FLORENCE, Ala. – Valdosta State rushed out to a 24-0 lead and withstood a second half comeback bid by North Alabama as the Blazers defeated the Lions 24-21 in Gulf South Conference football action at Braly Municipal Stadium Saturday evening.
With the win, VSU improved to 5-2 overall and 2-1 in GSC play while the Lions fell to 5-2 and 2-1.
Valdosta State wasted little time in scoring as, after forcing a North Alabama punt on the game's opening drive, the Blazers scored on their second play from scrimmage. After an incomplete pass on first down, Gerald Ford caught a pass over the middle and split a pair of defenders to race 81 yards for his ninth touchdown of the season.
VSU pushed its advantage to 10-0 with 1:48 to go in the first quarter when Daniel Andersen kicked a career-best 51 yard field goal, a kick that matched the fourth-longest field goal in Valdosta State history.
Valdosta State pushed its lead to 17-0 with 3:05 to go in the first half as the Blazers put together a nine play drive that covered 65 yards. Austin Scott did much of the work on the drive as he carried the ball six times for 50 yards. Cayden Cochran closed out the drive with a one-yard plunge to extend the VSU advantage.
As with on their first possession of the first half, the Blazers needed just two plays to score on their first drive of the second half as, after a four-yard run by Cedric O'Neal, Seantavious Jones caught a 71-yard pass from Cochran to extend the VSU advantage to 24-0.
North Alabama got on the board with 7:07 to go in the third quarter after stopping a Valdosta State fourth down try on the Lion 43 yard line. UNA needed just four plays and a pass interference call on the Blazers to march down the field. The Lions scored when Lamonte Thompson took a handoff from the Blazer seven and rolled out of a tackle attempt at the three before plunging into the end zone to cut the Blazer lead to 24-7.
The Lions got within 10 points with 8:25 to play in the game when they marched 81 yards on 10 plays. Luke Wingo completed five-of-seven passes on the drive for 93 yards, the final nine of which came on a completion to Jason Smith in the left corner of the end zone that cut the North Alabama deficit to 24-14.
After forcing a Blazer punt, North Alabama closed to within a field goal on its next drive as it marched 80 yards on nine plays. Wingo passed for 46 yards on the drive before finishing the drive off with an eight-yard run that closed UNA to within 24-21.
Cochran completed 16-of-28 passes for 236 yards and two touchdowns in the game. Scott carried the ball 13 times for 97 yards while O'Neal gained 123 on 23 rushes. Ford caught six passes for 134 yards, his fourth 100-yard receiving game of the season, as Valdosta State tallied 423 yards of total offense in the game.
Chris Pope led the Blazer defense, which recorded a season-high four sacks in the game, with 11 tackles.
After passing for just 612 yards in its first six games of the season, North Alabama tallied 232 in the ball game, including 227 by Wingo. Thompson gained 119 yards on the ground
Valdosta State returns to action next Saturday, October 20 at 3:00 p.m. when it hosts GSC foe Delta State at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium.