Valdosta, GA - North Alabama turned six Valdosta State turnovers into 27 points as the Lions defeated the 11th-ranked Blazers 57-7 in Gulf South Conference football action at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium Saturday afternoon.
With the win, North Alabama improved to 5-2 overall and 3-1 in GSC play while Valdosta State fell to 5-2 and 3-2.
The Lions scored on five of the six turnovers, including all three in the second half, during which UNA out-scored VSU 38-0.
North Alabama opened the scoring with a 20-yard field goal by Will Craig on its second possession of the game before Valdosta State used a 28-yard pass from Cayden Cochran to Chris Anderson on the ensuing drive to take its only lead of the contest.
The Lions answered with a touchdown of their own on their next possession to regain the lead and stopped a VSU score when Caleb Massey intercepted a pass in the end zone to set up a touchdown run by Luke Wingo seven plays later that pushed the UNA advantage to 16-7 with 5:01 remaining in the first half.
A second interception, this one by Philbert Martial with 24 seconds remaining in the half, led to a UNA field goal that posted the Lions to a 19-7 lead at the intermission.
Valdosta State again drove the field on its opening drive of the second half, only to have a potential score stopped when Chris Anderson fumbled on the North Alabama 17 yard line. Lamar Smith scooped up the fumble and returned it 83 yards for a 26-7 Lion lead while a third VSU interception on its next drive led to a 27-yard field goal by Craig.
After the Blazers turned the ball over on downs on their ensuing drive, UNA marched 63 yards on seven plays to score on a 37-yard Chris Coffey run and later scored on a Jacob Tucker five-yard run early in the fourth quarter. A two-point conversion after the touchdown gave North Alabama a 44-7 lead with 14:23 remaining in the game.
Tucker later added a six-yard scoring run and, after an Eric Scott fumble gave the Lions the ball on the VSU 28, Diamond Simmons scored from 31 yards out to close out the scoring.
North Alabama finished the game with 536 total yards in the game, including 232 rushing and 304 through the air. Simmons, Coffey and Lamonte Thompson all gained at least 60 yards on the ground while Wingo completed 10-of-13 passes for 226 yards.
Valdosta State had 426 yards of total offense, including 167 rushing and 259 passing. Cedric O'Neal gained 92 yards on 17 carries while Cochran completed 24-of-45 passes for 249 yards.
Chris Pope had six tackles for Valdosta State to bring his career total to 343, moving him into second place on the Valdosta State and Gulf South Conference career list, surpassing former Blazer Hall of Famer and NFL All-Pro Jessie Tuggle, who tallied 340 career tackles in four years with Valdosta State.
The Blazers return to action next Saturday at 5:00 p.m. when they travel to Cleveland, Miss. to face GSC foe Delta State at Cleveland Field.