VALDOSTA, Ga. – No. 14 Valdosta State intercepted three passes in the red zone as the Blazers defeated Newberry 24-17 in non-conference football action at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium Thursday evening.
Ryan Smith tallied two of the interceptions, both in the first half, as he picked off a Bryan Ehrlich pass on the VSU 9 on the second Wolf drive of the game before claiming a jump ball on a tipped pass on the Blazer 16 in the second quarter. Fellow linebacker Chris Pope sealed the victory with an interception on the Valdosta State 4 with less than a minute to play in the game.
The Blazer offense struggled for much of the game as Valdosta State (2-0) managed just 183 yards of total offense in the contest. The defense and special teams picked up the offense on the night, as both units scored a touchdown.
Matt Pierce opened the scoring late in the first quarter as he scooped up an Ehrlich fumble and raced 49 yards for the score. Newberry (0-2) elected to go for it on fourth and inches from the VSU 49, but Ehlrich was unable to field the snap cleanly and saw the ball squirt behind him. Pierce, rushing off the corner, scooped up the ball on the NC 49 and raced to the end zone to put VSU up 7-0.
Special teams contributed the next touchdown as early in the second quarter, Quin Roberson fielded a punt on the Valdosta State 19, broke a tackle on the 23 and out-ran the coverage for an 81-yard touchdown return for a 14-0 Blazer lead.
Newberry closed to within 14-7 just before the halftime intermission as it marched 63 yards on 13 plays. The first seven plays of the drive were on the ground as the Wolves picked up the first 32 yards via the rush. After a third down pass brought up a fourth-and-four on the VSU 34, Newberry chose to go for it and Ehrlich completed a 27-yard pass to Max Elliott that gave NC the ball inside the Valdosta State 10. Four plays later, Ehrlich connected with Jake James from two yards out to cut the VSU lead to 14-7.
The Wolves evened the game 10 seconds into the fourth quarter as Ehrlich found Brandon Bostick from 31 yards out, only to have Valdosta State respond with a touchdown on its next drive. Austen Roberts completed all five of his passing attempts on the drive as all 70 yards came through the air. Roberson gave VSU the lead as he caught a pass down the right sideline and raced 36 yards to put VSU back in front 21-14.
Newberry added a 34 yard field goal on its next drive and forced Valdosta State to a punt on the ensuing possession, but Keith Bellamy fumbled the punt and VSU's John Belt scooped up the ball to give the Blazers the ball on the Newberry 17. Valdosta State only gained two yards on the drive, but Daniel Andersen kicked a 32 yard field goal for the final score.
The Blazers gained just 32 yards on the ground during the game and another 151 through the air while tallying just eight first downs in the contest. Meanwhile, Newberry tallied 411 total yards, including 151 rushing and 260 passing.
Roberson caught seven passes for 73 yards and a score to lead the Blazer offense while Roberts finished the contest 19-of-34 in passing. Smith added 11 tackles, including 1.5 tackles for loss, while also breaking up a pass to go along with his two interceptions. Pope led the VSU defense with 12 tackles, including 1.0 for loss.
Ehrlich was 15-of-33 through the air and also gained 27 yards on the ground for Newberry. Apollo Stretch had five tackles to lead the Wolves defensively.
Valdosta State returns to action Saturday, September 17 at 7:00 p.m. when it plays at No. 7 Albany State.
For further information, visit: www.vstateblazers.com