FLORENCE, Ala. – A host of Blazer miscues, combined with a strong offensive outing by North Alabama quarterback Jacob Tucker, resulted in a lopsided 44-19 victory for the Lions in Saturday's Gulf South Conference road matchup in Florence, Ala.
The Lions evened up their overall record at 1-1 with the victory and opened up GSC play at 1-0, while the Blazers fell to 1-1 overall and 0-1 in conference action.
North Alabama threatened early in the contest with a drive starting at the 11:34 mark, in which Tucker led the Lions downfield and into Valdosta State territory, before Donatello Brown ended the threat with an interception at the VSU 3-yard line.
Throughout the remainder of the first quarter, the two teams traded possessions until UNA's Levi Fell picked off a Roland Rivers pass at the VSU 30-yard line, which sparked a quick, 3-play drive that ended with a Terence Humphrey touchdown carry, his first of two on the night.
The score late in the first quarter kicked the North Alabama offense into gear and supplied momentum that carried over into the second quarter, where the Lions overcame three Andrew Gray field goals and opened up a 30-9 lead with 23 second quarter points.
Thirteen of those points came within 20 seconds of each other, after the Lions scored a touchdown and recovered a fumble for a touchdown return on the Blazers' ensuing drive. The scoop and score marked the first time a VSU opponent returned a fumble recovery for a touchdown since October 26, 2013, when North Alabama's Lamar Smith recorded an 83-yard return in a 57-7 VSU loss.
Head Coach Kerwin Bell elected to go with sophomore Adam Robles in the second half at the quarterback position, and Robles responded favorably, accounting for 187 passing yards and the game's only touchdown, a 10-yard completion to Dallas Baldner late in the third quarter.
Statistically, the numbers didn't matchup with the outcome of the contest, as Valdosta State racked up 433 total yards against UNA's 369. The Blazers struggled to complete drives, however, as the Lion defense tightened up in the red zone and forced VSU to kick field goals on four out of six opportunities.
Gray finished 4-for-5 on field goal attempts in the contest for a new career high, connecting from 25-yards, 35-yards, and twice from 30-yards out.
Tucker passed for 117 yards on the night, but most of his damage was done on the ground, as the senior rushed for a team-high 108 net yards and an average of 7.7 yards per carry. In addition, Tucker also picked up a rushing touchdown to complement Humphrey's aforementioned two touchdown carries. The pair fueled a 199-yard rushing effort for the team on the night.
Next up for Valdosta State, it's a return to Bazemore-Hyder stadium, where the Blazers will host the visiting West Florida Argonauts for their first-ever matchup. The game is slated for 7:00 p.m. on September 24th in Valdosta, Ga.