VALDOSTA, Ga. - Valdosta State recorded its first shutout in nearly three years as the top-ranked Blazers defeated Shorter 41-0 in Gulf South Conference football action at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium Saturday evening.
With the win, Valdosta State improved to 2-0 on the season and 1-0 in Gulf South Conference play while Shorter fell to 0-3 and 0-1 in league action.
The shutout was the first for the Blazers since VSU defeated North Alabama 5-0 on October 14, 2010, a span of 30 games.
After struggling some in the first half, Valdosta State's offense came alive in the second half as it scored on three of its first four possessions of the frame. Leading 13-0 entering the second half, the Blazers got a 29-yard kickoff return from Nick Davis to open the half on its own 30 yard line. After a pair of rushes netted no yards, Shorter was penalized for on an off-sides call to bring up a third-and-five play for VSU. On the ensuing play, Regginald Lewis caught a pass from Cayden Cochran and out-raced the defense for a 65 yard touchdown reception that put VSU in front 20-0.
After a Hawk punt gave VSU the ball on the SU 47 to open its next drive, the Blazers again found the end zone to push its lead to 27-0. Cochran and Lewis hooked up for a 26-yard gain on the first play of the drive before Valdosta State took to the ground to move the ball inside the SU five. However, with the Blazers facing a first and goal from the Shorter three, Austin Scott was stopped after a two-yard carry on first down and for no yards on second down before being dropped for a loss of one yard on third down. VSU elected to go for the touchdown on fourth down and Cochran found fullback Trent McGuire out of the backfield for the touchdown.
After a punt on VSU's third possession of the second half, the running game again carried the load as Valdosta State scored its third touchdown of the third quarter on its fourth drive. Scott gained four yards on the first play of the possession before Cochran kept the ball on each of the next two plays for 10 more yards. Cedric O'Neal pushed the VSU advantage to 34-0 when he burst through the middle of the line and out-ran the Hawk secondary for a 38-yard touchdown on the fourth play of the drive.
After a Cochran fumble ended the Blazers' fifth possession of the half, Valdosta State again found the end zone on its sixth drive to close out the scoring. Scott provided the score on the drive as he took a handoff and ran 45-yards for his second touchdown of the game.
The two teams played a scoreless first quarter before Seantavious Jones caught a 22-yard pass from Cochran with 13:05 to play in the second quarter to put VSU in front. The extra point was no good on the touchdown, but less than two minutes later, Scott scored on an 18-yard run to put the Blazers in front by 13 entering the halftime intermission.
Shorter had its opportunitiesto score in the game as it missed two field goals - one from 40 yards in the first quarter and a second from 37 yards with 12 seconds to go in the game - and also lost a pair of fumbles inside the VSU 20 yard line in the fourth quarter. Overall, Shorter lost four of five fumbles in the game, which off-set a 38:27 to 21:33 in time of possession for the Hawks.
Valdosta State tallied 418 yards of total offense in the game, including 233 rushing and 185 through the air. Scott gained 124 yards, to go along with his two touchdowns, on just 12 carries in the game while O'Neal finished the contest with 64 yards. The 64 yards by O'Neal, a sophomore who played in his 15th career game, upped his career total to 1,358 moving him into 10th place on the VSU career rushing chart.
Cochran completed 11-of-23 passes for 177 yards and three touchdowns in the game. Jones and Willie Downs had three catches each in the contest while Lewis caught two passes for 91 yards.
In addition to recovering four Shorter fumbles, the Valdosta State defense also recorded six sacks in the game. Lance Holder and Chris Pope tied for a team-high nine tackles while Justin Williams had six tackles, including one-and-a-half sacks.
Shorter totaled 312 yards of offense, including 105 on the ground and 207 in the passing game. Eric Dodson completed 13-of-20 passes in the game while B.J. McCoy carried the ball 15 times for 40 yards.
Valdosta State returns to action next Saturday, September 28 at 7:00 p.m. at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium when it welcomes Angelo State for a non-conference contest.