National powers collide Thursday in key GSC matchup

Posted at 3:24 PM, Oct 08, 2013
and last updated 2013-10-11 09:37:43-04
VALDOSTA, Ga. - Valdosta State travels for the first time in more than a month as the Blazers visit West Alabama in a match-up of two of the nation's top teams. Game time is slated for 7:30 p.m. Eastern.

Valdosta State, which is coming off a 52-14 win over Florida Tech, features a balanced offensive attack as the Blazers average 219.3 rushing yards and 216.5 passing yards per game. The Blazer offense, which is averaging 41.5 points per game, is led by sophomore running backs Cedric O'Neal and Austin Scott, who have combined for 742 yards and eight touchdowns. Senior quarterback Cayden Cochran has passed for 844 yards and eight scores while junior wide receiver Willie Downs has caught 17 passes for 328 yards and three touchdowns. Defensively, VSU surrenders just 9.5 points, 107.0 rushing yards and 197.8 passing yards each contest. The Black Swarm defense has recorded 12.0 sacks and 32.0 tackles for loss and is led by a trio of linebackers in Chris Pope, Justin Williams and Jeremy Grable, who have combined for 94 tackles. Senior defensive tackle Lawrence Virgil has proven to be disruptive up front as he has tallied 2.5 sacks, 5.5 tackles for loss and forced two fumbles.

West Alabama is currently second in the nation with 571.2 yards of offense per game and also averages 49.6 points an outing. UWA rushes for 319.0 and passes for 252.2 yards per contest. Running backs Javae Swindle and Kedrick Rhodes have combined for 851 yards and eight touchdowns while quarterback Kyle Caldwell has passed for 1,101 yards and 12 scores. Defensively, West Alabama allows 16.2 points, 63.8 rushing yards and 228.0 passing yards each game. Strong safety Brandon Lilly leads the defensive unit as he has 29 tackles and has returned an interception 70 yards. Cornerback Malcolm Butler has 24 tackles and has broken up seven passes while defensive end Ryan Jones has 25 tackles, including 4.0 sacks.

Thursday night's game is being televised as part of the Gulf South Conference TV Game of the Week package. The game will be carried live on Mediacom (Channel 230 in Valdosta), Altitude Communications (Channel 29 in Lowndes County), CSS, CoxSports, TV-24 (Anniston, Ala.), WHCQ-TV (Cleveland, Miss.) and ESPN3 (Internet-Only).

Bad Habitz Saloon and Grub on Gornto Road in Valdosta will host the official viewing party of this week's game. Food and drink specials will be offered during the broadcast.