Valdosta, GA - A pair of Top 20 teams meet as No. 19 Valdosta State travels to Florence, Ala. for a Gulf South Conference tilt against No. 3 North Alabama. VSU enters the contest with a 4-1 record, including a 2-1 mark in Gulf South Conference play, while UNA is 6-0 overall and 3-0 in league play.
This year’s contest marks the 33rd meeting between the two schools, with the Lions holding an 18-13-1 edge in the all-time series. The game marks the 10th time since the beginning of the 2003 season that both teams have been ranked upon entering the game.
Valdosta State enters the game averaging 352.0 yards of offense while surrendering 320.6 total yards per game. Usually known for its passing attack, VSU has proven to be quite balanced this year as the Blazers are averaging 152.8 yards per game rushing and 199.2 through the air. Meanwhile, the defense, which has created 13 turnovers in the first five games, is allowing 83.6 yards on the ground and has already intercepted 10 passes on the year.
The Blazer offensive balance is evidenced throughout the team as three players are currently averaging more than 22.0 yards rushing while 16 players have caught a pass on the season. David Arnold leads the rushing attack with 43.8 yards per game while Gerald Ford has caught 14 passes for 234 yards and a score this season. Meanwhile, Larry Dean is off to a good start this season as he has already registered 71 tackles while Stevie Harden has intercepted five passes.
North Alabama is coming off of a 17-10 GSC victory over West Georgia last weekend. The Lions have been particularly stingy on defense this season as they lead the nation by giving up just 6.0 points per game while ranking third in total defense with 219.0 yards allowed per contest. UNA is averaging 34.2 points and 389.0 yards per game, including 106.8 on the ground and 282.2 through the air. A pair of Division I transfers highlights the offense as quarterback Lee Chapple is passing for 268.5 yards a game while Jarmon Fortson has caught 23 passes for 405 yards.
The North Alabama game will be the 326th game in history of Valdosta State football. The Blazers have won 220 contests, lost 101 and tied four times, a winning percentage of .683.
Gulf South Conference Success
The Blazers have been among the top three in the GSC every year since 2000. Over the course of the last 10-plus seasons, Valdosta State has compiled a 76-13 (.854) record and went a perfect 9-0 in 2001, 2002 and 2004. VSU won GSC championships in 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2004.
Overall, the Blazers have gone a 151-71-3 (.678) record in GSC play and have won five conference championships, with the first coming in 1996. Valdosta State has winning records against eight of the 10 current GSC teams and boasts a 123-51-2 (.705) record against those schools.
Valdosta State’s 76 GSC wins over the last 10-plus seasons are seven more than Delta State, who is second with 69 during that time span.
Dean Closing in on Tuggle
Now in his fourth year with the Blazers, senior linebacker Larry Dean is closing in on one of the most hallowed Valdosta State records, the all-time tackles record held by College Football Hall of Fame member Jessie Tuggle. Dean, has started all four years with the Blazers, is currenlty 23 tackles away from tying Tuggle’s record of 340 career stops as a member of the Blazers.
Dean, who has 71 tackles this season, has registered 317 in his career, making him only the second player in school history to surpass 300 career stops.
Dean’s 14.2 tackles per game this year not only currently leads the NCAA Division II ranks, but also would tie him for the NCAA FBS and FCS lead. He leads the Gulf South Conference by 14 total tackles, despite playing one fewer game than five of his six closest pursuers.
No. Player Years UT AT Tot.
1. Jessie Tuggle 1983-86 143 197 340
2. Larry Dean 2007- 147 170 317
3. Jesse Sutton 1995-98 119 180 299
4. Ryan Branch 1993-96 156 142 298
5. Ced Dickerson 1999-02 174 123 297
More on Dean’s Career
Despite not receiving the recognition of many of his colleagues over the course of the last four years, Larry Dean has enjoyed one of the finest careers ever by a Gulf South Conference player. Dean, who has played in every game during his career, has started 37 out of a possible 41 games and has registered double-digit tackles in 12 of those contests, including all five this year. He has tallied 27.5 tackles for loss, which is seventh-best all-time at VSU, and 9.0 sacks. He totaled a career-high 19 tackles against Delta State on September 18 of this year.
Dean’s success hasn’t been just limited to tackles as he has also recorded two career interceptions, one of which was returned 27 yards for a touchdown, five forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, seven quarterback hurries, 13 passes broken up and one blocked kick during his four years. He returned one of the fumbles 12 yards for a score.