Macon, GA - Top-ranked Valdosta State tallied 454 yards of total offense as the Blazers defeated Fort Valley State 36-21 in NCAA Division II football action at Henderson Stadium Saturday afternoon.
With the win, VSU improved to 1-0 while Fort Valley State fell to 0-1.
Fort Valley State opened the scoring on its first drive of the game as it took over at the 50-yard line after a short punt by VSU. A pair of Eugene Smith passes moved the ball to the Blazer six before Smith kept the ball off right end for the touchdown. On the extra point attempt, Jeremy Grable burst through the line and blocked the extra point attempt, scooped up the ball and returned it for a defensive two-point attempt to give the Wildcats a 6-2 advantage.
Valdosta State took the lead on its next possession as Regginald Lewis returned the kickoff to the FVSU 35. Four plays later Cayden Cochran found Lewis from 16 yards out for the score to post VSU to a 9-6 lead.
The Blazer lead grew to 15-6 at the 2:07 mark of the first quarter when Cedric O'Neal took a hand-off and broke a tackle before rushing 69 yards for a touchdown.
After the VSU defense stopped Fort Valley State on four straight rushes inside the VSU 5 yard line, O'Neal was tackled in the end zone for a Wildcat safety to cut the FVSU deficit to 15-8, but Valdosta State responded with a pair of touchdowns over the remainder of the half.
On Valdosta State's next possession, Cochran completed a pair of passes for 19 yards and Austin Scott picked up 37 more on a run before a pass interference call in the end zone gave VSU the ball on it's the FVSU two. On the next play, Cochran faked a hand-off and scored untouched to push the Blazer lead to 22-8.
Cochran threw a sideline completion to Willie Downs, who stiff-armed a defender and raced 42 yards to the end zone on VSU's final drive of the half to give a the Blazers a 29-8 halftime advantage.
Downs added a second touchdown reception on Valdosta State's first possession of the second half as he hauled in a pass from Cochran and ran 38 yards for a score to push VSU's edge to 28 points.
Fort Valley State took advantage of another short punt to cut the Blazer lead to 36-14 as it took over on the Blazer 35 yard line. The big play on the drive came on a third-and-six when Smith found Jevon Watson on the VSU three. Two plays later, Jonquez Sanders scored off right end, but the two-point conversion attempt was unsuccessful.
The Wildcats continued to chip away at their deficit in the fourth quarter as they took advantage of a roughing the kicker penalty on a punt to score another touchdown. After the penalty, Smith hooked up with De'Angelo Smith for 72 yards and then scored on a five-yard run to close FVSU to within 36-21 with 7:38 to play.
Valdosta State tallied 169 rushing yards and 285 through the air. O'Neal led the Blazer rushing attack with 94 yards and a score while Downs had three catches for 97 yards and two scores and Lewis tallied six receptions for 95 yards and a touchdown. Cochran completed 20-of-32 passes for 285 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for seven yards and another score.
Justin Williams had 10 tackles, including three for loss, to lead VSU defensively while Lance Holder finished with eight tackles and an interception.
Fort Valley State tallied 358 yards of total offense, including 287 through the air by Smith, who completed 17-of-37 passes. Smith caught four passes for 122 yards while Smith led the team in rushing with 41 yards. Ja'Bioas Glenn led the Wildcat defense with eight tackles and an interception.
Valdosta State has a bye next week and returns to action Saturday, September 21 when it hosts Shorter in the Blazers' Gulf South Conference and home opener. Kick-off is slated for 7:00 p.m.