Valdosta State 22, West Alabama 21
One week after a dominating performance against Ouachita Baptist, the Blazer offense was less than stellar against the Tigers in VSU’s Gulf South Conference opener. The Blazer offense accounted for just one touchdown, which came on the opening drive when Reggie Lewis found Scott Fambrough for a 46-yard trick play passing score.
The Blazer offense was able to drive down for a second quarter field goal, but that was it. Besides the two lone scoring drives, the offense accounted for an interception, three punts, two turnovers on downs, and a missed field goal.
Redshirt sophomore Cayden Cochran made his first career start in a Blazer uniform. Cochran completed 22 of 32 passing attempts for 144 yards with an interception, although it looked as though wide receiver Tray Herndon stopped running on the route.
For the second straight week, sophomore Seantavious Jones led the team in receptions. “Stretch” recorded eight receptions for 60 yards while Herndon added six catches for 35 yards. Sophomore Griffin Roelle, who entered the game tied for the most receptions on the team, was nearly held without a catch, as the Lassiter High School alum recorded just one catch for one-yard on the afternoon.
Junior David Bailey led Valdosta State in rushing, racking up 81 yards on 16 carries, while Theseus Jackson managed just 13 yards on the ground. Freshman Troy Braswell was held without any offensive touches on the afternoon.
The Blazer defense was given a lot of credit and praise for the victory, as the defense forced three interceptions. Linebacker Ryan Smith intercepted a pass that ended a potential scoring drive for the Tigers, while cornerback Matt Pierce intercepted two UWA passes, both of which were returned for touchdowns.
No play in Saturday’s game was larger than Pierce’s second pick-six, as it gave VSU the lead with 5:25 to play.
Besides the interceptions, the Blazer defense struggled. West Alabama was able to run up and down the field, racking up 301 yards on the ground, en route to 420 total offensive yards. Tiger running back Matt Willis rushed for 219 yards on 31 carries, becoming the first 200-yard rusher against Valdosta State since 2008.
Senior Harrison Dreiling led the Blazers in tackles with 15, while linebacker Chris Pope added 10. Brooks County native Japree Miles added nine tackles, six of which were solo.
Defensive end Tyler Josey, who missed last season with an injury, was once again a problem for the opposing offensive line, as Josey recorded two tackles for loss.
Special teams: C –
For the second straight week, the Blazer special teams struggled. Kicker Daniel Andersen missed a second quarter extra point, which looked as though it was going to comeback and hurt Valdosta State, as they led by just two (16-14) at halftime.
Andersen also missed a second half field goal, adding to the ineffectiveness of the Blazer offense.
Jack Fulford was once again a bright spot for the VSU special teams, as Fulford managed a career long 69-yard punt in the second quarter. Fulford was given a standing ovation by the 6,961 fans in attendance.
The Valdosta State return game was unable to manage much, as Quin Roberson managed one punt return for six yards. The kick return game was slightly better, as the Blazers managed 23.2 yards per return.
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