The Virginia Union Panthers begin their quest for a Division II championship this Saturday when they open up the playoffs at home against the Wingate Bulldogs.
This is the first time Virginia Union has been in the postseason since 2015 and their first time hosting a playoff game dating back to 1990.
The Panthers had a spectacular 9-1 overall record in the regular season boasting one of the top offenses in all of Division II football, averaging 43.9 points per game.
The run game, which has averaged 234.9 yards per game, is the key to the Panthers and has accounted for 33 of the team’s 54 total offensive touchdowns.
Not only is the Panthers’ offense one to be reckoned with, but they have a defense that provides great balance. The unit allows just 16.5 points per game. As elite as their run offense is, they are equally as good defending the run, allowing just 71.9 rushing yards per game.
What to know about Wingate
Wingate, on the other hand, finished with a 9-2 overall record securing their first playoff appearance since 2019. Their defense will provide an excellent challenge for the Panthers’ top-notch offense.
The Bulldogs led the country allowing just 210.1 offensive yards per game, including 60.1 rushing yards per game.
The Bulldogs’ ability to attack the opposing quarterback is their biggest strength. They recorded 45 total sacks on the season. The defense also has recorded14 interceptions — the second most in the SAC.
Meanwhile, the Bulldogs’ offense is as balanced as they come averaging 182.8 passing yards per game and 158.4 rushing yards.
Players to Watch
Virginia Union RB Jada Byers
CIAA Offensive Player of the Year Jada Byers is one of the most electric playmakers in all of college football and is the catalyst for the success of the Panthers’ offense. Byers led the nation with 180.9 rushing yards per game while finishing fifth with 19 rushing touchdowns. He rushed for over 100 yards or scored a touchdown in all but one game this season.
Virginia Union DL Isaac Anderson
Leading the way for Virginia Union’s defense is sophomore All-CIAA defensive lineman Isaac Anderson. Anderson finished fourth in the CIAA with 14 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks. The Panthers’ sophomore had a big performance in the team’s season finale against Virginia State recording six tackles and three tackles for loss.
Wingate QB Shaw Crocker
Wingate quarterback Shaw Crocker is a dual-threat under center. Not only did Crocker average 183.4 passing yards per game and threw 20 touchdowns, but he also scored a team-high five rushing TDs. Crocker also ended his season strong against UVA-Wise accounting for five total touchdowns.
Wingate DE DJ Thorne
SAC Piedmont Defensive Player of the Year DJ Thorne will be tasked with containing the elite Virginia Union defense. Thorne ranked third in the conference in total sacks (9.5) and tied for second in tackles for loss (15.5). He was huge in the Bulldogs’ win over Fayetteville State. Against the Broncos he recorded two tackles for loss and a pair of sacks.
Virginia Union 35-27