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UIW Holds Off SFA In Playoff OT Thriller To Advance To Second Round

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SAN ANTONIO — The first-ever home playoff game for the Incarnate Word Cardinals lived up to the hype and the Cardinals gave their fans a happy ending in what is likely their final home game for the 2021 season.

UIW scored the final 14 points of the game as their defense held on for a 35-28 overtime victory over the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks in the opening round FCS Playoffs at a rainy Gayle & Tom Benson Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

With the win, the Cardinals earned their first playoff win in program history as their historic 2021 season will live on for at least another week.

“Emotions are pretty high right now,” UIW Head Coach Eric Morris said. “This group has been resilient the entire year. We knew we had our hands full, but our players are battle-tested. We’ve found ways to win games in different ways this year, and that proved to be true again today.”

With the game tied at 21 apiece in the fourth quarter, SFA defensive tackle Rayshad Nichols ripped the ball away from Cardinals quarterback Cameron Ward, running downfield 32 yards for a touchdown that gave the Lumberjacks their first lead of the afternoon, 28-21.

The Cardinals responded when Ward led UIW downfield and found Taylor Grimes for a 7-yard score to knot the score at 28 all and force overtime.

“They rip the ball from us and score a touchdown but we responded,” UIW coach Eric Morris said. “That’s what this team is about – we have a lot of fight and a lot of character we’ve built throughout this year.”

Grimes caught ten passes for 118 yards and three touchdowns and Robert Ferrel added 100 yards receiving on 14 receptions, showing the depth the Cardinals have and how dangerous they will be in the postseason.

Ward finished with 328 yards passing and four touchdowns, completing 39-of-54 passes. Running back Kevin Brown rushed for 44 yards on 10 carries, leading UIW on the ground.

Meanwhile, the Lumberjacks quarterback, Trae Self, had three touchdowns and two interceptions on the afternoon, throwing for 243 yards.

“It was a heartbreaker, and that’s what the playoffs are – it’s a finality to your season and sometimes your career,” SFA Head Coach Colby Carthel said. “It was two good and well-coached football teams and a great crowd. But, unfortunately, we didn’t make the plays we needed to get the win.”

The Lumberjacks had a chance to force double overtime on fourth down but Self’s pass was deflected, giving UIW their first playoff win in program history.

“When their d-lineman ripped the ball out of our hands and scored a touchdown, I looked at all the other guys on defense, and they were ready to ball and prove that we’re the best defense in FCS right now,” UIW linebacker Kelechi Anyalebechi said.

UP NEXT:

The UIW Cardinals (10-2) will now head to Huntsville to face No. 1 Sam Houston State (10-0) at 2 p.m. from Elliott T. Bowers Stadium.

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