PENSACOLA — Call it a fluke. Call it a bad game. Call it whatever you like.
West Florida football coach Pete Shinnick said the 38-17 loss on the road against Midwestern State this past Saturday is not who the Argonauts are.
No. 13 West Florida led then-No. 10 MSU 14-3 at halftime before the Mustangs opened the second half with four straight touchdown drives. The Argos (1-1) couldn’t contain MSU quarterback Leyton Rabb who finished the night 27-of-43 for 334 yards with touchdown passes of 1, 15 and 17 yards.
“We’re off just a little bit,” Shinnick said Wednesday. “I think the second half, defensively, comes down to three plays. They scored a touchdown on a fourth-down conversion. They got a third-and-6 backed up in their own area and then they had a third-and-10 they made a conversion on.”
Despite its chances, the UWF offense scored just three points during the third and fourth quarters. Consistently harassed in the pocket, senior quarterback Sam Vaughn, starting in place of the injured Mike Beaudry, threw two of his three interceptions in the final frame.
Shinnick said he saw improvement in Vaughn’s game between Week 1 and Week 2 but a handful of key missed throws on third down helped the Mustangs put the game away.
“That’s just part of learning,” Shinnick said. “That’s just part of growing.”
The Argos are likely to turn to Vaughn against with Gulf South Conference play kicking off against Shorter (0-2) at 6 p.m. Saturday in Blue Wahoos Stadium. The game will be broadcast on the BLAB TVand ESPN Pensacola 94.5 FM.
Beaudry, the reigning GSC Offensive Freshman of the Year, rolled his right ankle early in the season-opener against Carson-Newman and missed most of the past two weeks. He resumed throwing Wednesday and is “day-to-day” moving forward, Shinnick said.
Shorter is a team in transition. The Hawks hired coach Zach Morrison to helm the program after previous coach Aaron Kelton lost each of his 22 games during his two seasons at the helm, including a 36-0 loss to UWF during the Argos’ first competitive season and 42-29 loss a year ago.
Things aren’t exactly looking up for Shorter this year, either. The Hawks are 0-2 for the third straight year, extending their losing streak to 30 games; they haven’t won since Oct. 3, 2015, against Mississippi College.
Thus far, the Hawks have been outscored 127-23 and have converted just 26.9 percent of their third downs.
“They’ve had a rough go of it in the Gulf South Conference the last couple of years,” Shinnick said. “It hasn’t been a team that’s been very strong. Our conference is pretty strong. Shorter is one that hasn’t been.”
With that said, Saturday’s contest becomes somewhat of a tune-up for the Argonauts. It’s more about correcting the mistakes UWF has made in its two non-conference games than anything else.
An offense that is averaging just 18 points per game and has scored only one red zone touchdown this year needs to kick into the same gear that helped it win six straight games down the stretch a year ago. A defense that shutout Carson-Newman during the second half in Week 1 needs to regain its confidence after getting hit back a week ago.
“I’m expecting our guys just to play great football,” Shinnick said. “That’s what we’re harping on and that’s what we’re talking about. Be at their best, play their best, do their best.
“They gotta look at this as an opportunity to get better and go out and compete at a high level at a very efficient level.”