VALDOSTA –– No.1 Valdosta State opened its 2019 campaign with a 38-3 win over Albany State. Here are six takeaways from the game:
Quarterback play was probably the biggest key in the Blazers win. VSU didn’t turn over the ball and it started with man behind center. Rogan Wells and Ivory Durham combined for 238 yards, on 24-of-27 passing with two touchdowns and no interceptions. The efforts earned Wells his seventh Gulf South Conference Player of the Week award. Wells added 50 yards on five carries with no fumbles in the contest in a very strong opening performance for the Harlon Hill runner-up.
Weapons Still Work
In addition to the strong play from the quarterbacks, the weapons on offense still performed up to par. Jamar Thompkins and Seth McGill were responsible for 108 total yards and three touchdowns. Receivers Lio’undre Gallimore, Kenny Benjamin and Brian Saunds accounted for 168 yards. Each were key pieces of the Blazers' record-setting offense from a season ago.
Offense Still Potent, Just Slower
The Blazers scored six times on Saturday and four of those instances were created by drives that spanned more than five minutes. The 2018 rendition of the Blazers averaged less than 30 minutes in time of possession. On Saturday, the Blazers had more than 37 minutes of possession time. If there were any concerns of the offense taking a step backwards this season, it was answered on Saturday.
Cory in the House
If you aren’t familiar with the name Cory Roberts, you soon will be. Roberts is the starting safety for the Blazers and has a knack for being in the right place at the right time. He played behind All-American Ravarius Rivers and long-time Blazer Raymond Palmer last season. He was one of the standout players during VSU’s fall camp and he carried his play over into the opening game. Roberts had four tackles, one interception, and one pass breakup. He’ll be a shoe-in for the All-Conference team, and depending on this season's production, he could join the list of All-American selections for the Blazers.
Black Swarm bends, doesn’t break
Senior linebacker Nick Moss noted how well the Blazers contained the Golden Rams after the game. Albany State averaged 25 points per game last season. They only managed to score a field goal against the Blazers. That’s not a knock on the Golden Rams, but a praise for the VSU defense. The Black Swarm was very instrumental to the success of the team and this season could see more of the same. The Blazers finished with 51 total tackles, four pass breakups and two interceptions.
Special teams inconclusive
VSU graduated Gavin Wilson and Andrew Gray who handled the punting and field goal responsibilities for the Blazers last season.
Tyson Shaw and Fernando Ramirez filled those roles on Saturday but the contest didn’t provide a large enough sample size to make an accurate analysis. Shaw had one punt attempt and it traveled 41 yards, putting Albany State inside their own 20. Shaw also had seven kickoffs that sailed into the end zone for a total of 455 yards. Adversely, Ramirez had two field goal opportunities. The first was pushed wide from 30 yards out opening the season with a miss. His second attempt was a make from 27 yards.
Having reliable special teams is a safety net the Blazers will need as the season continues. It’s worth watching Shaw and Ramirez throughout the first few games.