Cleveland, MS - Valdosta State football finished on the wrong end of a shootout at McCool Stadium in Cleveland, Miss. on Saturday, when they fell 63-55 to Delta State in a contest that saw 1177 total offensive yardage.
The Blazers (5-3, 3-3) were unable to capitalize on a record setting performance by Seantavius Jones, who broke a Gulf South Conference record for touchdown receptions in a game after catching six passes for touchdowns from Kaleb Nobles. Jones also set a new mark in the GSC for points scored in a game with 36. Prior to Jones performance, the touchdown reception record had stood for 20 years, while the points in a game record had not been broken for 13 years.
Delta State (6-2, 4-1) struck on the opening drive when DSU quarterback Tyler Sullivan, who finished the day with 34 completions in 48 attempts and a school record 520 yards in the air, connected with Ricky Hunt to give the Statesmen an early 7-0 lead.
On the ensuing drive, the Blazers responded with a strong push that ended with an 18 yard touchdown pass from Nobles, who delivered a high, lofty pass that found Jones in stride to cap off a 64 yard drive and knot the contest up at 7-7.
The Blazer defense forced a DSU fourth down on the following possession, but the Statesmen were allowed to continue the drive when Valdosta State was charged with a personal foul on the punt attempt. Delta State took advantage of the Blazers' miscue and took a 14-7 lead a few plays later when Sullivan reached the end zone for a seven yard touchdown carry, his first of two on the day.
The Blazers successfully thwarted a DSU scoring attempt late in the first quarter with a forced fumble by Ashton Ballard and a recovery by Jeremy Grable to deny the Statesmen.
VSU was forced to punt on the following drive, but retained possession after the punt touched a DSU player and was recovered by the red and black. VSU was unable to take advantage, however, as Anthony Pistelli missed to the left on a 30 yard field goal attempt later in the drive.
With 11:26 to go in the second quarter, Kenny Murphy came up big for the Blazers with his second interception of the year. Murphy was able to return the pick for 30 yards and a touchdown to lock the game back up at 14-14.
Sullivan answered the call once again for the Statesmen on the next possession when he delivered a 26 yard pass to Hunt to give Delta State a 21-14 advantage. The play was the second of three touchdown completions from Sullivan to Hunt, who finished the day with ten receptions and 206 receiving yards.
Nobles hooked up with Jones for the second time in the first half with a 36 yard touchdown completion to notch the contest back up at 21 apiece, but DSU fired right back to reclaim a 28-21 lead with another touchdown from Sullivan, this time to Patrick Bethley just before the half.
Early in the second half, the scoring barrage continued with a three yard touchdown rush to finish off a 70 yard drive, which spread the DSU's lead to a 35-21 advantage.
Later in the third, Sullivan connected with Hunt once again with a completed pass that allowed the receiver to breakaway for a 76 yard touchdown and a 21 point lead for Delta State with less than three minutes to go in the third.
Less than one minute into the fourth quarter, Valdosta State shortened the lead with another touchdown pass from Nobles to Jones. The reception was good for Jones' third of his six touchdown receptions.
DSU appeared to put the contest out of reach later in the fourth with a touchdown carry by Justin McArthur to give the Statesmen a 49-27 lead, but an interception and 70 yard return for a touchdown by Dominique Wheeler kept the Blazers' hopes alive.
The Blazer defense stepped up with a stop on the ensuing drive, and the red and black offensive attack responded with yet another touchdown from Nobles to Jones to bring the Blazers to within eight points at 49-41 with 7:45 left in regulation.
Delta State responded with a four minute, 78 yard drive that was capped off by a seven yard touchdown run by Richard Freelon at the 3:33 mark to spread the lead 56-41, but the Blazers quickly responded with Nobles fifth touchdown pass to keep the Blazers within striking distance.
A wild final two minutes began with an onside kick attempt by Valdosta State that was returned by the Statesmen for a touchdown, immediately followed by a 76 yard kickoff return by VSU to the one yard line on a lateral from Regginald Lewis to Austin Scott. Jones caught a one yard pass to bring the scoring to end at 63-55 in Delta State's favor.
The Blazers will now face a short week, as they prepare for UNC-Pembroke on Thursday night at 7:30 p.m.. The teams will square off at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium for the GSC-TV Game of the Week.