CLEVELAND, Miss. – No. 1 Delta State used an 18-play, 92-yard drive that was capped off by a Brant Botill three-yard touchdown run with 40 seconds remaining to defeat No. 10 Valdosta State 36-33 in Gulf South Conference action at McCool Stadium Saturday evening.
With the victory, DSU improved to 8-1 overall and 2-0 in GSC play while Valdosta State fell to 6-2 and 1-1 in league action.
The drive took 6:49 off the clock and saw the Statesmen convert on three fourth down attempts that kept the drive alive. The winning score came when Botill took a hand-off and ran off the right end untouched into the end zone for the touchdown.
Delta State jumped out to an early lead as it scored a pair of touchdowns in the first 3:26 of the game to jump out to a 13-0 lead. The Statesmen won the opening toss and elected to receive. On the second play from scrimmage, Brandon Lucas got the ball on an apparent reverse run, but pulled up and hit a wide open Lavon Downs for a 62-yard scoring strike just 40 seconds into the contest. The extra point was no good to establish a 6-0 Delta State lead.
After VSU was forced to punt, DSU needed just five plays to march 64 yards for its second touchdown. Micah Davis opened the drive with a pair of completions for 45 yards before Lucas lost two yards on a carry. On the next play, Richard Freelon broke through the middle of the line for an 18-yard run while Davis closed out the drive with a three-yard touchdown run.
Valdosta State used some trickery of its own to threaten on its next drive, as punter Jack Fulford completed a 45-yard pass to Trokon Gaye on a fourth down play that moved the ball to the DSU 18. However, a sack three plays later forced a 43-yard field goal attempt by the Blazers that was missed wide left.
After forcing a Delta State punt on the ensuing drive, the Blazers closed to within six points with an eight-play, 77-yard drive. VSU caught a break on the drive as a DSU interception was negated by a pass interference call. Cayden Cochran proceeded to complete all five of his passing attempts on the drive for 55 yards, including a 28-yard completion to Seantavious Jones for the touchdown that cut the VSU deficit to 13-7.
The Blazer defense gave VSU the lead with 9:46 remaining in the first half when Hunter Chumley forced a Davis fumble on a sack. Tevin Davis picked up the fumble and ran 21 yards to the end zone for a touchdown and a 14-13 VSU advantage.
DSU took the ensuing kickoff and marched to the VSU 6 before being forced into a 23-yard field goal while the Blazers had a 24-yard attempt blocked with a minute remaining to give Delta State a 16-14 halftime lead.
The Blazers added two more touchdowns in the third quarter to build their largest lead at 27-16. Cochran registered both of the scores as he tallied touchdowns on runs of 27 and five yards.
Valdosta State was marching for another potential score in the frame when Delta State got back into the game. With VSU having moved into DSU territory, Brett Butler picked off a screen pass and returned it 65 yards to cut the DSU deficit to 27-33.
The Statesmen regained the lead with less than 10 minutes to play in the game when a Davis pass was tipped into the air by VSU's Tymon Hudson. Mark Vukadinovic, a Delta State offense linemen, grabbed the ball out of the air and ran nine yards for the touchdown.
Troy Braswell ran from a touchdown from one yard out with 7:37 remaining to put Valdosta State back in front 33-29.
Valdosta State out-gained DSU 447 to 416 in total offense in the game, led by 266 yards on the ground. Theseus Jackson rushed for a career-high 177 yards, including 91 in the third quarter, while Cochran added 49 yards and two scores. The sophomore quarterback also completed 13-of-27 passes for 136 yards and a score. Jeremy Grable and Chris Pope each registered 12 tackles to lead the VSU defense.
Valdosta State returns home to Bazemore-Hyder Stadium to face GSC foe West Georgia next Saturday, October 29. Kickoff of the game is slated for 2:00 p.m.