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Blazers host Delta State

 Every member of the VSU football has one thing in common.  None of them have beaten Gulf South Conference rival Delta State.
 Their head coach David Dean is even 0-3 against his Mississippi rival since taking over as the head guy of the VSU program before the start of the 2007 season.
 In fact, the Blazers haven’t beaten their hated rival since 2005—when VSU used a goal line stand to hold off DSU 24-23.

VSU redshirt freshman Brett Whitmire accounted for four touchdowns on Saturday night in the Blazers 38-17 win against the Newberry Wolves. Saturday's start was his first collegiate start. Photo by: Adam MacDonald/The Valdosta Daily Times
 That could all change Saturday when the No. 20 Blazers welcome the unranked Statesmen to Bazemore-Hyder Stadium.
 “We are all pretty pumped about the game,” Senior wide receiver Jackson Dean said. “It feels like I’ve been here forever and hopefully we can get (a win) but on the flip side their seniors are thinking ‘we can finish off Valdosta State without a loss’. It will be a tough game.”
 Although none of his players have beaten Delta State, VSU head coach David Dean said his team will be ready and they know what is at stake.
 “They know. Nobody on our football team that will dress out has beaten Delta State, they know that,” Dean said. “You don’t have to remind them. They know what is at stake. They know it is the first Gulf South Conference game of the year.  Our guys will be ready to play.”
 Last season, the Blazers Found themselves down 21-0 just minutes into the second quarter. After a strong comeback, VSU fell short 31-23, despite 316 yards passing from quarterback Kellen Lewis.    Along with Lewis’ stout passing performance in 2009, Lewis also rushed for 113 yards as he led the Blazers to 479 yards of offense.
 This season the game is different, as VSU will look to capitalize on many advantages they have in their favor, including their depth and the weather. The game is scheduled for a 1 p.m. kickoff, something Dean said is not by accident.
 “Well, hopefully we will be able to play a lot of guys,” Dean said. “It really helps you when you’re home. A lot of guys that can dress can play special teams and you can get your starters and back-up guys off the field. That is a huge advantage. And hopefully it is going to be hot, but who knows. If it is hot that is going to another advantage because those guys can come off and drink some water.”
 The 2-0 Blazers ride into their heavily anticipated game after dominating Newberry College 45-17 last weekend, while Delta State enters the contest with a 1-1 overall record and a 1-0 record in conference play after taking down Arkansas Tech 27-25 last Thursday night in their home opener.
 Offensively VSU will be led by redshirt freshman quarterback Brett Whitmire, who will be making his first collegiate home start this Saturday. Last week Whitmire made his first collegiate start as the Blazers took down the Wolves.
 “I’m not really nervous right now,” Whitmire said when asked about his nerves. “I might be nervous by Friday.”
 The six-foot quarterback shined last week as he completed 16 of his 29 passing attempts for 186 yards and three touchdowns while he was able to rack up 49 yards on the ground, including a rushing touchdown.
 “I felt pretty good about it. We played pretty good as a whole,” Whitmire said. “The line did really good and the receivers ran really good routes and caught the balls.”
 Defensively, VSU will look to shutdown Delta State quarterback Micah Davis—who in two games has thrown four interceptions for the Statesmen—along with running back Trevar Deed. Deed leads Delta State with 174 yards rushing on the season.
 “When (Deed) is making all his big plays, he is making them off broken tackles,” Dean said about the power Statesmen running back. “They are not wrapping him up. They are going up and just trying to know him down and he is just too big and strong to do that.”
 Valdosta State will also look to create turnovers, something VSU has had much success with so far this season. VSU currently sits with a turnover margin of 2.5 on the season, while Delta State is slumping with a negative 0.5 margin—largely because the Statesmen committed five turnovers in their week 1 loss to in-state rival Jackson State.
 “Well obviously if we can create turnovers it is going to be huge,” Dean said. “Same way on us, if we turn the ball over it is going to be huge. So, we have to control the ball and we have to create turnovers and that was something we were able to do last week. Anytime you win the turnover battle, you can win the game.”
 The Blazers will also look to veteran linebacker Larry Dean, who currently leads all Division II players in tackles with 28 in just two games. Dean is also just 67 tackles away from breaking former VSU and Atlanta Falcon great Jessie Tuggle’s all-time record for tackles in a career.
 “If we had a 100 Larry Dean’s then our jobs would be very easy,” David Dean said. “He knows the game, he does what he’s supposed to do, and he has never been in academic trouble. He has been a joule to coach since the first day. He is a leader for our football team and he is just a great player.”
 A victory on Saturday will take the Blazers to a 3-0 record, which would be the fifth time in six years VSU would start a season with a perfect 3-0 record.
 Senior defensive captain DeMario Jones said he would love to see a sellout for the game. Jones said a sellout would make it difficult on the Delta State offensive and would be an advantage for VSU.
 Read about the game online at www.vsuspectator.com.

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