Valdosta, GA - Valdosta State returns to Bazemore-Hyder Stadium for Homecoming as the Blazers host the Ouachita Baptist Tigers. Valdosta State enters the contest with a 3-1 record, including a 1-1 mark in Gulf South Conference play, while OBU is also 3-1 overall and 1-1 in league play.
This year’s contest marks the 11th meeting between the two schools, with VSU holding a 9-1 edge in the all-time series. Ouachita Baptist picked up its first victory in the sereis last year when it claimed a 24-14 victory on its home field.
Valdosta State enters the game averaging 357.0 yards of offense while surrendering 289.8 total yards per game. Usually known for its passing attack, VSU has proven to be quite balanced this year as the Blazers are averaging 156.5 yards per game rushing and 200.5 through the air. Meanwhile, the defense, which has created 13 turnovers in the first four games, is allowing just 71.5 yards on the ground and has already intercepted 10 passes on the year. The Blazer defense picked up its first shutout since the 2007 season last week as VSU defeated Southern Arkansas 27-0.
The Blazer offensive balance is evidenced throughout the team where four players are currently averaging more than 22.0 yards rushing while 15 players have caught a pass on the season. David Arnold leads the rushing attack with 46.8 yards per game while Gerald Ford has caught 12 passes for 219 yards and a score this season. Meanwhile, Larry Dean is off to a good start this season as he has already registered 59 tackles while Stevie Harden has intercepted five passes.
Ouachita Baptist is coming off of an exciting 37-34 come-from-behind victory over Harding that saw the Tigers score 22 points in the fourth quarter. The Tigers are averaging an impressive 44.0 points and 458.8 yards per game, including 177.5 on the ground and 281.2 through the air. Meanwhile, the OBU defense is surrendering 23.5 points and 306.5 yards per game.
The Ouachita Baptist game will be the 325th game in history of Valdosta State football. The Blazers have won 219 contests, lost 101 and tied four times, a winning percentage of .682.
Harden, Fulford Earn GSC Weekly Honors
Cornerback Stevie Harden and punter Jack Fulford earned Gulf South Conference recognition on September 27 after leading the Blazers to a 27-0 shutout of Southern Arkansas two days earlier. Harden was named the league’s Defensive Player of the Week after tallying three turnovers in the game. He intercepted a pass in the red zone in the first half to prevent a SAU score and later picked up a fumble and ran 62 yards for a touchdown. Later in the game, he intercepted a pass and returned it 42 yards for a touchdown. His 123 total return yards in the game were just 23 fewer than the Mulerider offense tallied in the game. Harden’s selection for the player of the week honor marked the second straight week a Blazer defender had been named the conference’s top defensive player.
Fulford earned GSC Special Teams Player of the Week after averaging 44.8 yards on his 10 punts in the game. He booted a career-high 64 yard punt that was downed on the SAU two yard line. Two of his 10 kicks landed inside the Mulerider 20 and three traveled at least 50 yards. The award marked the second time in his career that Fulford had been recognized by the conference.
Harden Chasing Interception Record
Through the first four games of the year, Stevie Harden has already intercepted five passes, or two more than last year’s season leader, Carlos Anderson, had in 10 games. Harden’s five interceptions are tied for the fifth-highest single season total in school history and are just four away from the school mark of nine set by VSU Athletics Hall of Fame member Dallis Smith in 1986.
Harden’s five interceptions, which have been returned for 148 yards, this year are the most by a Blazer player since Sherard Reynolds tallied seven interceptions during the 2007 season.
In addition to the interceptions, Harden has also recorded nine tackles, including five solo stops, on the year. He also has two passes broken up, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery, which he returned 62 yards for a touchdown. Harden has returned to of the interceptions for touchdowns - one for 55 yards against Delta State September 18 and the other 42 yards at Southern Arkansas September 25.