The Valdosta Daily Times
Valdosta State continued their dominance in September by stifling Angelo State's offense and riding the 'Black Swarm" to another big victory 37-3.
VSU owned an 80-31-1 record in September coming into the contest and the trend continued on Saturday.
A week after securing their first shutout since 2010, the Blazers nearly blanked the Rams if it wasn't for a third quarter field goal with VSU up 20-0.
Since their week two bye, the Blazers have won the last two games against Shorter College and Angelo State by a combined score of 78-3.
"I think that in order to be a good football team you've got to improve each and every week," said VSU head coach David Dean. "We've been very fortunate, I think we're still making a lot of mistakes and we've got to correct those, but it's a matter of everyone doing there job, everyone playing hard, and everybody understanding what we're trying to do on each and every snap, and I think that's why we've had the lopsided scores that we've had."
If there were a lot of mistakes made by the Blazers, the Rams could not capitalize.
On Valdosta State's first drive of the game, the offense moved into field goal range before the drive would stall, and back-up place kicker Anthony Pistelli, in for Thomas Bailey, missed his first career field goal.
With the ball on their 20-yard line, Angelo State moved the ball well on the ground as they closed in on the first points of the game, but VSU had different plans.
Valdosta State jumped out to a quick lead thanks to an 86-yard fumble recovery for a score by Dominique Wheeler.
When VSU got the ball back they wasted no time marching right down the field, led by the arm of quarterback Cayden Cochran. The Blazers took a 14-0 lead on a six-yard pass from Cochran to Seantavious Jones.
Both defenses played a bend-don't-break style in the second quarter, both allowing just two field goal attempts for each team.
Fortunately for the Blazers, Pistelli came through, the Rams kicker Rhett Peterson could not.
Pistelli hit on the first two field goals of his collegiate career from 30 yards and 25 yards, respectively, while Peterson would miss both of his attempts in the quarter, resulting in a 20-0 halftime lead for Valdosta State.
Despite the lopsided score, Angelo State out gained VSU in the half 172 to 158, with 144 of those yards coming on the ground. However, two turnovers kept the Rams from seriously threatening the scoreboard.
While the Rams had found a way to slow the Blazers rushing attack in the first half — only 57 yards on 13 carries combined for Cedric O'Neil and Austin Scott — they had no answer for Cochran and his seemingly new favorite target, Willie Downs.
Cochran was 12-16 with 94 yards in the first half, 50 of those courtesy of two big catches by Downs.
The trend continued in the second half.
Cochran and Downs connected eight times for 160 yards in the game, 53 of which came on a drive mid-way through the third quarter resulting in a 37 yard touchdown to put the Blazers up 27-3.
"It's an accomplishment that's well-deserved," said Downs of his first 100-yard game with VSU. "I've been trying to get to that point. I knew I had the ability to do it, but just as far as showing off my talent, I made it happen and I feel good about the situation."
Downs credits the contributions of the entire offense with the way he's been able to come in to the program and immediately establish himself as one of Cochran's top targets.
"It's all about the understanding of the game," said Downs. "The coaches believe in me, it's my quarterback, as far as the offense, it's everyone coming together and doing their part. I just came out and did mine."
Downs' night may have been even more special if it wasn't for an odd personal foul call early in the fourth quarter.
With the Blazers looking to put the nail in Angelo State's coffin, Cochran connected with Downs down the middle of the field for another 37-yard score, but the touchdown was taken off the board for what the official ruled unsportsmanlike conduct.
Downs caught the ball and tried to keep his balance with two defenders close behind, but the officials threw the flag, claiming Downs "high stepped" into the end-zone. The penalty was enforced from the spot of the catch and Cochran would be picked off on the next play.
VSU would have to wait until their next drive to salt the game.
Despite some tough going for the running game, Scott was able to get going late in the fourth quarter to help the Blazers run the clock down and pick up first downs, accounting for 53 of the 67 yards on the drive before crossing the goal line and putting VSU up by the final margin 37-3.
Chris Pope had 10 tackles in the game giving him 305 in his career and moving him to third place on the Blazers' all-time list. Pope needs just 64 more tackles this season to pass former Blazer and Atlanta Falcons great Jessie Tuggle for the most tackles in a Valdosta State uniform.
"Honestly, I don't really focus on it right now," said Pope. "I'm just trying to come out and help my team win. I don't really worry about it right now."
The defending national champions will be back in action next Saturday when Flordia Tech travels to Bazemore-Hyder Stadium. The game is set to start at 3 p.m.