bry Webb scoring on a one-yard touchdown run.
Continued back and forth for these two offenses. Jarrett found Durden for a 48-yard touchdown through the air that extended their lead to 30-17.
The Tigers made one last push early in the fourth quarter. They opened the quarter with a double pass play that ended with running back Battle finding redshirt junior receiver Darius Nalls for a 57-yard touchdown.
The Argos responded with another 36-yard field goal by Cerro to take a 33-24 lead. Their defense forced another punt and the offense drove the ball 36 yards before Cerra stretched the line again with a 31-yard field goal.
“We found a way to win an ugly game and it really was an ugly one. You have to be able to go through it and find a way to win. We had a couple of those that we won and it’s a lot better than not winning,” the Argos head coach said Pete Shinnick. “We were able to win the league, protect the lead and keep the lead.
Here are three takeaways from the game.
The wind played a major factor in the passing game today, but the Argos’ problems were more than just the weather. Jarrett was 2 of 14 with a 17-yard pass and an interception in the half. He was off target on several throws and had trouble timing the receivers. He also had several drops, including one by Jakobe Quiillen in the second quarter that was a touchdown.
“I say the biggest thing is they have a lot of man coverage. They catch and hold a lot at the line of scrimmage, which messes up the timing. Once you get over that, the ball was a little wet from the turf, but that’s no excuse,” Jarrett said. at the end of the day it’s me and the receiver. I know we can make these plays because we do it all the time in practice.”
Jarrett picked it up in the run with his season highs in attempts (15) and yards (116).
“Our running game has been very dynamic all season and we definitely needed it against the number one rushing defense in the conference. That defense held Delta to 20 and West Georgia to 22. We found a way to score 30, so we’ll take it.” that,” Shinnick said.
David Durden had just one catch for a 48-yard touchdown, but the 6-foot-1, 200-pound senior made an impact on special teams in what may be his final game at Pen Air Field.
Durden’s three punt return 86 yards seemed to come at just the right time for the Argos and it moved the momentum.
“They kept throwing me the ball and I was able to make plays. Our guys blocked really well and I was able to use my stiff arm (with a smile),” Durden said. “That’s my main step, but yeah, whenever I get the ball I try to make something happen. I know that’s my role in this team to be the difference maker.”
Griffin Cerra was 5-for-5 on field goal attempts, which set a school record. After Durden finished his postgame interview, he and Shinnick had a good laugh about who the Argos’ special teams player of the week would be. Durden vouched for Cerra.
Da’Quan Bailey-Brown was also a big contributor on special teams. He had two kickoff returns for 72 yards, both of which gave Argos excellent starting position.
“Daily was fantastic and he was also the first guy down there on that last kickoff and forced the returner to change routes until the rest of his teammates got there to help with the tackle,” Shinnick said. “He’s the first guy down there in punt cover, kickoff cover, and he’s been returning kicks at an extremely high rate this season.
The Argos defense has really come alive over the last month. In October, they allowed only two opponents to score 30 or more points. Both took place within a few weeks at the beginning of the month.
Since then, they’ve allowed just 23.7 points per game and forced turnovers in four of five games this month. They are also a plus one in the turnover battle. The Argos defense must continue to play at this high level if they want to make a deep run in the NCAA Division II playoffs.
Greg Hollis is a sports reporter for the Pensacola News Journal. He can be reached at [email protected]