VALDOSTA -- Does seven days of practice without one game make one weak?

Valdosta State head coach Chris Hatcher will find out about his team tonight. It opens Gulf South Conference play against Delta State, kickoff at 7 p.m. at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium.

"I hope we're ready to play. We have to go defend our title this week," said Hatcher, whose team begins a quest for a third-straight Gulf South Conference title against a program with which it shared the 2000 title.

VSU hasn't played since a 32-6 win over Fort Valley State Sept. 7 at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium.

History shows the Statesmen (0-2) have done well in making the long trip into the Eastern Time Zone. Delta's won the last three games in Valdosta, including breaking a seven-game losing streak in 1997 (27-23) and a 45-35 win in 2000, one of only three losses Hatcher's Blazers have suffered.

The Statesmen had won six-straight games vs. VSU until last season, when the Blazers flew into the Mississippi Delta and ran away with a 70-12 victory -- after DSU had taken a 12-7 lead early in the second quarter.

"Delta State has had a little success with us in the past. We've got a lot to prove," Hatcher said. "We've got a new team. They've got a new team and a new coach. We're going to go out play our game and hope it's good enough."

This is Delta State's third-straight road game. It lost at Division I-AA Northwestern State, Georgia's opponent today, 35-7, then fell to area rival and Division I-AA foe Mississippi Valley State, 28-26, last Saturday.

Junior David Yeates ran for 192 yards and three touchdowns against Valley. He's run for 266 yards in two games.

Delta's defense has given up just 15 yards rushing in two games, but has allowed 572 passing yards

"They don't play as much man coverage than in the past," Hatcher said. "Their front is as good as we will see all year long."

The Blazers (2-0) should be bolstered by the return of junior running back Aaron Jenkins, who had 172 yards rushing and two touchdowns against Delta State last season. Jenkins injured a shoulder early in the Albany State game, a 26-0 win, and was held out of the Fort Valley State game.

Buster Faulkner has threw for 493 yards and six touchdowns in two games. Senior tight end C.J. Lofton has caught 12 passes, two for touchdowns.

Linebacker Marlin Adams leads the Black Swarm defense with 17 tackles and three quarterback sacks. The Swam has allowed just 229 total yards and one touchdown in two games.

Delta State is now coached by Rick Rhoades, who followed current Georgia Tech coach Chan Gailey at Troy State. Troy won GSC titles under Rhoades in 1986 and 1987, and won the 1987 Division II title.

Delta's assistant head coach is Cody Gross, who quarterbacked North Alabama against Hatcher's Blazers in the early 1990s.

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