For nearly every college student across the country, finals week is one of the toughest, most stressful weeks of the year.
This week, members of Valdosta State’s football team were forced to balance the hectic schedule of final exams and a full practice schedule in preparation for Saturday’s Division II national semifinal matchup against Minnesota State-Mankato.
“It is pretty hard,” receiver Quin Roberson said. “But at the end of the day, we are student-athletes and our books come first. It is hard to balance this week.”
One major obstacle players faced this week was rescheduling exams that were originally scheduled for today. The Blazers are set to depart for Mankato from Valdosta Regional Airport at 11 a.m.
“If I was younger, I think it would be tougher,” senior offensive lineman Mesh Wokomaty said. “I think as you get older, it gets easier. I’m a senior now; I know how to manage my time. That is the biggest thing, managing your time.”
Throughout the week, head coach David Dean has stressed the importance of finals to his players.
“They came here to be student-athletes, so they have to take care of their finals,” Dean said. “One thing that I have stressed to these guys is, ‘Take your academics serious and do well in your studies. When you’re away from the fieldhouse, make sure you’re studying and not goofing off. But when you come out here for practice, the reason you came to Valdosta State was for football, so come out here and have some fun. Let this be your outlet from the work you have to do.’”
Blazers not worried about natural grass
Saturday’s game will mark just the second time this season Valdosta State will play a football games on a natural playing surface.
Eleven of the Blazers’ 12 games this season have been played on artificial field turf. The Blazers’ only other time playing on natural grass this season was Oct. 6 at West Georgia. They won the game 42-6.
Despite temperatures in Mankato being projected to be in the mid-30's on Saturday and a 40 percent chance of snow being forecast for Friday, the Blazers are not concerned about the playing surface for Saturday's game.
“It looks great,” Dean said. “It's nice and green.”
Dean said several Blazer players actually thought the playing field at Mankato's Blakeslee Stadium was an artificial surface, when watching game film.
“Our guys were looking at film and I told them it was natural grass and they all thought I was lying to them,” Dean said. “They all thought it was a turf field. It looks that good. It looks like they take good care of it and it is well-manicured. So I think it is going to be a good, fast surface.”
Despite the game being played on a natural field surface, the Blazers will not wear their black pants, which they wore at West Georgia. When the Blazers unveiled their new uniforms in August, it was announced they would wear white pants on the road on artificial surfaces, but black pants on natural grass.
That isn't the case this weekend.
“The guys said they wanted to wear white-on-white,” Dean said.