VALDOSTA, Ga. – The NCAA Super Region Two Top-Seed No. 5-ranked Valdosta State football team posted a 66-35 victory over No. 13-ranked West Georgia Saturday afternoon in the second round of the NCAA Division II Football Playoffs. The Blazers racked up a school-record 719 yards in the game and the 66 points scored marked the 14th time in program history VSU has scored 60 or more points in a game.
VSU improved to 10-1 on the year and marked the tenth time VSU has qualified for the NCAA Quarterfinals. The Blazers improved to 27-13 all-time in the NCAA postseason and 18-7 all-time in the postseason in Valdosta. The dominating victory erased some of the bad taste after a 61-42 loss at then-No. 3 West Florida in the regular season finale two weeks ago as VSU and UWF shared the Gulf South Conference title, finishing with identical 9-1 records overall and each had a 6-1 record in league play.
The Blazers now will host No. 2-seed Bowie State (Md.) on Dec. 4, at 1 p.m. at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium in the NCAA Quarterfinal Round.
The 66 points scored on Saturday marked the fifth time since 2015 VSU has scored over 60 points and the third time in the playoffs during that span. VSU won 61-59 against Carson-Newman in 2015 in the second round, 66-16 versus Bowie State and 61-21 against Lenoir-Rhyne the very next week in 2018 in the NCAA second round and quarterfinals, respectively. The 719 yards of offense marked a school-record surpassing the previous mark of 682 set also in the NCAA postseason against Carson-Newman on Nov. 21, 2015. In addition, the 719 yards of offense marked a career-high for head coach Gary Goff as his previous of 704 set on Sept. 9, 2015, at Findlay (Ohio) while Goff was the head coach at Tiffin University. Saturday also marked Goff's 20th victory at VSU as he is 20-2 in Titletown and 59-51 overall in 11 years of coaching.
The Blazers had a season-high 48 rushes for 365 yards and a 7.6 average per carry, marking the fifth time this season VSU has gone over 300 yards on the ground in a game. The Blazers had six rushing touchdowns, marked a tie for third-most all-time in a game, set on three previous occasions, with the most recent being Oct. 18, 2014, against Mississippi College. Blazer junior running back Seth McGill had a season-high 18 carries for 187 yards and two rushing scores, while junior quarterback Ivory Durham had 13 carries for 91 yards and two touchdowns and junior running back Jamar Thompkins had 13 carries for 69 yards and two scores. McGill rattled off a blistering, and season-high, 76-yard scamper to the UWG one in the third quarter. McGill also had a punt and pinned the Wolves at their own one-yard line as he did it both on offense and special teams.
Durham, who is a candidate for the Harlon Hill Trophy this season, finished 22 of 31 passing for 354 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. Graduate student Lio'undre Gallimore had seven outstanding catches for 141 yards and a touchdown, while fellow graduate student Brian Saunds caught six balls for 135 yards.
Defensively, the Blazers made big plays at crucial times and held UWG to just 2 of 12 on third down and 1 of 3 on fourth down, while stopping a fourth down run on a 4th and 1 early in the game, which led to VSU's first score on the ensuing drive. VSU conversely was 7 of 12 on third down and 1 of 1 on fourth down. Senior Mondrell Jefferson and junior Jameon Gaskin each had eight tackles in the game as the Blazers recorded two sacks for 15 yards and had four tackles for loss for 18 yards. The Blazers have only given up one sack all season for tops in Division II.
The Wolves finished the season at 9-3 on the year and tallied 410 yards of offense in the contest, including 381 through the air, but thanks to the stout Blazer "D", just 29 yards on the ground on 21 carries for a 1.4 average per carry. Quarterback Harrison Frost, who also is a candidate for the Harlon Hill Trophy, went 29 of 44 passing for 381 yards and threw four touchdowns. Phil Patterson had nine catches for 159 yards and one touchdown, while Mechane Slade had six catches for 90 yards and a score and Ronnie Blackmon caught six balls for 85 yards and two scores.
Both teams went three-and-out on their opening possessions and UWG took over at its own 24 gaining nine yards for a 4th and one. Tyray Devezin was stuffed for no gain as VSU took over at the UWG 33. Following a penalty on the Blazers, Thompkins scampered for 26 yards to the UWG 17 and Durham hit McGill over the middle for 17 yards and the first touchdown of the game with 10:34 left.
After another three-and-out by UWG, Durham and the Blazers went to work for a six play, 60-yard drive ending in a 5-yard run by Thompkins for a 14-0 lead with 7:37 left in the first quarter.
Frost found Jace Jordan on a 3rd and 7 from the UWG 25 on the Wolves' third offensive possession of the game for UWG's first, first down of the game as the Wolves cut the deficit in half as Frost connected with Patterson for a 63-yard strike with 5:10 left in the quarter.
The Blazers moved to the UWG 33, but a penalty stalled the drive as McGill tallied the 32-yard punt to the UWG one which was a pivotal play in the first half. After a three-and-out by the Wolves early in the second quarter following the great punt, UWG punted to the UWG 39, but Saunds returned it to the UWG 23. From there, a personal foul penalty on UWG and McGill scored on the ground for a 21-7 lead. VSU then made the score 28-7 as VSU converted two third downs on the drive, including the scoring play as Durham hit Gallimore for an 8-yard strike with 7:01 left in the half.
Frost and Blackmon connected for a 31-yard score on the ensuing drive, but the Blazers weren't done for the half, as big gashes from McGill and key passes from Durham moved the Blazers down the field as Thompkins scored from one yard out for a 35-14 lead late second quarter.
UWG began to find its footing in the second quarter and started matching score-for-score as the Wolves converted a 4th and two on the drive, as Frost found Blackmon for his third passing score of the half with 36 seconds remaining for a 35-21 VSU lead at the break.
In nine of the ten games this season, VSU has scored on its opening possession of the second half and Saturday marked 10 of 11. McGill had his 76-yard spurt as he accounted for 81 of the 85 yards on the drive and was rewarded with the one-yard score for a 42-21 lead. VSU made the score 49-21 following a UWG punt Durham hit senior Victor Talley for a 17-yard score, but the Wolves, who didn't go away in the first meeting, clawed back into the contest with a Jace Jordan touchdown run and then Brian Dillard picked off Durham on the VSU 17, setting up a Slade touchdown pass from Frost for a 49-35 VSU lead with 5:24 left in the third.
From there, it was all Blazers as the team scored two touchdowns and a field goal on its next three possessions for the 66-35 victory. The 66 points marked the most in series history against UWG, while the Blazers improved to 28-13 all-time against UWG and have won four-straight meetings.