VALDOSTA, Ga. (VSU) — The Valdosta State football team dropped a 49-40 decision to Mississippi College on Homecoming Saturday afternoon. With the loss, the Blazers fell to 3-4 on the year and 1-3 in Gulf South Conference play, while Mississippi College improved to 4-3 and 3-1 in league play.
In a game that saw a combined 1,261 yards of total offense, VSU amassed 622 yards, while the Choctaws had 639 yards, including 598 yards on the ground. Of the 1,261 total yards between the two teams, 901 came on the ground. Blazer senior quarterback Ivory Durham passed for 319 yards on 16 of 25 passing with three touchdowns, while he had 115 yards on the ground and one touchdown, highlighted by a season-high 75-yard scamper on the first drive of the game. Blazer senior running back Jamar Thompkins finished with 14 carries for 105 yards and a touchdown. It was his fourth game of the season rushing for over 100 yards.
For the Choctaws, three different players rushed over 100 yards, as Marcus Williams had six carries for 188 yards and two scores, while catching quarterback John Henry White's only completed pass (1 of 2) for a 41-yard touchdown. White finished with a team-high 21 carries for 151 yards and a score. Cole Fagan had 16 carries for 113 yards and two scores. Six of the Choctaws' seven touchdowns of the game came on the ground as they didn't punt nor attempt a field goal in the game.
Defensively, VSU had three players record double-digit tackles as senior Jackson Bull had a team-high 12 total stops with five solo tackles, while sophomore Phillip Starks added ten stops as did senior Jameon Gaskin for his fourth-straight game of double-digit stops. Gaskin is closing in on the top ten in VSU history in career total tackles as he now has 236 for his career. He is just 23 tackles shy of Jeremy Grable (2010-13) for tenth all-time in school history. Following the game, Bull and Thompkins were named the Guardian Bank Blazer Players of the Game.
For the second-straight week, things looked promising for the Blazers on the first drive of the game as Durham accounted for 82 of the 87 total yards on the drive, including a seven-yard scamper and a 75-yard run to the MC five. Thompkins then scored with a five-yard run and a 7-0 lead just 1:25 into the contest.
On the first play from scrimmage for the Choctaws, Williams went the distance for 66 yards and a touchdown for a 7-7 score. The fast start for the Blazers continued as Durham hit graduate B.K. Smith for 29-yards on the ensuing drive to the MC 39. Sophomore kicker Estin Thiele connected on his 12th field goal of the season for a 10-7 lead with 10:54 left in the opening quarter, as he now is 12 of 16 in field goals this season. Smith finished with five catches for a season-high 148 yards and a score.
MC marched down to the VSU seven on the ensuing drive, but the Blazers came up with a defensive stop on a fumble from Fagan as graduate student Antar Thompson alertly jumped on the ball for a red zone takeaway at the 4:22 mark. VSU then turned the ball back over to MC with a fumble of its own at the VSU 28.
With a short field, the Choctaws needed five plays for a span of 2:04 and a Fagan rush from two yards out for a 14-10 lead early in the second quarter as MC never trailed again. Following a VSU punt, White scored on a 72-yard drive for a 21-10 Choctaw lead, but the Blazers followed with the first of two 90-plus-yard scoring drives in the game, this one, 91-yards, on three plays, using just 46 ticks of the clock. Highlighting the drive was a great catch from freshman Ted Hurst for 51 yards and a touchdown strike to senior Victor Talley from 20-yards out for a 21-17 deficit. Tally finished with four catches for 44 yards and a score. The Choctaws would answer back, however as White connected with Williams the 41-yard touchdown pass and a 28-17 lead with 5:09 left in the half as the game remained that score heading into intermission.
MC won the toss and deferred to the second half as it used a 13-play, 86-yard drive, chewing up 6:44 on the clock to begin the second half as Cole scored for a 35-17 lead with 8:02 remaining in the frame. The Blazers answered back and pulled within 11, once again, with a nine-play, 75-yard drive as Durham used his feet on a 3rd and 3 from the MC 26 for a 25-yard scamper to the MC one. He then called his own number for a 35-24 deficit.
The Choctaws stretched lead out, once again, as it looked like VSU had the stop on a 3rd and five at the MC 22, but White pitched the ball to Williams at the last second and he went 78-yards for a score and a 42-24 lead.
After an MC touchdown of 73-yards by Chris Colebank early in the fourth, Durham found some more success in the passing game with a 4th and three completion to Talley for six yards and then he hit sophomore Council Allen for 31 yards and another to Talley, before finding Smith in the end zone for six. VSU went for two as Durham hit sophomore Noah Gillan for the conversion and a 49-32 deficit.
VSU got its second stop of the game as the defense stood tall on a fourth and goal from the VSU one. Ron Craten tried to score up the middle, but Gaskin made a great stop to turn the Choctaws over on down with 47 seconds left in the game. This time, VSU went 99 yards on three plays as Durham hit Smith for 64 and graduate student Justin Jeffery for a 31-yard touchdown. Durham then found sophomore Council Allen for two and a 49-40 final margin, following an onside kick attempt.
The Blazers return to action next Saturday at 6 p.m., in Carrollton, Ga., versus No. 25 West Georgia (4-2, 2-2 GSC) for the coveted Peach Basket and the Red Clay Rivalry Series. Following a trip to North Greenville (Oct. 29), the Blazers return home to host rival West Florida (Nov. 5) and Shorter in a non-conference game (Nov. 12) to close out the regular season.