VALDOSTA, Ga. – Valdosta State ran for 266 yards as the No. 10 Blazers defeated West Georgia 31-13 in Gulf South Conference football action at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium Saturday afternoon.
The 266 yards marked the 10th-highest rushing total in VSU school history. Meanwhile, the Blazers passed for just 37 yards for a total of 303 yards in the contest. The win assured Valdosta State of at least a share of the GSC title, VSU’s first since winning the title outright in 2004.
West Georgia (3-6, 2-5) opened the scoring in the first quarter as it intercepted a Brett Whitmire pass on its own 43 yards line on the first drive of the game. The Wolves moved the ball into the red zone before the Blazer defense forced a 22-yard field goal by Davis Brackett.
The score remained at 3-0 until late in the second quarter when VSU scored on a Seantavious Jones touchdown reception. After a Harrison Dreiling interception gave the Blazers the ball on their own six yard line, the Blazers took to the ground to methodically move down the field. The first seven plays of the drive were all runs and netted 52 yards, plus a 15-yard penalty for a face mask. After a pass gained three yards, four more runs netted an additional 19 to move the ball to the UWG 5. Facing a third and goal, Brett Whitmire threw a jump ball to Jones, who snagged the ball and was able to stay inbounds for a 7-3 Valdosta State halftime lead.
After allowing 108 total yards in the first half, the VSU defense stiffened in the second half as it allowed just 31 total yards while scoring a pair of touchdowns through the first 25 minutes of the final two periods. Eighteen of the yards came on the first West Georgia drive of the half as VSU attempted an on-side kick that was recovered by the Wolves on the Blazer 39. Seven plays later, UWG attempted a 38 yard field goal by Brackett, but Kier Moore burst through the middle of the line to block the attempt.
Valdosta State took advantage of the block to add a field goal of its own to its lead as, after gaining 45 yards on the ground, Daniel Andersen connected from 45 yards out for a 10-7 VSU advantage.
A kickoff into the end zone on the ensuing kick was returned to the UWG 15 and West Georgia failed to gain any yardage on the ensuing drive. A short kick gave Valdosta State the ball on the UWG 46. The Blazers again took to the ground as it used six straight carries by six different players to push its edge to 17-3 on a four-yard run by Stevie Harden with 3:55 remaining in the third quarter.
After the two teams exchanged punts on subsequent drives, Larry Dean added to the Valdosta State advantage as he picked off a pass and returned it six yards for a Blazer score while two Wolf drives later Harden again found the end zone as he recorded his eighth interception of the year, just one shy of the VSU single season record, and returned it 46 yards for his school-record fourth interception return for a score this year.
West Georgia closed out the scoring with a 45-yard field goal and a three-yard scoring run by Brandon Behenna.
Senior Ronnye Nelson, playing in his final regular season home game for Valdosta State, recorded his first career 100-yard rushing game as he carried the ball 14 times for 105 yards. He also caught two passes for a team-best 19 yards, returned three punts for 30 yards and one kick-off for 30 more yards. David Arnold added 72 rushing yards on seven carries while also catching two passes.
Dreiling led the Valdosta State defense with a game-high 13 tackles while also registering two interceptions and a pass broken up.
West Georgia finished the game with 241 total yards of offense, including 122 rushing and 119 through the air. Joe Weatherford gained a team-best 40 yards on the ground while also completing 8-of-17 passes for 32 yards. Jarmaine Johnson registered eight tackles and a fumble recovery to lead the UWG defense.
Valdosta State returns to action Thursday, November 11 when it closes out its 2010 regular season with a televised game at West Alabama. The Blazers enter the game, which is scheduled for an 8:00 p.m. Eastern kickoff, needing a win to claim the GSC championship outright.
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