CLEVELAND, Tenn. - Valdosta State put together their second consecutive solid performance, resulting in a dominant 34-13 Gulf South Conference win over the Delta State Statesmen on Saturday afternoon in Cleveland, Miss.
Turnovers were the difference for the red and black, as the Black Swarm forced Delta State to throw three interceptions and fumble the ball once early. Valdosta State capitalized on all four turnovers, turning three into touchdowns and one into a field goal for 24 of their 34 points.
After forcing the Blazers to go three-and-out on their opening drive, the Statesmen appeared to have momentum, as they marched the ball down to the VSU 5-yard line. The game shifted early, however, when a fumble by Breck Ruddick was scooped up and carried 95 yards by Alex Williams for a Blazer touchdown. The recovery for the score put the Blazers in front 7-0 and marked Valdosta State's second touchdown of the season on a fumble return.
On DSU's ensuing drive, Ruddick committed another turnover when he tested Donte Taylor on a deep ball down the left side of the field. Taylor was up to the challenge and went up high over the top of the intended receiver to haul in Valdosta State's first interception of the game.
With possession at their own 12-yard line, Rogan Wells broke off his first big play of the game with a 39-yard rush. The freshman quarterback proceeded to find Dallas Baldner for a 35-yard completion, and after two incompletions, Brian Saunds hauled in a 14-yard pass in the back of the endzone for his fourth touchdown of the season to put the Blazers up 14-0.
The only touchdown for the Blazers that didn't come off of a turnover came early in the second quarter, when Jordan Germany used some strong blocking to slip through the middle and turn on the jets for a 56-yard scoring rush. The strike for Germany helped boost the senior's total to 77-yards in the game, which led the Blazers on the afternoon.
Trailing 24-3 after halftime, thanks to a 45-yard field goal by Andrew Gray at the end of the first half, Delta State attempted to fire back on their opening drive in the third quarter. The Statesmen used an 18-play drive to put the ball inside VSU's 10-yard line, but the Black Swarm held tough and forced the Statesmen to settle for another field goal.
The Blazers went three-and-out on the ensuing drive, but got the ball right back thanks to an interception by Decary Croaker. Wells and Saunds teamed up again for a 33-yard pass play on the following drive to fuel Valdosta State's final touchdown drive of the contest and essentially seal the victory with a 31-6 advantage late in the third.
With the win, the Blazers propelled themselves back into the playoff hunt as one of four teams to be currently tied for third place in the Gulf South Conference. Valdosta State now holds a record of 3-3 overall and 3-2 in conference play, while the Statesmen fell into second place outright at 6-2 overall and 4-2 against league opponents.
Notable statistics for the afternoon included Germany's aforementioned 77-yard rushing effort, while Saunds led the receiving corps with three receptions and 68-yards. In addition, Wells rushed for 45 yartds and delivered 233 passing yards in the game.
On defense, Sharmaine Washington racked up 10 tackles with nine solo takedowns, while Brandon Roe added the final interception on defense after a deflection by Taylor. Roe's pick marked his third of the season, bringing his career total up to eight.
Williams' 95-yard fumble return marked the second-longest in Valdosta State football history, just behind Dee Williford's 97-yard return for a touchdown against Southern Arkansas on September 27, 2003.
The Blazers now turn their attention to a return home next weekend, as Florida Tech comes to town for a 7:00 p.m. matchup on October 28th.