Valdosta Daily Times

April 13, 2014

Valdosta State’s offense comes alive, narrowly defeating the ‘Black Swarm’ 59-55

Jamie Wachter
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — Worried more about helping Valdosta State win than impressing in his quarterback battle, Kaleb Nobles got the opportunity to do both at the end of the Blazers' spring game Saturday.

Nobles and the No. 2 offense took over at its own 30 with 1:31 remaining and the offense trailing at VSU's practice field with fans lining both sidelines and the side of the athletic fieldhouse. Seven plays later, Nobles hit Xay Howard for a 3-yard touchdown on the scrimmage's final play to lift the offense to a 59-55 win.

"It's a good feeling to finally put everything together on offense," Nobles said. "I thought we looked good out there as a whole. Everybody played good.

"As far as the situation, whenever your number is called you have to be ready to go in there and make plays. If you're the starter, make plays. If you're No. 2, you have to be ready to go in there."

He certainly answered the call in the final drive. Following incompletions on the first two plays, Nobles hit Chris Anderson for 18 yards and a first down. Then after a sack - the second of the scrimmage from senior defensive end Tevin Davis - Nobles found Anderson for 37 yards. The sophomore quarterback, who played extensively in four games a year ago, followed that with a 25-yard completion to Howard, which set up the game-winning score a play later.

"It worked out very well with that last stop the defense made, it put them ahead and it forced our offense to have to go down and score," VSU coach David Dean said. "It worked out well in that we had to execute our two-minute offense to win the game, and we've done that twice now.

"He stood in there and made some clutch throws, some great throws. A couple of throws with touch on them too, which is always hard to do in clutch situations because guys always want to rifle it in there. But he had the presence of mind to take a little bit off and that's good to see.

"I feel really good about our quarterback situation right now."

Nobles, who unofficially completed 13 of 22 passes for 221 yards with three touchdowns and one interception, got that opportunity after VSU's defense capitalized on its opportunities to take the scrimmage lead with a system that awarded points for three-and-outs (seven), preventing the offense from reaching midfield (six) and turnovers (four) in addition to defensive scores, which it had three. Preceding the final drive, the Blazer defense scored its final touchdown when it recovered a fumble in the end zone and then forced a three-and-out.

"Three scores for the defense says a lot about those guys," Dean said.

Added Nobles: "The defense has played great all spring, flying around and making plays."

That swarming defense victimized Nobles early in the second half when senior linebacker Rodney Hunter stepped in front of a first-down pass and rumbled 75 yards the other way for his second score. In the first half, he caught a deflected ball and returned it around 30 yards.

"Play hard, toughness, the 'Black Swarm,'" Hunter said. "That's what we live by, run to the ball. That's our mindset out there.

"I saw money. I have to go make that money and that's all I saw when the ball was in the air. I've got to go make a play on it."

Added Dean: "They were two great plays that he made.

"Kaleb did throw that one interception but that was just a great play by Rodney. I would have done the same thing if I had been quarterbacking."

But that was about the only mark against Nobles or Jake Medlock, a senior transfer from Florida International. Medlock, who started the scrimmage with the No. 1 offense before the two alternated series with both the top two units, got off to a slow start before finding his rhythm. The former Golden Panthers' starter completed just one of his first six passes and was frustrating himself.

"I did start off slow, I was even, 'Come on Jake. Come on,'" he said.

But then Tyre Waiters laid out on a third-down snap, making a 56-yard grab with full extension of his 6-foot-3 frame. From there, Medlock settled in and the offense took off, as he found Howard for his first touchdown three plays later. Medlock finished 11 of 20 for 216 yards and three touchdowns.

"I think it was just that one completion," Medlock said. "I just needed that one completion to get my rhythm. I just started to slow things down and go through my reads.

"I think I was a little tight because it's my last spring game ever. And then I got excited. So I just slowed myself down and got into a rhythm."

While Medlock and the No. 1 offense took time to get started, the No. 2s scored on their first two drives. The first score came on a 45-yard run from Nick Davis. The Blazers also got a rushing score on the final play of the first half when Cedric O'Neal broke free from 74 yards out on a third-and-9.

Still, Medlock didn't do it alone. Nor did Nobles.

Rather, as Waiters' early catch showed, they had help from their receivers. Shane Henderson, a midterm enrollee after transferring from Hancock College, hauled in a scrimmage-high five catches for 129 yards and two touchdowns, the first coming on a 53-yard play from Nobles where he got wide open behind the defense and the second on a 22-yard pass from Medlock on a pass that flew over a leaping Waiters, who finished with three catches for 98 yards. Howard had three scores, two on jump balls, on four catches for 50 yards. The final passing score came when Brandon Paden had Medlock's pass nestle into his stomach as he crashed into the end zone with a defensive back wrapped on him.

"They did a great job, all of the receivers," Medlock said. "Shane, Tyre, Xay, Bambi. It was unbelievable how great they were all doing. We've come together so close as a unit throughout this whole spring.

"At the end, all we want is for Valdosta State to win the national championship."