The Delta State junior standout signal-caller leads the GSC in total offense (271.8 yards per game) by a large margin over the No. 2 man on the list — Cayden Cochran of Valdosta State (175.2) — and also ranks first in passing offense (197.4) and third in rushing (74.4).
So when the Wolves travel to McCool Stadium in Cleveland, Miss., for the 7 p.m. conference showdown Saturday, bottling up the 6-foot-2, 225-pound Missouri State transfer will make for a tall task.
And it’s one UWG senior cornerback Kelly Dawsey said his team has to do in order to earn its first GSC win of the season.
“He’s a lot like the quarterback we faced at Miles, just kind of taller and has a stronger arm. So hopefully we can minimize the scrambling out of the pocket and make him pass. Then hopefully the DBs can keep everything in front of them,” Dawsey said.
West Georgia coach Daryl Dickey reiterated that point, saying as Wooden goes, the Statesmen (2-3, 0-1 GSC) go offensively.
“He’s played well for them this year. As the season’s gone on, he’s gotten better and better. We think he’ll be a real challenge for our defense,” Dickey said.
Wooden, a Gainesville (Fla.) High School product, began his college career as a wide receiver during his redshirt freshman season at Missouri State, starting 10 ball games for the Bears in 2010.
The skilled athlete took over under center as a sophomore and would go on to lead the Missouri Valley Conference with 2,420 yards of total offense last fall. But after being dismissed from the program this past May for a violation of unspecified team rules, Wooden took his talents to DSU. And now he is West Georgia’s problem — at least this week.
UWG’s other issue entering the ball game is health, as a pair of key performers have been lost for the season in starting quarterback Austin Trainor (hand) and senior wideout V.J. Hunt (broken arm). Additionally, junior safety Donovan Jackson will also be out this week due to an injury. True freshman quarterback Dallas Dickey, a Carrollton High School product, will get his first collegiate start on Saturday.
Dawsey was also hurt in the homecoming loss to Valdosta this past Saturday — suffering a broken right wrist — but he’s practiced all week in a cast and is looking to help the Wolves (2-3, 0-2) get a much-needed road win in Cleveland.
“I think most of it is just mental focus. We’ve got the talent, we’ve got the players and the coaches. But it’s about who comes with their ‘A’ game that day. I feel like anybody in the GSC can beat anybody. So whoever comes with their ‘A’ game and whoever’s the most focused, that’s who’s going to win the game,” Dawsey said.
The former Lowndes County all-state performer — where he was a part of three state championships as a prep star with the Vikings — is one of several UWG leaders that are not happy about three straight losses, including two in league play, after a promising 2-0 start.
Dawsey said you can’t sit back and use injuries as an excuse. And knowing that this is his senior year and the final chance to suit up in a West Georgia uniform, he aims to begin the Wolves’ rebound effort this week.
“It’s real big. We were kind of in the same situation last year. We were 2-2 and had a huge loss against Henderson [State] on homecoming. Then we bounced back and ended 4-2 the rest of the year. So hopefully we can have that same turnaround. We sent those seniors out with their first winning season. And I’m a senior now. So hopefully we can send me and the rest of the seniors out with a winning season,” Dawsey said.