SCORE: #7 Valdosta State 48, West Florida 21
RECORDS: Valdosta State 9-0 (7-0 GSC), West Florida 6-4 (4-3 GSC)
LOCATION: Pensacola, Fla. (Blue Wahoo Stadium)
THE LEAD: The No. 7 Valdosta State football team trailed in the second half for the first time all season, but dug deep for a 48-21 win at West Florida Saturday afternoon for a perfect 9-0 start. VSU outscored UWF 31-7 and 24-0 in the fourth quarter for the win. With the win, VSU and No. 3 West Georgia are scheduled to battle in an epic matchup next Saturday at 7 p.m. at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium for the Gulf South Conference title and a potential first round bye in the NCAA playoffs.
HOW IT HAPPENED:
- On a third and 13 from the VSU 19, Wells broke free for a career-long 81-yard run and a 7-0 lead on the first possession of the game.
- The VSU "D" stood tall and UWF field goal kicker Austin Williams missed a 33-yarder on the Argos' first possession.
- VSU redshirt freshman Jamar Thompkins fumbled on the ensuing drive, but the Blazer defense came up big again as senior David Brown stripped Chris Schwarz on a 2nd and 10 at the VSU 14 as Brown recovered the miscue for the second stop of the game in the red zone by the Blazers.
- On the ensuing drive, VSU marched down the field and Wells found sophomore Travis Taylor over the middle for 19-yards and a 14-0 lead with 2:48 left in the first quarter.
- The Argos used a 3rd and 6 from the VSU 24 as Nick Belz found Ishmel Morrow for 24-yards and a 14-7 score early in the second quarter.
- Wells had his pass, on a 3rd and 10 from the VSU 43, deflected and picked off by Marvin Conley as he returned it 23 yards.
- Belz found Tate Lehtio on a 4th and 6 from the VSU 33 for 24-yards and Belz hit Lehtio for a six-yard score and a 14-14 game with 7:23 left in the half.
- The Blazers then used a 10 play, 49-yard drive as senior Andrew Gray connected on a 38-yard field goal for a 17-14 lead with 2:34 left in the half.
- VSU's "D" came up with a sack on Belz on a 3rd and 3 from the UWF 33 as the Argos had to punt late in the half as the Blazers marched down to the UWF 30 with no timeouts. Gray missed a 47-yarder hitting the upright as time expired.
- Following a three-and-out by the Argos on the first possession of the second half, VSU marched to the UWF 39, but was unable to get any closer as UWF forced the first punt by the Blazers in the game.
- VSU forced UWF to punt on its second possession of the half, but VSU fumbled the punt return as UWF began its drive at the VSU four.
- Schwarz scored from one yard out for a 21-17 UWF lead as it marked the first time VSU had trailed in the second half all season and the first time overall since the first half of the Delta State game (Oct. 6).
- UWF for some reason tried an onside kick, but the Blazers came up with the ball at their own 41. VSU quickly moved down the field, all on the ground, for a first and goal at the seven. Wells then called his own number for his second rushing touchdown of the game putting VSU back in front 24-21 with 2:37 left in the third.
- VSU had a promising drive as it used the remaining time in the third quarter and fumbled at the UWF 21. On the ensuing play, Belz was intercepted by senior Craig Watts who returned it to the UWF 13 for a huge defensive play by the Blazers.
- On 3rd and goal for the Blazers from the six, Wells' pass sailed high for sophomore Brian Saunds as Gray connected on a 23-yard field goal for a 27-21 score.
- Belz, on a 3rd and 17, tossed his second pick in as many throws, this time for a pick-six as senior Raymond Palmer returned the pick 33-yards for a 34-21 score with 10:02 left. It was the fourth interception return for a touchdown by the Blazers this season. It was Palmer's second return for a score this season.
- Following a punt by the Argos, VSU moved down the field and freshman quarterback Ivory Durham scored off a one yard run for a 41-21 lead with 3:19 left.
- Schwarz coughed up the ball at the UWF 43 as Durham used a big run to the UWF 26 for 22 yards and sophomore Kenny Benjamin scored from 26 out for a 48-21 final.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS:
- For the first half, VSU tallied 277 yards of offense on 35 plays, while rushing 18 times for 160 yards and Wells was 11 of 17 for 117 yards one touchdown and one interception.
- Wells had six carries for 95 yards and a score on the ground.
- Belz was 7 of 9 passing for the Argos for 82 yards and two touchdowns as UWF rushed the ball 21 times for 89 yards. UWF had 33 plays for 175 yards for the half.
- VSU tallied 557 yards rushing for the game with 70 plays and an average of 8.0 yards per play. The Blazers had 391 yards rushing for an 8.3 average, while throwing for 166 yards.
- Despite four turnovers by both teams, VSU outscored UWF 24-14 on points off miscues.
- UWF tallied just 279 yards for the game with 149 on the ground and 130 through the air.
- Thompkins paced the Blazers with 114 yards on 13 carries, while Wells had 104 yards on 11 carries and two scores on the ground.
- Wells was 14 of 23 for 166 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
- Schwarz had 118 yards on the ground on 26 carries and a score, while Belz was 10 of 17 for 101 yards, two touchdowns and two INTs.
- Defensively, the Blazers were led by eight tackles from junior Ravarius Rivers as he had one tackle for loss, a forced fumble and a fumble return. Four different Blazers had seven tackles each.
- VSU improved to 9-0 for the best start since 2002 when the team began the season 14-0 and the 7-0 start in league play is the best since 2004, marking the first year VSU won the national championship.
- VSU improved to 3-0 all-time against UWF and has scored 30 or more points in each of the three meetings, outscoring the Argos 108-68.
- The Wolves and Blazers are set for the championship matchup next Saturday as it will be arguably the biggest regular season game in both school's history as it also will be the GSC Game of the Week and will be broadcast on ESPN3 and the Watch ESPN App.