LIVINGSTON, Ala. (vstateblazers.com) — Trailing for the first time this season, the No. 3 Valdosta State football team didn't panic and quickly erased thee early 14-0 deficit as it rolled to a 42-17 victory at No. 10 West Alabama Saturday afternoon. VSU improved to 35-5 all-time against West Alabama and 16-3 in Livingston, Ala. The win garnered VSU its 33rd winning season in 39 years of football.
VSU (6-0, 3-0 GSC) won its 20th-straight regular season game in the Gulf South Conference and 27th-straight regular season game overall dating back to 2017. The Blazers also now have won 31 of the last 32 games overall also dating back to 2017. It was the 310th victory all-time in program history (310-127-4) and the 66th all-time victory against a ranked opponent (66-60-2).
Behind the third-straight game of over 500 yards of total offense, the Blazers recorded 504 yards Saturday on 76 plays and 6.6 yards per play, while holding UWA to 329 yards of offense. VSU rushed for 163 yards and threw for a season-high 341 yards. VSU junior quarterback Ivory Durham went 21 of 31 passing for a career-high 341 yards and three touchdowns with one interception. Graduate student Brian Saunds had a season-high 168 yards on nine receptions and one touchdown, while senior Lio'undre Gallimore had four catches for 79 yards and two scores. Junior Jamar Thompkins rushed 12 times for 54 yards and a score, while junior Seth McGill had 14 carries for 47 yards and a score.
The Blazer "D" settled down following the 14-0 deficit and stymied the Tigers the rest of the way, spoiling UWA's Hall of Fame Day and 50th Anniversary of its NAIA National Championship football season. VSU outscored UWA 42-3 after the 14-0 hole, moreover, after allowing 271 yards of offense in the first half and 17 points, the Blazers held UWA to just 58 yards of total offense in the second half for 329 yards and no points. Junior Taurus Dotson had an interception return for a touchdown in the game, while senior Cory Roberts helped cause the interception with a big hit. UWA entered the game 18th nationally and second in the GSC behind VSU in total offense at 462.0 yards per game.
For UWA, Demetrius Battle had 17 carries for 99 yards, while Jack McDaniels was 14 of 37 passing for 155 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Tyriq Martin had seven catches for 90 yards and two score.
The VSU special teams also had a good outing Saturday as sophomore punter John Miller turned field position a couple of times in the first half with good punts as he tallied three punts for 144 yards and a 48.0 average. He had a long of 53 yards, while sophomore and reigning GSC Special Teams Player of the Week, Estin Thiele had seven kickoffs for 450 yards and a 64.3 average with four big touchbacks.
The Tigers (6-1, 3-1 GSC) came out and took the opening kickoff and moved methodically down the field as McDaniels hit Tyriq Martin for nine yards on a third and five and then McDaniels called his own number for 39 yards to the VSU 22. On second and five from the VSU five, senior Cory Roberts looked to have had an interception in the end zone, but was ruled incomplete. From there, McDaniels hit Martin for the score and a 7-0 lead with 11:38 left in the first half. It marked the first time VSU had trailed all season as VSU was the last remaining team in NCAA Division II to not trail in a game this season.
VSU had a great pass from Durham to McGill, but the Blazers were called for offensive pass interference spoiling the ensuing drive as VSU was forced to punt. With the momentum, UWA needed just two plays as Battle rushed for 27 yards and McDaniels hooked up with Martin for the second score on a 39-yard strike for a 14-0 lead with 8:07 left in the quarter.
From there, it was all Blazers as VSU roared back, beginning with a 46-yard strike on the ensuing possession to senior Lio'undre Gallimore from Durham for a 14-7 score deficit as the Blazers needed just five plays for 73 yards and 2:19 off the clock. After a three-and-out by the Tigers, Durham and Saunds connected for 47 yards on two passes and junior Jamar Thompkins scored on the ground leveling the game at 14 with 3:08 left in the quarter.
Durham hit Gallimore for his second touchdown of the half on a 21-yard pass for a 21-14 with 11:35 left in the half. UWA then used a 16 play, 72-yard drive and settled for a 25-yard field goal from Gabriel Dunkle for a 21-17 VSU lead. Later in the half, Durham found Saunds for a 59-yard strike and a 28-17 lead with 1:38 left in the half. The Tigers moved down the field on the ensuing drive and reached the VSU 19, but Dunkle missed the 36-yard field goal with 12 seconds left in the half.
For the half, Durham threw for 242 yards and three touchdowns on 12 of 18 passing, while Saunds had five catches for 144 yards and a score, while Gallimore had four catches for 79 yards and two scores. Thompkins had six carries for 38 yards and a score. VSU tallied 311 yards of offense in the half, while UWA had 271 yards of offense with 142 on the ground and 129 through the air.
For the fifth time in six games, VSU began the second half with a touchdown on its opening possession (Punt, vs. Albany State). It wasn't easy however, as freshman quarterback Sam Edwards, who had to borrow Durham's helmet came in after Durham's helmet got knocked off and scampered 16 yards on a 3rd and 14 at the VSU 15 to continue the drive. Durham returned and then hit Saunds for 19 yards and 7 yards, followed by freshman Council Allen for 25. Graduate transfer Victor made a great leaping catch for 10 yards and a first down at the UWA 21. Reigning Gulf South Conference Player of the Week, junior Seth McGill, scampered 16 yards for a score and a 35-17 lead.
On the ensuing drive, Battle rushed for 18 yards for the Tigers and McDaniels' pass was intercepted by junior Taurus Dotson as senior Cory Roberts put a huge hit on the UWA receiver forcing the ball in the air. Dotson went 47-yards for the score and the 42-17 lead with 7:57 left in the third. It was VSU's fourth defensive touchdown of the season as it entered the game fifth nationally in defensive scores.
UWA had a good drive moving to the VSU 25, but Dunkle missed his second field goal of the day – this time for 42-yards with 5:33 left in the quarter. The teams played a scoreless the rest of the way.
The Blazers continue on the road next week as they travel to Mississippi College for a 3 p.m. ET game in Clinton, Miss., then return home to host West Georgia on Oct. 30 at 7 p.m. at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium.