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Blazers prepare for West Alabama

Ed Hooper
Sports Writer
ephooper@valdosta.edu 

 The Valdosta State Blazers (1-2, 1-1) are back on the Reames practice fields this week as they prepare for their upcoming game against the West Alabama Tigers at 7 p.m. Saturday  at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium.
 The Blazers are coming off a unexpected 24-14 loss to Ouachita Baptist, a game in which the Tigers racked up 502 yards of offense against a Blazers defense that allowed only 39 yards the previous week to Southern Arkansas. VSU quarterback Kellen Lewis threw the ball a season high 51 times for 288 yards in the loss while Ronnye Nelson rushed seven times for 61 yards.
 Last week West Alabama (3-1, 1-1) lost their first game of the season to the hands of Southern Arkansas. The game went into five overtimes before the Muleriders finally went ahead for good. In the loss West Alabama allowed 500 yards of offense up to Southern Arkansas. The same team the Blazers played so stoutly in week two of the season.
 Saturday’s match-up with West Alabama should provide some problems for the Blazer defense, a unit that has shown some rather inconsistent play this early in the season. West Alabama is the first team the Blazers will face this season that does not run the spread offense. The Tigers of West Alabama run the slot option, something Blazer head football coach David Dean fears might give his defense some problems.
 “They (West Alabama) throw the ball very well,” Dean said. “They also run the option and, when you put those two combinations together, it is very difficult to defend.”
 The difficulty of stopping West Alabama that Dean mentions comes with the secondary. The Blazers secondary has had trouble against option-style team because of the constant play action threat. The secondary becomes susceptible to the deep pass because it is required to help in run support.  Unlike last week when quarterback Kellen Lewis threw more times than the desired game plan called for, the Blazers expect the running game to re-emerge this week against the Tigers.
 “We have to be able to run the football,”  Dean said. “We have always been a team that for us to be successful we have to be able to throw the ball as well as run.”
 Even though the Blazers are out to their worst start since 1997 they have not begun to panic. According to senior wide receiver R.J. Bastone the Blazers are out to prove what they are all about.
 “Were just trying to prove that we are legit right now,” said Bastone. “A lot of people have doubts on us and we just have to go out and show them that we are a good team.”

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