WICHITA FALLS, Texas – Two key interceptions by senior defensive back John McSheffery keyed the West Texas A&M football team to a thrilling 19-12 victory at Midwestern State Saturday afternoon in both teams’ regular season finales. With the win, WT improved to 9-2 on the year and 4-2 in Lone Star Conference play, while Midwestern State fell to 7-3 and 3-3 in league play.
“We played assignment football today and we played our style of football today and were able to come away with the win,” interim head coach Mike Nesbitt said.
With the win, Buffs certainly enhanced their playoff chances and will have to wait until tomorrow at 4 p.m. CT for the NCAA Selection Show which will be streamed live on NCAA.com. Last season the Buffs earned a No. 6-seed in the NCAA playoffs and advanced to the NCAA National Semifinal.
McSheffery had a WT season-high two interceptions in the game – one in each half - which stopped big drives by MSU. He finished the game with three solo tackles. Redshirt freshman Patrick Youngman led the game with 13 total tackles and six solo stops along with one sack and two tackles for loss. Senior Taylor McCuller had 12 tackles with one sack and one tackle for loss.
“I think the key today was just do your job and execute and I think we did that today,” McSheffery said.
“Our coaches preached do your own assignment this week and I think we did that well today and we made plays and got the job done,” Youngman said. “Our defense played great today and we were able to come away with the win.”
In a game with a stiff wind directly out of the South, the Buffs marched down the field with the longest time-consuming drive of the season a 17-play, 72-yard driving taking 6:40 off the clock as the Buffs went into the wind in the first quarter. Senior kicker Sergio Castillo made a 20-yarder for the 3-0 lead. During the drive, senior quarterback Dustin Vaughan completed a tough third-and-eight to senior Nathan Slaughter for 14 yards to keep the drive alive.
On the ensuing MSU possession, the Mustangs came right back with a 39-yard field goal. Vaughan’s pass at the WT 39 was picked off by Travis Stephens on the next WT possession.
Castillo belted his second field goal and 56th of his career for a 6-3 lead with 10:06 remaining in the first half.
From there, MSU’s Keidrick Jackson went 68-yards down to the WT seven on the opening play of its next drive. After a short run to the three, Shavodrick Beaver’s pass was intercepted in the back of the end zone by McSheffery preserving the 6-3 lead.
WT senior punter Kevin VanVoris booted a season-long 72-yarder with the win and after a short punt by MSU, WT took over at the Mustang 39 as WT stretched the lead to 9-3 with 4:12 remaining in the half. Neither team did much with the ball the rest of the half as WT went into intermission with the six-point advantage.
MSU scored a 41-yard field goal with the win on its opening possession of the third quarter for a 9-6 deficit. The Buffs had a promising drive stalled with an interception at the MSU 30 by Neiko Conway midway through the quarter.
The Mustangs looked as if they’d capitalize, but two huge tackles for losses on second and third down by Youngman, pushed the Mustangs out of field goal range as they settled for a punt. Punter Greg Saladino put a great punt to the WT 2.
Slaughter and Vaughan hooked up for a 20-yard pass getting the Buffs out of a hole on a 2nd and 7 from the five as the third quarter expired.
WT marched to the MSU 30 as Castillo belted his fourth field goal of the game tying his own school record set earlier this season in the thrilling win versus Chadron State in the Lone Star Football Festival for a 12-6 lead.
McSheffery came up with the big interception once again as he stepped in front of the Jake Glover offering and returned it 12 yards to the MSU 38.
A big pass by Vaughan following a holding penalty set the Buffs up with a 2nd and 2 on an 18-yard pass to junior Anthony Johnson to the MSU 17 with 8:25 left. Castillo kicked his record-breaking fifth field goal and tied the Lone Star Conference career record with his 59th field goal, but he was run into by MSU as WT got the first down at the MSU 6. The field goal would have tied J.W. Boren of Tarleton State (1999-2002).
Vaughan ran on a scramble and was hit hard right at the goal line as the ball squirted out into the end zone. A mad dash ensued as senior wide receiver Torrence Allen came up with the fumble recovery and touchdown for a 19-6 lead with 6:17 left.
MSU marched down the field mainly with the passing game and Jackson punched it in from 1-yard out with 1:30 left. Sophomore defensive lineman Alex Tucci blocked the extra-point for a 19-12 score.
The Mustangs got the onside kick at their 47. After an incomplete pass, Glover connected with Breion Evans for seven yards to the WT 46. A huge sack by seniors Kyle Voss and Shane Pennix put the Mustangs in a 4th and 10. Glover was rushed by Youngman and overthrew the intended receiver as WT took over and ran the clock out.
Vaughan was 23 of 46 with two interceptions and 250 yards. He still is two touchdown passes shy of tying the Lone Star Conference career record of 114 set by Abilene Christian’s Billy Malone (2005-2009). Senior running back Aaron Harris had 38 yards on the ground, while Allen had seven receptions for 94 yards and the fumble recovery for the Buffs’ only touchdown.
MSU was led by Jackson who had 132 yards on the ground on 25 carries and one score. Other than the 68-yarder, he was pretty well contained by the Buffs in the game. Glover was 10 of 18 with a pick for 116 yards. Strange had a game-high 117 yards on seven receptions.
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