Carrollton, GA - Kaleb Nobles came on for an injured Cayden Cochran and led No. 12 Valdosta State to touchdowns on each of his first five drives to lead the Blazers to a 35-24 victory over West Georgia in Gulf South Conference football action at University Stadium Saturday.
With the win, VSU improved to 5-1 overall and 3-1 in GSC play while West Georgia fell to 4-3 and 1-2.
Nobles entered the game on Valdosta State's second drive of the third quarter with VSU trailing 17-0. He proceeded to complete his first 12 passes of the game and finished the contest 19-of-21 for 238 yards and four touchdowns. He threw touchdowns on each of his first four drives, including three to Seantavius Jones, who caught a career-high 11 passes, all from Nobles, for 187 yards.
The Blazers' first drive under Nobles started with 11:26 to go in the third quarter and saw Valdosta State cover 72 yards on 13 plays. The red-shirt freshman completed all six of his passes on the drive for 43, including the final 13 on a pass to Jones that cut the VSU deficit to 17-7 with 6:47 to play in the quarter. The key play on the drive came when VSU's Anthony Pistelli made a 44 yard field goal, but West Georgia was flagged for roughing the kicker that gave VSU a first down on the UWG 14.
The Wolves moved the ball into VSU territory on the ensuing drive, but a Quan Jones fumble was recovered by Justin Williams and returned to the UWG 39. Nobles proceeded to go five-for-five for 39 yards on the drive, including a five-yard touchdown pass to Roshmel Young that closed the Blazers to within three points.
After forcing a UWG punt, the Blazers again found the end zone as Nobles and Jones hooked up for the second time. The two hooked up for a pair of catches for 35 yards on the drive. The Blazers were forced into a second field goal attempt, but again saw the Wolves rough Pistelli on a 35-yard try to keep the drive alive. VSU capitalized as Nobles found Jones for a five-yard touchdown to give VSU a 21-17 lead with 13:32 to play in the game.
Kenny Moore intercepted a Dallas Dickey pass on the VSU eight yard line on the next West Georgia drive and VSU capitalized as Nobles and Jones connected for the third time on a 13-yard reception, but the Wolves returned the ensuing kickoff 93 yards to keep the score at 28-24.
Valdosta State was forced into a three-and-out on its next drive, but a substitution infraction on a fourth-and-four punt play gave the Blazers a first down. VSU kept the ball on the ground the remainder of the drive as Nobles ran twice for 18 yards while Cedric O'Neal carried the ball four times for 36. O'Neal closed out the drive with a six yard run to put VSU in front 35-30.
West Georgia moved the ball 70 yards for a touchdown on its final drive to pull to within five, but the Blazers recovered the on-side kick attempt and ran out the clock for the victory.
The Valdosta State offense struggled during the first half of play, during which it was shutout for the first time in a half for the first time since September 22, 2007, a span of 74 games and 148 halves. The Blazers managed just five first downs and 101 yards of total offense during the first 30 minutes of play and held on to the ball for just 10:11.
West Georgia took advantage of the VSU offensive struggles to build a 10-0 halftime lead. The Wolves first got on the board on a seven-play, 57-yard drive in which it gained all of their yardage on the ground. Quarterback Dallas Dickey did much of the damage as he gained 43 of the 57 yards, before handing off to Quan Jones for a one-yard touchdown run that put UWG in front 7-0 with 10:31 to play in the first quarter.
A fumble on a punt gave West Georgia the ball on the Blazer end of the field midway through the second quarter, which eventually led to a 20-yard Mark Bardenwerper field goal for the final points of the half.
While VSU struggled offensively in the first half, West Georgia gained 205 yards in the frame, including 145 on the ground. Dickey carried the ball 12 times for 95 of the yards and also completed three of his eight passes for 60 yards.
For the game, Valdosta State tallied 440 yards of offense, including 282 passing and 158 on the ground. O'Neal rushed for 96 yards on 17 carries while Regginald Lewis and Chris Anderson had five catches each.
Chris Pope finished with a game-high 16 tackles to give him 337 for his career. He now stands just three behind VSU Hall of Famer and former Atlanta Falcon great Jessie Tuggle for second place in the Valdosta State record book for career tackles and just 31 behind the school record of 368 held by current Minnesota Viking Larry Dean.
West Georgia tallied 416 yards of offense as Dickey finished with 117 rushing and 230 passing.
Valdosta State returns to action Saturday, October 26 when it returns home to Bazemore-Hyder Stadium to host GSC foe North Alabama at 2:00 p.m.