In the inaugural year of the Gulf South Conference-Lone Star Conference First-and-Ten Challenge, the Wolves kick off the two-game series in 2012 against the top team in the LSC in 14th-ranked West Texas A&M when the Buffaloes make their way into University Stadium for the 8 p.m. showdown.
The contest, which is the GSC-TV Live Game of the Week, pits the pair of powerhouse conferences in the spotlight on the Division II level, and UWG senior center Jordan Ritchey definitely wants to help the Wolves state their case that the GSC is the best in the land.
Through the midway point of the Challenge, the GSC currently holds a 3-2 edge.
“There’s a lot of pride for the Gulf South Conference there. We believe that this is one of the hardest conferences to play for. If we can come out and beat another conference, then it will help us out and give a good image for us,” Ritchey said.
The Wolves (3-4, 1-3 GSC) definitely drew a tough foe for the Challenge, as the Buffaloes (7-1, 6-0 LSC) have dominated the opposition for the majority of the year. Outside of a 44-34, season-opening loss to No. 1 Colorado State-Pueblo, West Texas A&M has beaten its opponents by an average margin of 28 points per game.
The Buffaloes feature a defense that is giving up just 15.6 points per game, led by junior defensive lineman Ethan Westbrooks, who earned his second consecutive LSC Defensive Player of the Week honors after recording three sacks in a 44-21 win at Eastern New Mexico last week. For the year, Westbrooks has 10 sacks, which leads the LSC and ranks fourth nationally.
Ritchey said the UWG offensive line has a big challenge ahead of it, but he believes his mates in the trenches are up for it.
“Their front D-linemen, they’re real big guys. Good, strong, quick guys. It’s going to be a challenge,” Ritchey said.
Offensively, West Texas A&M is led by senior running back and overall weapon Khiry Robinson, who has 1,053 all-purpose yards, including 669 rushing yards and six touchdowns on 96 attempts. Junior quarterback Dustin Vaughan leads the LSC in passing at 319 yards per game, with 25 touchdowns to just five interceptions.
UWG coach Daryl Dickey said the Buffaloes present a formidable foe for the first-ever game in the Challenge.
“They’re certainly one of the best teams in the country right now in Division II, so it’ll be a real big challenge for us. The Gulf South Conference and the Lone Star, it’s the first year of this crossover thing that we’re doing. We got blessed with two of the best teams that are out there, but we welcome the challenge and our kids will be ready and are looking forward to it,” Dickey said.
The Wolves are coming off their best showing of the season in a 38-23 home win over North Alabama last Thursday night, where they rushed for 314 yards and four touchdowns.
Dickey is hopeful it will carry over and lead to another strong effort on Saturday.
“It was just one of those games where it was our night. We were able to run the ball real effectively, we didn’t turn the ball over and our defense was very opportunistic. We did well in the kicking game. So all phases kind of clicked for us,” Dickey said. “Every game is a different challenge and every game plays out differently, so we’ve got to be prepared for all facets to play really well.”
Ritchey is confident the Wolves can build on last week’s victory and are now ready to take down a nationally-ranked foe on the big stage Saturday night.
“They’re the highest-ranked team we’ve played so far this year. We haven’t never had any competition with these Texas teams, so we’re really looking forward to it as a challenge with them being a high-ranked opponent and a team we’ve never played before,” Ritchey said.