VALDOSTA, Ga. – The Black Swarm defense came up big in Valdosta State football's home opener to hold the Golden Rams at bay and help lift the Blazers to a 16-7 victory on Saturday night in Titletown.
After a 15-yard Roland Rivers pass to Jordan Germany for a Valdosta State first down on the first play of the game from scrimmage, The Blazer offense stalled out continuously throughout the remainder of the first half.
Despite the slow start for the offense, Valdosta State's defensive effort helped keep the game in check for the first two quarters and allowed just one score for the Golden Rams in the half. Albany State pieced together a 10-play, 72-yard march down the field on their first possession of the second quarter with a drive that quarterback Caleb Edmonds capped off with a touchdown scramble. The carry accounted for six of 156 rushing yards for Edmonds on the night.
The Blazer defense turned ASU away yet again on their first possession of the second half, but the offense was unable to capitalize. Momentum began to shift however, when Gavin Wilson booted a 57-yard punt to the Albany State seven yard line. Working to hold ASU deep in their own territory, the Black Swarm stepped up yet again when Andre Johnson pulled off a splendid interception at the Golden Rams' 26 yard line.
The turnover proved to be a shot in the arm for the Blazers, offering VSU a chance to score their first points of the game and cut the deficit to 7-3 after a career-high 43-yard field goal by sophomore Andrew Gray at the 9:14 mark.
Two minutes later, Wilson launched another booming punt, which pinned ASU in at their own two yard line. The pressure situation got the best of Edmonds, and Dante Robinson put the Blazer offense in the driver's seat with the first of two second half interceptions. Robinson picked the pass off at the seven yard line and returned it two yards.
Roland Rivers capitalized on the opportunity, and it took VSU just two plays to score their first touchdown of the night when Rivers connected with Dallas Baldner on a five-yard pass into the endzone. The play gave the Blazers their first lead of the game at 10-7 with 3:50 to go in the third quarter.
The Blazers promptly forced an ASU punt, and with less than two minutes to go in the third, Rivers went back to work. The sophomore quarterback hooked up with Baldner again for a 24-yard gain before adding another completion and two carries for a speedy 4-play, 42-yard score. The Rams blocked Gray's extra point attempt, but the 16-7 advantage proved to be all the Blazers would need, as neither team broke through in the final frame.
As a team, the Blazers were held to just 204 yards of total offense, the fewest ever for VSU against Albany State. Edmonds' four interceptions proved to be the deciding factor, and helped offset 377 total yards for the Golden Rams' offense.
Top performers for the Blazers included Brandon Roe, who joined Robinson and Johnson with an interception of his own. In addition, Baldner's effort resulted in four receptions for 80-yards, the second highest yard total of his career.
With the win, the Blazers improved to 1-0 on the young season, while the Golden Rams fell to 0-1. The victory for Valdosta State marked their eighth consecutive victory over ASU and improved VSU to a 23-11 record on opening day.
Valdosta State will regroup with an off week next week, before kicking off the Gulf South Conference portion of their schedule with a matchup on September 17th against the rival Lions of North Alabama in Florence, Ala.
Don't miss the Kerwin Bell Show, which will be available to watch on demand at www.vsufootball.com beginning on Monday, and catch the Kerwin Bell Radio Show each Monday night at 7pm at Coyoacan Restaurant in Valdosta. In addition, be sure to check out Coach Bell's weekly appearance on The Morning Drive with Phil Jones each Tuesday morning at 8:15 a.m. on 1150AM/96.1 FM Fox Sports Radio in Valdosta.