TIGERVILLE, S.C. — Returning to his home state for the first time in his collegiate football career, Valdosta State junior quarterback Rogan Wells scampered 40 yards on a 4th and 2 for the go ahead touchdown with 49 seconds left in a 20-15 victory Saturday evening at North Greenville.
The victory was the 23rd-staight for the Blazers as it now ties the Gulf South Conference record for consecutive victories with North Alabama (1994-95). VSU improved to 8-0 and 6-0 in Gulf South Conference play, while North Greenville fell to 3-5 and 2-4 in GSC play.
Wells, a native of Fort Mill, S.C., which is approximately two hours from Tigerville, called his own number as the play began to breakdown with the Blazers trailing 15-14. Wells cut up field following an almost shoestring tackle from Brandon Burger, and then crossed to the VSU sideline for the score with 49 seconds left. It was his third-straight game with a rushing touchdown and sixth of the season. He finished the game 23 of 33 passing with two interceptions one touchdown and 203 yards, while rushing ten times for 90 yards and the game winning score.
On the ensuing drive for NGU, the Crusaders got a 26-yard pickup to the VSU 49, but the Blazer "D" stiffened and, on a 3rd and 4 with 22 seconds left, Donny Baker threw an interception to junior Cory Roberts as Roberts took a knee to seal the victory for the Blazers. It was Roberts' second interception of the game.
VSU trailed 9-0 at halftime, marking the first time since Oct. 7, 2017, not scoring in a half and since the 2017 season-opener not scoring in the first half. Despite all of that and a steady rain on-and-off throughout the game, the Blazers dug deep and found a way for the victory.
The Blazers had 182 yards on the ground on 34 carries, while passing the ball for 203 yards for 385 yards for the game. NGU had 189 yards on the ground, while throwing it for 211 and 346 for the game. Junior Brian Saunds had eight catches for 106 yards and a score as he is the reigning GSC Player of the Week after a school-record 246 yards receiving last week. Sophomore Seth McGill had 80 yards on 15 carries with a score on the ground for the Blazers.
VSU's defense stood tall throughout the game with nine tackles for loss for 22 yards and the two interceptions from Roberts. Sophomore Jackson Bull had a team-high high tackles and two tackles for loss for seven yards. Senior Dalton Mydell also had five tackles. The Blazers held NGU to 4 of 14 on third down in the game.
Both teams punted on their first possessions as NGU had the ball first. VSU then almost had a blocked punt from redshirt freshman Jarius Jones as NGU punter Matt Gravely pulled the ball down and ran for 12 yards, but needed 16. VSU took over at the NGU 24 and, on the first play, Wells threw an interception at the goal line as Aaron Watson returned it 40 yards.
The Crusaders then went 14 plays for 54 yards using 6:37 as NGU converted two big third-and-long plays, but the VSU "D" stood tall at the two, forcing a 22-yard field goal from Gravely.
Following a VSU punt early in the second quarter, NGU used a 56-yard pass from Donny Baker from the NGU 13, but the VSU defense, once again, stood tall forcing a Gravely field goal and a 6-0 deficit. It marked the largest deficit of the season for the Blazers.
After another VSU punt as the offense was unable to move the ball in the first half, NGU moved down the field, once again, and Gravely nailed his third field goal of the half for a 9-0 lead with 1:39 left in the first half.
The Blazers showed some progress on offense in the final 1:39 as they moved the ball to the NGU 29, but Wells was sacked and fumbled with seven seconds left.
The deficit marked the largest for the Blazers, since the Bowie State game in the second round of the NCAA playoffs last season, while it also marked the first time VSU had trailed at intermission since a 10-9 deficit on Dec. 7 in the national semifinal against Notre Dame (Ohio) last season.
VSU tallied just 103 yards on 25 plays for the half, with just 46 yards on the ground and 57 through the air with two turnovers. Wells was 10 of 12 passing with an interception, while sophomore Seth McGill had three carries for 27 yards.
NGU had 118 yards rushing, while passing for 83 for 201 yards for the half. Baker was 2 of 7 passing, while Tyler Bell had nine carries for 49 yards. With just one touchdown last week in the second quarter in the 7-0 win at Shorter, the Crusaders now have gone the last four quarters without a touchdown.
On the opening drive of the second half, VSU converted a third-and-long to junior Brian Saunds and moved inside the 20, courtesy of a facemask penalty on the Crusaders. Wells found junior Lio'undre Gallimore for a first and goal catch at the NGU five. McGill then powered his way into the end zone for a score and a 9-7 deficit as the rain began to fall.
VSU came up with a huge interception by junior Cory Roberts on a 3rd and 15 for the Crusaders, giving Blazers great field position at the 50. It was Roberts' team-leading third interception of the season. Wells' pass was intercepted by Johnny Worthy as holding penalties on both teams led to turnovers for each.
Following a punt off the turnover by the Blazers, VSU began at its 15 and moved down field, converting two third downs on the drive and Wells hit Saunds over the middle for a 35-yard strike and a 14-9 lead with 30 seconds left in the third quarter.
NGU regained the lead in the fourth, marking the first time this season VSU has trailed in the second half and just the second game trailing all season (at Delta State). The Crusaders used a big pass from Baker to Lucas Catalfomo for 31 yards to the VSU 14 and Tyler Bell scored from 14 yards out for a 15-14 score. On the ensuing two-point conversion, Baker was chased and tackled deep in the backfield. Both teams punted on their next possessions, setting up the last minute heroics for the Blazers.
VSU heads into the bye week before hosting West Florida in the 2019 regular season home finale Saturday, Nov. 9 at 7 p.m. at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium.