Valdosta State starts slow, finishes strong with 36-21 victory over Keiser in season opener
VALDOSTA, Ga. - (WCTV) - Fans inside Bazemore-Hyder Stadium were a bit uneasy for a good part of Valdosta State’s season opener against Keiser University on Thursday. Ultimately, the 2nd ranked Blazers finished strong and defeated the NAIA 7th ranked Seahawks 36-21.
First year Head Coach Tremaine Jackson told WCTV on Tuesday, the Seahawks were no slouch. They certainly gave the Blazers everything they could handle on Thursday night.
The Valdosta State defense bent, but didn’t break most of the first half. Sean Colman intercepted Keiser’s Shea Spencer in the endzone on the Seahawks opening drive. The Blazers capitalized on the turnover to the tune of an Estin Thiele 36 yard field goal to put VSU on top 3-0 early. Thiele was just getting started.
The Blazers stuffed the Seahawks again the very next possession in the red zone, this time stopping Keiser on fourth down and goal from the two yard line to turn it over on downs. However, VSU couldn’t capitalize.
It was 3-0 for quite some time until Keiser finally broke through. Marques Burgess had a short touchdown run to put the Seahawks up 7-3 with just over eight minutes in the second quarter.
Nothing was really clicking for Valdosta State offensively in half number one. Estin Thiele nailed a 38 yard field goal as time expired in the first half. The Blazers went into the locker room trailing 7-6.
The second half was a much different story. On VSU’s first possession, Ivory Durham hit Davie Henderson from 22 yards out for a touchdown putting the Blazers on top 13-7.
After forcing a three and out, VSU’s Jamar Thompkins fumbled and the Seahawks recovered. They would capitalize to the tune of a 43 yard screen pass from Shea Spencer to Seth Rolle, and just like that Keiser was back on top 14-13 with just over eight minutes to go in the third quarter.
The Blazers responded with Estin Thiele’s third field goal of the game, this time from 36 yards out. After stopping the Seahawks on fourth down, the Blazers scored again courtesy of a Jamar Thompkins five yard touchdown run taking a 23-14 lead just before the start of the fourth quarter.
The fourth quarter belonged to the Blazers as they finally created some separation. First, Keiser answered back with a short touchdown pass from Spencer to Jaylen Arnold to pull the Seahawks within two as VSU still lead 23-21. Those would be the final points of the game for Keiser.
Seth McGill capped off a long drive for the Blazers with an 11 yard touchdown run making it 30-21. On the Seahawks ensuing possession, Jameon Gaskin intercepted Spencer’s pass and returned it 37 yards to the KU seven yard line. The Blazers just mustered a field goal out of it though. Estin Thiele nailed his fourth field goal of the game, this time from 22 yards out.
The very next possession, Ravarius Rivers intercepted Spencer thus ending the ball game. Estin Thiele would go on to hit another field goal (his fifth of the game) from 45 yards out.
The Blazers started slow yet finished strong in the process of notching Tremaine Jackson his first win at the helm of Valdosta State. 36-21 was your final, however, Jackson knows there’s definitely room for improvement.
“I didn’t like the standard in the first half. That wasn’t us. That wasn’t our standard. We weren’t finishing things, we weren’t tackling well, we weren’t playing with a lot of enthusiasm, our sideline was dead. That’s what we went in [to the locker room] and communicated,” Jackson said, “I told them at half time, ‘it doesn’t matter what the score is. I’m looking for a DOG. I’m looking for a team that has discipline, obedience, and is playing with some grit. We have some things we need to get better at, but again guys, we’ll go look at it. We have hard evidence, hard facts, and that sometimes is way better than practice.”
Jamar Thompkins ran for 113 yards and a touchdown. Ivory Durham threw for 270 yards and a touchdown. Estin Thiele was 5-5 from field goals.
VSU has a long week off until they play host to Virginia Union next Saturday, September 10th.
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