MONTICELLO, Ark. — Valdosta State’s quest for an undefeated season came to a screeching halt on Saturday night, as the fourth-ranked Blazers fell to the Arkansas-Monticello Boll Weevils, 23-9.
The Blazers were hampered by five turnovers on the night to go along with a season-high 177 penalty yards, while the Boll Weevils overcame inconsistent offense to score 20 fourth quarter points to secure the win.
“We didn’t tackle well, we didn’t throw the ball well, we didn’t catch the ball well, we didn’t block well,” Valdosta State head coach David Dean said. “We didn’t execute well.”
Valdosta State quarterback Austen Roberts was roughed up all night, throwing four interceptions, while completing 21 of 40 passes for 227 yards.
“It is obviously frustrating right now,” Roberts said. “We are obviously a lot better than that and we didn’t play up to par tonight.”
Even with the penalties and turnovers, Valdosta State had its chances. Trailing 10-6 in the fourth quarter, after Monticello took the lead on a 16-play, 85-yard drive, the Blazer defense made a pivotal fourth down stand, giving VSU possession of the ball at its own 4-yard line.
Unfortunately for the Blazers, the ball didn’t remain in their possession for long, as David Bailey fumbled away the ball after breaking loose for a 16-yard run.
“Basically, I lost the game on that fumble,” said Bailey, who finished the game with 124 yards rushing on 19 carries. “It is a sick feeling and I take full responsibility. It is a sick feeling in that locker room right now, and we don’t want to feel that way again. We have to play better and I have to play better.”
Dean was less critical on Bailey’s fumble, blaming the loss on a multiple amount of things.
“There is not much you can say to (David) right now,” Dean said. “He feels bad about the fumble, but he did not cost us the football game. If one fumble would have cost us the game, then that is a different story.”
The Boll Weevils wasted little time making the Blazers pay following Bailey’s fumble, as quarterback Damon Wicker, who replaced starting quarterback Kyle Manning in the second half, broke loose for a 21-yard rushing touchdown on the very next play.
Manning’s score gave the Boll Weevils a 17-6 advantage with eight minutes to play, putting the pressure on Valdosta State.
The Blazers were able to answer, although it was a 39-yard field goal by Daniel Andersen, and not a touchdown.
Following Andersen’s third field goal of the night, the Blazer defense couldn’t muster a defensive stop, as the Boll Weevils drove 65 yards on eight plays.
The drive was capped off by a 27-yard rushing touchdown, giving the Boll Weevils a 23-9 lead.
VSU’s final possession was finished off with Roberts’ fourth interception of the night, securing the win for Monticello.
Roberts’ struggles began early in the game, throwing an interception on the Blazers’ opening offensive play.
“They just played good,” Roberts said. “We can’t turn the ball over like that. I feel like we have to eliminate our mistakes, from turnovers to penalties and everything.”
The Blazer defense stepped up to the challenge of facing a short field, forcing Monticello to a 32-yard field goal, which put the Boll Weevils ahead 3-0.
Following a punt on VSU’s next possession, the Boll Weevils dominated the time of possession, driving 56 yards on 13 plays, holding the ball for over 11 minutes of play.
Once again, the Blazer defense rose to the challenge, blocking Monticello’s field goal attempt.
Following the blocked field goal, Roberts put together VSU’s most impressive drive of the opening half, driving the offense 72 yards across 15 plays, setting up Andersen’s first field goal of the night, a 25-yard chip shot.
The score remained even at halftime, with the Blazers being hampered by 80 penalty yards, not including a 15-yard penalty that was assessed towards VSU to begin the second half, after being flagged for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, which occurred after the end of the first half.
The Blazers didn’t seemed fazed by the penalty to begin the half, driving 48 yards and taking over seven minutes off the clock, setting up a 41-yard go-ahead field goal by Andersen. VSU’s lead stood until Monticello’s 22-yard touchdown pass from Wicker to Willie Landers, which gave UAM a 10-6 lead.
The Blazers will look to rebound next Saturday, when they visit Ouachita Baptist for a 2 p.m. (Eastern time) game. Much like VSU, the Tigers are coming off a loss, after falling to Delta State, 45-14.
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