VALDOSTA, GA. (vstateblazers.com) — Valdosta State junior quarterback Ivory Durham passed for 160 yards as No. 6 Valdosta State combined for 395 yards in a dominating 53-7 victory over Savannah State Saturday night in Valdosta in the season-opener for both teams.
The meeting between VSU and SSU marks the first football game for Valdosta State in 644 days, the last ending in a 38-35 defeat in the second round of the NCAA postseason on Nov. 30, 2019 against eventual national champion West Florida.
Led by third year head coach Gary Goff, the Blazers started the scoring campaign early in the first quarter. VSU stormed down the field off a Savannah State kickoff. With a one-yard rush attempt by junior running back Seth McGill, the Blazers took a 6-0 (missed the extra-point on a bad snap). The Blazers held Savannah State to only 13 passing yards and 35 rushing yards in the first quarter on the defensive side. McGill finished the game with a dominating 75 rushing yards on 11 carries and one score.
The Blazers scored again with 1:28 to play in the first quarter from an over-the-top pass from Durham to senior wideout Lio'undre Gallimore to push the Blazers into the endzone a 13-0 lead. Gallimore finished the game with five receptions and 112 receiving yards and two receiving touchdowns.
The Blazers continued their dominant scoring campaign in the second quarter, with VSU recovering a fumble from Savannah State's Einaj Carter on a miss handled punt and recovered by junior Taurus Dotson in the Tigers' end zone for a 20-0 advantage.
The defense came up huge again as the third turnover by the Tigers resulted in a defensive touchdown with 2:23 remaining in the half as senior Mondrell Jefferson recovered the ball in the end zone for a 27-0 lead.
VSU stood tall on the ensuing drive and forced a downs by the Tigers. A critical personal foul penalty on 4th down put VSU in business at the SSU 33 with just one second left in the half. VSU sophomore kicker Estin Thiele hit a 50-yarder to give the Blazers a 30-0 lead going into the half.
The Blazers scored two touchdowns offensively, one on defense and one on special teams in the first half. VSU had 27 plays for 162 yards, going 16 of 74 rushing and Durham was 7 of 11 passing for 88 yards and a score. Gallimore had four catches for 70 yards in the half. Senior linebacker Nick Moss was all over the field defensively with ten total tackles and one tackle for loss in the half.
Savannah State received the ball to start the second half and went 3-and-out for five yards. Durham and the Blazers took over and after two passes, McGill scampered 42 yards to the SSU ten. Junior Jamar Thompkins scored from ten yards out for a 37-0 lead.
Durham and Gallimore combined again on the next Blazer drive on a 42-yard pass on the first play of the drive for a 44-0 lead in the third.
VSU went for a 4th and G early in the fourth and were stopped, but the defense stood tall, once again with SSU on its own goal line. Senior Arrington Dulin tackled Jordan Grant in the end zone for a safety and 46-0 lead.
Following a Blazer punt as they pinned SSU at its own nine with a great punt from sophomore John Miller, SSU had its best drive of the game, going 91 yards in nine plays as Jamurian Hartage found Brent Carr for an 18-yard strike and a 46-7 score.
To end the game, VSU went on a 78-yard drive as freshman quarterback Sam Edwards led the Blazers down the field and junior running back Cedric Hollingshed propelled the Blazers into the endzone to bring the final score to 53-7. Edwards finished his first game in black and red with 3 for 4 passing for 11 yards and rushed two times for seven yards. Blazer fans may remember Hollingshed from the 2016 and 2017 seasons where he recorded 130 carries for 691 yards and ten rushing touchdowns in two seasons for the Blazers.
For the game, VSU recorded 210 yards on the ground on 37 carries, while going 16 of 22 in the air for 185 yards passing and scored 21 points off SSU miscues. The Blazer "D" held SSU to just 106 yards rushing on 44 carries for a 2.4 average per rush. SSU set a new school-record for rushing yards in 2019 and was 12th nationally in rushing offense. The Tigers went 6 of 14 passing for 60 yards for just 166 yards of total offense. VSU held the Tigers to 4 of 13 on third down and 1 of 2 on fourth down. Moss led the way defensively for the Blazers with 11 total tackles and one tackle for loss. VSU had four sacks for 24 yards and ten tackles for loss for 37 yards in the game. The Blazers were not sacked in the contest.
VSU improved to 6-0 all-time against Savannah State as this was the first meeting between the two teams since 1996. It marked the most lopsided margin in the series as the previous was 21 points in a 28-7 win in Savannah by the Blazers on Sept. 15, 1984.
Looking ahead, VSU makes its first road trip of the season to Richmond, Virginia, to face Virginia Union on Sept. 11 at 5 p.m. The Panthers were picked fifth in the CIAA and fourth in the North Division. Following VUU, the Blazers return home to host rival Albany State on Sept. 18 at 7 p.m., at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium.