VALDOSTA, Ga. – Gerald Ford caught a shovel pass from Brett Whitmire and dove into the end zone with 33 seconds remaining to give Valdosta State a 21-17 victory over Arkansas-Monticello in Gulf South Conference football action at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium Saturday afternoon.
The Boll Weevils (3-5, 2-4) scored a touchdown with 2:43 remaining and saw the ensuing kickoff sail out of bounds on the VSU 42 to give the Blazers (6-1, 4-1) the ball with favorable field position. After an incomplete pass, Whitmire connected with Ronnye Nelson for eight yards and the duo hooked up again for five more before Seantavious Jones hauled in a pass to move the ball to the UAM 29. A shovel pass to Nelson lost two yards and Whitmire threw two incomplete passes before being sacked on fourth down. However, a personal foul on the sack gave the Blazers new life and moved the ball to the UAM 16. On the next play Nelson picked up nine yards on a catch to set up Ford’s touchdown reception. The sophomore caught the pass on the UAM five and sprinted to the one before diving for the end zone. He was hit while in the air and flipped head over heels before coming down just over the goal line for the winning score.
Arkansas-Monticello dominated the game offensively as it tallied 459 yards of total offense on 97 plays. The Boll Weevils tallied 289 yards in the first half while building a 10-7 halftime lead.
After the two teams traded punts on their initial possessions, UAM got a 43 yard field goal from Taylor Pontius to open the scoring and later added 28 yard touchdown reception by D.J. Stephens to push its lead to 10-0 at the end of the first quarter.
Valdosta State got on the board in the second quarter as it marched 89 yards on nine plays to score on a Nelson touchdown run. Austen Roberts, who got the start at quarterback for VSU, completed four-of-six passes for 43 yards while also gaining 18 yards on a run. Nelson finished off the drive as he gained seven yards each on a pair of runs to close the Blazers to within 10-7.
The Boll Weevils squandered a chance to up their lead right before the intermission as they drove to the VSU three with two seconds remaining, but chose to throw a pass instead of kicking a field goal to keep their three point advantage at the half.
The Blazers put together another 89 yard drive midway through the third quarter to take their first lead at 14-10 with 7:19 remaining in the frame. Whitmire, who started the second half, completed a pass to Evan Gilles for one yard on first down before finding Wilbert Carter for five more. Nelson proceeded to pick up 19 more yards on a pass and Jackson Dean hauled in a catch for 18 more before David Arnold picked up 14 yards on a pair of runs. With a first and 10 from the UAM 32, Whitmire connected with Ford over the middle, who broke a tackle and raced 32 yards for the touchdown.
Arkansas-Monticello saw two more scoring chances from inside the VSU five go by the wayside in the fourth quarter. On its first possession of the fourth, UAM moved the ball to the Blazer three and picked up a yard on first down, but was stuffed on three consecutive Nakita Myles runs from the two to turn the ball over on downs.
The Blazers were forced to punt from their own end zone on the ensuing drive and the Boll Weevils eventually had first and goal from the VSU four. However, after Myles picked up three yards on first down, he was stopped for no gain on second and UAM quarterback Scott Buisson was tackled for a one yard loss on third down. Stevie Harden proceeded to block the ensuing Pontius field goal attempt to give Valdosta State the ball once again.
Valdosta State moved the ball on the ensuing drive, but Nelson fumbled the ball after picking up 20 yards on a catch and run to give Arkansas-Monticello the ball back on the VSU 43. Buisson quickly move the Boll Weevils down the field as he completed two passes for 21 yards and rushed twice for three more before eventually hitting Stephens on a nine-yard slant to give UAM its final lead with 2:43 remaining.
Valdosta State tallied 291 total yards in the game, including 66 rushing and 225 passing. Whitmire completed 15-of-24 passes for 170 yards and two scores while Nelson carried the ball five times for 27 yards and caught a team-high eight passes for 63. Ford also had 63 yards receiving on four receptions to go along with his two scores.
Three Blazers finished with double figure tackles, led by Larry Dean, who tied a career-high with 19. The senior ended the game just one tackle shy of tying Jessie Tuggle’s Valdosta State career record of 340 tackles. Chris Pope established a new career best with 17 tackles while Ryan Smith fell one shy of his career-high, finishing with 11.
Buisson completed 27-of-42 passes for 329 yards and two touchdowns while also gaining a team-best 48 yards on 16 rushes. Stephens hauled in 13 of the passes for 203 yards while Royel Johnson led the UAM defense with nine tackles.
Valdosta State returns to action next Saturday, October 30 when it travels to Russellville, Ark. to face Arkansas Tech in GSC action. The game is set for a 3:00 p.m. Eastern kick-off.