VALDOSTA -- Got plans for a late night tonight at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium?
The way Harding (3-0) and Valdosta State (1-1) have played so far this season, it could be well into the fourth quarter before this Gulf South Conference matchup is decided.
The two teams meet at 7 p.m. today at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium, the Blazers' first game inside the rebuilt facility (radio: 107.9 FM).
The Blazers' first two games have been settled in the fourth quarter. VSU and Albany State traded leads before the Rams' late field goal in a 24-22 ASU. Last week, VSU won a battle of field position, scoring 16 unanswered fourth-quarter points to take a 40-19 win at Ouachita Baptist.
Harding's three wins (by a combined 19 points) have been more dramatic. The first one, a 17-10 win over Southwest Baptist, was clinched with a touchdown midway in the fourth quarter.
The Bisons' last two wins have had a more dramatic flare. Harding rallied from a 21-3 deficit at the half to win at Missouri Southern, 32-27. Last week, Harding scored twice in the last nine minutes to overcome West Georgia, 28-21.
In fact, Harding's last seven wins have come by seven points or less.
"Their coaching staff has been together for a long time, and they play hard," said VSU head coach Chris Hatcher. "That's the best compliment I can give anybody."
Harding head coach Randy Tribble is in his 11th year as the Bisons' head coach. He, like Hatcher, are coaching their alma mater.
The constant in those Harding wins? Junior quarterback Adam Lybrand. The 6-foot-1, 195-pound junior ran for the late score against Southwest Baptist, then ran for two scores and threw for a third in the rally against Missouri Southern.
Against West Georgia, he threw for both of Harding's comeback touchdowns.
Lybrand is Harding's leading rusher (146 yards, three touchdowns) and has passed for 663 yards and five scores (three interceptions).
"He's a real good player. He can beat you running and throwing," said Hatcher. "He's very similar to Will Hall (North Alabama's Harlon Hill Trophy winner last season) and (Albany State's) Uyl Joyner. We can't let him run loose on us."
What to do?
"We have to play smart football," Hatcher said. "We've got to go through our reads and not overpursue.
"We've been working on that for a long time, and we've been getting better each week."
Valdosta State would like to cut down on the mistakes which has plagued the young Blazers early. VSU is the most penalized team in the Gulf South Conference (24 accepted penalties in two games).
"We simplified our game plan more than we've ever had before because we have so many young players," Hatcher said. "They've got to know their assignments, lineup correctly and play hard for 60 minutes."
Valdosta State's senior running back Tyran Robinson is tied for third in the Gulf South Conference in all-purpose yards (274). He's scored three of VSU's eight touchdowns.
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