West Texas A&M knocks off Ohio Dominican to advance to quarterfinals
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- There must be something about the Buckeye State that the West Texas A&M football team likes. For the second consecutive season, the Buffaloes pulled the upset in the state of Ohio. This time, WT downed No. 2-seed Ohio Dominican 34-27 in the second round Saturday to advance to the Division II quarterfinals for the second consecutive season.
With the win, WT improved to 11-2 on the season and advanced to the quarterfinals for just the second time in school history. The Buffs will travel to Grand Valley State next Saturday as GVSU upset top-seeded Colorado State-Pueblo 34-30.
WT moved to 8-6 all-time in the NCAA tournament with its fifth road win in the past six NCAA playoff games. The Buffs downed No. 2-seed Ashland University last season 33-28. It was the fifth time in school history WT has won 11 or more games in school history.
With the win, the Buffs snapped the nation's longest winning streak which Ohio Dominican held at 15 games dating to last season. ODU was 10-0 this season playing in their first NCAA playoff game since transitioning from NAIA to Division II. WT ended Ashland's perfect season last year in the second round.
In a very physical game, the Buffs racked up 530 yards of offense against ODU on Saturday, with 416 passing yards. They held the high-powered ODU offense to 392 yards and just 143 on the ground, which was well below their average.
Quarterback Dustin Vaughan really enhanced his Harlon Hill chances as he threw for 416 yards and four touchdowns on 39 of 53 with one interception.
Running backs Geremy Alridge and Aaron Harris each had strong games with 76 and 65 yards rushing, respectively, which allowed Vaughan time to throw the ball. Senior receiver Torrence Allen continued to have strong outings in the playoffs with 11 catches for 145 yards and a score, while receiver Anthony Johnson had 10 catches for 168 yards and two scores.
Defensively, the Buffs came up big once again against a strong running team as the 1,000-yard tandem of Brandon Schoen and Mark Nichols had a combined 110 yards and no touchdowns. Each entered the game averaging more than 100 yards apiece. Linebacker Taylor McCuller had a team-high 13 total tackles, while linebacker Kyle Voss added 10 tackles and two tackles for loss.
The biggest plays defensively came from the secondary as Chris Ceazer picked off a pass in the end zone and Curtis Slater forced his seventh fumble of the season with the Buffs recovering.
After a punt by the Buffs on the opening possession, the Panthers moved right down the field with an eight play, 65-yard drive using 2:59 on the clock as quarterback Mark Miller tossed a 3-yard touchdown pass to Jerad Butler for a 7-0 lead.
The teams traded punts the next eight possessions combined as the defenses stood tall.
With 6:45 left in the second quarter, the Buffs took possession at their own 14. Vaughan began getting into rhythm as he had nine passes on the drive and threw a 3-yard pass to Alridge for a 7-7 score late in the half.
ODU came out and methodically moved down the field like it did on its first drive as Miller threw an 8-yard strike to Nick McKnight on a third-and-goal for a 13-7 lead. LaPear Willrich blocked the extra-point attempt.
Two big rushes by Harris for 30 yards set the Buffs up at the ODU 35 on the ensuing possession. Sergio Castillo nailed a 44-yarder for a 13-10 deficit with 10:06 left in the third.
The Panthers drove on the ensuing drive down to the WT 6. Miller threw a pass in the end zone to Abe Johnson who bobbled it and Ceazer was there for the pick, which completely turned the momentum back in favor of WT.
From there, the Buffs marched down the field from their own 3 as they converted a third-and-16 with a great catch and run by Johnson for 46 yards to the ODU 35. WT got down to the 8, but settled for a tying field goal from Castillo.
ODU once again got into Buff territory late in the third as Miller passed to Nate Weeks for 14 yards and a first down, but Slater stripped the ball and the Buffs recovered with less than a minute remaining in the quarter.
On a third-and-10, Johnson came up with another big catch as he went 20 yards from Vaughan to the ODU 33, keeping the drive alive. A defensive holding penalty on the Panthers on a third-and-10 also kept the drive alive as Johnson scored from 5 yards out for a 20-13 lead.
After a punt by the Panthers, the Buffs were looking like they were going to punt as they had a third-and-10 from their own 31. Vaughan threw a short screen to Allen, who took it to the house for a 69-yard score and 27-13 WT lead with 9:18 left.
The Panthers punted on their next possession, but Vaughan was intercepted by Justin Bell at the ODU 35 and he returned it 32 yards to the WT 33 with 6:33 left, keeping the Panthers in the game.
A key personal foul on WT set up the Panthers at the WT 18. Miller tossed a 14-yarder to Johnson for a 27-20 score with 6:01 left.
The Buffs pounded the run game on the next possession to eat the clock as Alridge gained 34 yards and Vaughan tallied his fourth score of the day and second to Johnson for 31 yards on a second-and-9 to go back up 14 at 34-20.
ODU wouldn't go quietly as the Panthers marched down the field with 2:07 left and were helped out by a pair of unsportsmanlike conduct penalties that took the ball from the WT 32 to the WT 6. Ronnel Spates scored on the ground from 6 yards out for a 34-27 score.
The Panthers kicked the onside kick and recovered, but it didn't go the required 10 yards and WT took over at the ODU 44 with 1:26 left. A big first-down pickup by Alridge on third-and-1 from the ODU 35 sealed the win.
WT and Grand Valley State have met twice with GVSU winning both in the season openers in 2009 (Canyon, Texas) and '10 (Allendale, Mich.).