VALDOSTA, Ga. – David Bailey ran for 146 yards and a touchdown to lead No. 5 Valdosta State to a 38-21 victory over visiting Southern Arkansas in non-conference football action at Bazemore-Hyder Staidum Saturday evening.
Bailey led a Blazer rushing attack that tallied 252 yards and three score on the ground. Austen Roberts added 71 yards on the ground while Troy Braswell ran for 24 and two touchdowns.
The first half was closely contested as neither team scored in the first quarter while the two squads traded touchdowns in the second quarter.
Valdosta State, which improved to 4-0 on the season, opened the scoring just 50 seconds into the second quarter as Tray Herndon capped off an 11 play drive with a leaping touchdown. The Blazers ran the ball eight times on the drive, gaining 46 yards in the process, but faced a third and nine on the Southern Arkansas 23 when Herndon went up over a Mulerider defensive back and hauled in an Austen Roberts pass for his first touchdown as a Blazer.
Southern Arkansas (1-3) answered on its next drive of the game as it took to the air for a touchdown just 2:15 later. Tyler Sykora completed four of his five pass attempts in the game for 82 yards while Mark Johnson also gained five yards rushing. Sykora evened the contest as he found Corey Bailey from 21 yards out with 11:57 remaining in the contest to even the game at 7-7.
The Blazers needed just two runs from Bailey on the ensuing drive to once again jump in front. The junior gained five yards on first down and then broke four tackles en route to a 59 yard touchdown, the longest rush of his Blazer career.
The VSU lead stood until the final minute of the first half when Sykora found Brooks White from 20 yards out to even the game at 14-14 at the intermission.
Valdosta State got a 23-yard field goal from Daniel Andersen in the third quarter to grab a lead it would not relinquish, before exploding for 21 points in the third quarter.
Quin Roberson set up the first VSU touchdown of the final quarter with a 42 yard punt return to the SAU 30. After a holding call backed the Blazers up 10 yards, Roberts threw a completion to Herndon for 31 yards and then found Griffin Roelle from nine yards out to increase the Blazer advantage to 24-14.
Roberson returned the next punt 31 yards to set the Blazers up on the Mulerider 25, leading to a one-yard scoring run by Braswell, but Southern Arkansas answered with a four yard run from Johnson just over two minutes later to close SAU back to within 10 points.
After the Blazers recovered an on-side kick attempt to start their third straight possession in Southern Arkansas territory, five runs and a Roberts to Cameo Holloway pass moved the ball to the SAU eight, setting up Braswell's second touchdown of the game.
Valdosta State rolled to 415 yards of offense in the game as Roberts passed for 163 yards while completing 17-of-26 passing attempts. Herndon hauled in three passes for 60 yards while Roelle caught six for 59.
Bailey's 146 rushing yards were the most by a Valdosta State player since Michael Terry rushed for 181 against Ouachita Baptist on September 29, 2007, a span of 47 games.
Chris Pope led the VSU defense with nine tackles in the game. Tevin Davis added two tackles as the Blazers sacked Sykora four times in the contest.
After tallying 177 total yards in the first half, Southern Arkansas tallied just 90 in the second half to finish with 267 total. Sykora completed 18-of-32 passes. Johnson gained 21 yards rushing while James King caught four passes for 65 yards. A.J. Steel led the Mulerider defense with 11 tackles.
Valdosta State returns to action next Saturday, October 1` when it travels to Monticello, Ark. to face the Boll Weevils of Arkansas-Monticello at 7:00 p.m. in the Cotton Boll.