ALBANY, Ga. - The Valdosta State football team suffered a 29-12 loss to the Albany State Golden Rams on Saturday night in Albany, Ga., marking the Blazers' first loss in a season opener since the 2012 National Championship campaign.
The Blazers struggled to find rhythm offensively, due in large part to the effort of the Albany State defense, which gave the Golden Rams a defensive score within the first three minutes of the game for a lead they would never relinquish.
Adam Robles connected with Tshumbi Johnson on the opening drive for a first down on third-and-four, and Jordan Germany kept the momentum alive with a 16 yard reception for another first down near midfield. Free safety Nick Scott turned the tables on the Blazer offense on the next set of downs, however, after the senior picked off a pass and returned it 75 yards to give ASU a 7-0 lead.
The remainder of the first half turned into a defensive struggle, with the only additional points coming by way of a 22-yard Gabriel Ballinas field goal. The kick came late in the first quarter and represented the final score of the opening half.
Trailing 10-0 after the break, the Black Swarm came out strong with another defensive stop, but ASU's defense matched the effort with a stop of their own. The Golden Ram offense used the opportunity in the third quarter to string together a lengthy 51-yard drive and set up Ballinas' second field goal of the game, a 41-yard strike to give ASU a 13-0 advantage.
Robles looked to settle in on the following drive and completed three passes to move the Blazers into ASU territory before Jalen Bush gave the Golden Rams their third interception of the contest. Bush's 15-yard return after the pick set ASU up for their first offensive touchdown of the game, which came less than two minutes later on a touchdown pass from Chancel Johnson to Quadrey Simmons.
Head Coach Kerwin Bell turned to redshirt freshman Rogan Wells for the second time in the game during the fourth quarter, and he answered the call with two touchdown passes, both to freshman Brian Saunds. The scores were too little too late, however, as ASU held on throughout the final frame.
Statistically, the Blazers outmatched the Golden Rams on offense with 311 yards against an even 300 for ASU. Albany State managed the game on the ground, however, with over 200 rushing yards. In addition, the Golden Rams won the turnover game, thanks to the three aforementioned interceptions by the ASU secondary.
The loss for VSU represented their second all-time to the Golden Rams, with the Blazers' only other loss in the series taking place in the 2004 season opener. Later that same season, Valdosta State went on to defeat ASU in the playoffs en route to the program's first ever national championship.
The Blazers will look to regroup this week before heading to Waycross, Ga. next weekend for the Okefenokee Classic against Fort Valley State. Kickoff is slated for 7:00 p.m. on Saturday.