The Blazers won their 20th consecutive win and the 299th program victory on Saturday against Mississippi College. The 42-17 victory made the Blazers 5-0 this season as they head to Delta State this weekend. Here are six takeaways:
One week after the Blazers set a new school rushing record powered Jamar Thompkins’ 150 yards, the sophomore back displayed his big play abilities again. Thompkins rushed for 149 yards on 10 carries and three touchdowns against the Choctaws. Hidden in the 10 touches were two runs of 50 or more yards. A 54-yard touchdown run in the first quarter and a 68-yard run before being forced out of bounds just before scoring in the fourth. It wasn’t a record setting performance, but it established the Blazers running game as a legitimate threat. VSU has four capable running options out of their backfield with running back Seth McGill and quarterbacks Rogan Wells and Ivory Durham all complimenting Thompkins’ attack. The more the Blazers display this prowess, the harder it becomes to accurately gameplay against them.
Defense Still Unbroken
The Black Swarm held the Choctaws to 253 yards of total offense in 66 plays. They also kept them scoreless through the final 22 minutes of game time. That allowed the Blazers offense to score three more touchdowns to pull away from what appeared to be a close contest. When Mississippi College was forced to throw the ball more in the second half, it played into the defensive strength of the Blazers. Pressure up front forced throws that were nearly —and should’ve been — intercepted. They’ve done it all season and as long as they play with a lead they’ll likely continue to do it.
Scheduling Soft Spot
The Blazers may have found a soft spot in their schedule ahead of the looming matchup against West Florida and West Georgia to close the year out. The five game stretch of Shorter, Mississippi College, Delta State, Florida Tech and North Greenville feature the four teams that finished at the bottom of the conference rankings last season. Florida Tech was the only program to finish with a winning record from that group. In fact, the other four schools combined for nine wins and 32 losses last season. Having the tougher teams intermittent throughout the season allows for the Blazers to build momentum and familiarity. The thought process is that by the time they have to face the top conference foes, they’ll be at peak performance. Whether intentional, or not, thus far the theory has worked.
Next Man Up
Injuries are the worst part of sports in my opinion. To see athletes pour their hearts and souls into a sport and physically unable to continue sucks. The Blazers have their fair share of injuries currently. Notably, Nick Moss is out with a broken leg and Kenny Benjamin was taken out of the game against the Choctaws with a leg injury of his own. Despite these blows, the Blazers are still chugging along. The team has a “next man up mentality” to combat injuries. If one player goes down another comes in playing just as hard to keep the result the same. It’s a good solution to an uncontrollable issue.
Statistically, the Blazers are playing better on the road than at home. Through two road games, they’re outscoring opponents 82-10. They’ve out gained opponents in total offense 1,097 to 346. Now the Blazers are headed to Cleveland, Mississippi with hopes of more of the same. This season, Delta State will be looking to play spoiler for the Blazer’s perfect season. The Statesmen will have added motivation after taking a 48-3 drubbing against West Florida last weekend. Last season the two teams were locked at 28 going into the half, but a 31 point outburst over the final two quarters and a second half shutout gave VSU a 59-28 win.
Chance at History
Saturday could spell history for the defending national champs. A win against Delta State would be the 300th win in program history. To do it in the midst of the current win streak should put a lot things into perspective. The Blazers have put 20 consecutive wins together. Gary Goff, a former VSU player, is the head coach currently. It’s time to acknowledge the history that we are all able to share in. Whether the Blazers win or lose on Saturday, this is the “golden era” for football at Valdosta State. We’ll all be able to look back at this time and acknowledge the coaches and players that were able to achieve this and appreciate it. But for now, it’s just business as usual.