West Texas A&M opens playoffs with 27-14 win against Indianapolis
INDIANAPOLIS -- West Texas A&M opened the Division II playoffs with a 27-14 victory Saturday afternoon at Indianapolis. With the win, the Buffs improved to 10-2 on the year and Indianapolis finished its season with a 10-2 record.
"I thought our guys played pretty focused [Saturday]," interim head coach Mike Nesbitt said. "We showed up in the right frame of mind and it's what we've been talking about the last three weeks. It's a one-game season each week since the Eastern New Mexico game and I thought we have settled down since then and have played pretty well the last three weeks."
On a cold and windy day, the Buffs came out and continued their strong play on both sides of the ball, picking up where they left off last week. WT handed Indianapolis, a member of the Great Lakes Valley Conference, its first Division II loss of the season. The Buffs now travel to No. 2 seed Ohio Dominican next Saturday in Columbus, Ohio.
WT set a couple of Lone Star Conference records in the game as senior quarterback Dustin Vaughan became the LSC's all-time leading touchdown passer as he went 37 of 47 for 320 yards and three scores, surpassing the previous record of 114 set by Abilene Christian's Billy Malone (2005-09). Vaughan now has 115 touchdowns for his career and 45 for the season, tying last season's mark.
Senior kicker Sergio Castillo Jr. also set an LSC record as he connected on two of three field goals, breaking the LSC record for career field goals with 60. Tarleton State's J.W. Boren (1999-2002) owned the previous mark of 59 on 83 attempts. Castillo now is 60 of 75.
WT senior wide receiver Torrence Allen had a career-high 15 catches and tallied 146 yards and a score, while senior Jace Jackson hauled in eight receptions for 65 yards and a score. Junior Anthony Johnson had two catches for 42 yards and a score.
On the ground, senior Aaron Harris had 59 yards on 13 receptions as the Buffs tallied 115 rushing yards on 31 carries. Senior return specialist Nathan Slaughter had three kick returns for 106 yards as he entered the game leading the nation in kick return yardage and kick return touchdowns.
Defensively, the Buffs had their third consecutive solid outing as they held prolific UIndy running back Klay Fiechter, who entered the game as the GLVC's leading rusher, to just 67 yards on 16 carries. WT also flustered quarterback Connor Barthel, who entered leading the nation in completion percentage at 75 percent and fourth in passing efficiency to 19 of 37 for 190 yards and two scores along with an interception.
WT senior linebacker Kyle Voss had a team-high eight total tackles with six solo stops and one sack. Sophomore Ethan Morriss had six tackles with four solo stops and an interception to seal the victory in the fourth quarter.
The Greyhounds opened the game and marched down the field as Barthel connected with Joe Bell on a 17-yard, great one-handed touchdown on a fourth-and-1 from the WT 17 for a 7-0 lead with 9:50 remaining in the first quarter.
The Buffs responded in kind as Vaughan came out on fire as he connected on all six passes on the drive and ran for a first down on fourth-and-3 from the UIndy 37. Vaughan's sixth pass on the drive came from 20 yards out as he hooked up with Johnson for a 7-7 score with 5:57 left in the first quarter.
After a punt by the Greyhounds which was downed at the WT 7, the Buffs marched down the field and Vaughan tied the LSC record at that point with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Allen for a 14-7 lead. Following a three-and-out by the Greyhounds, the Buffs moved to the UIndy 14 as Castillo kicked the record-tying field goal for a 17-7 lead.
The Buffs had a chance for more, but Castillo's field goal from 35 yards out was wide left as the second quarter came to a close.
UIndy chose the ball in the first half after winning the toss, giving the Buffs the ball to open the third quarter. WT marched down 75 yards in 17 plays for the longest drive time of the season at 8:25 for a 19-yard field goal from Castillo for the record-breaker and a 20-7 lead.
"I thought coming out of halftime we had a great drive and really helped in time of possession as we were going into the wind and help us out with field position," Nesbitt said.
The Greyhounds came back with some nice passing from Barthel as he connected on a 35-yard touchdown on a third-and-11 from the WT 35 for a 20-14 score as the momentum was beginning to shift back to the home team.
Slaughter took the ensuing kickoff 63 yards to the UIndy 25 to silence the crowd and set up the Buffs with great field position. Vaughan and Co. made quick work as he tossed a 12-yard touchdown pass to Jackson on a third-and-8 from the UIndy 12 for a 27-14 score and the record-breaking touchdown.
The Greyhounds had a nice drive going early in the fourth, but the WT defense stood strong in the fourth quarter as Fiechter was stopped by senior defensive lineman Ethan Westbrooks short of a first down on a fourth-and-2 from the WT 24, giving the Buffs the ball back.
After a WT punt, the Greyhounds had another chance to cut the deficit, but Morriss had other plans as he picked off the Barthel offering on a third-and-10 from the UIndy 15 to seal the win.