In the past three weeks the VSU Blazers have posted an impressive 3-0 record. All three wins have come down to the final minute.
Now with three weeks remaining in the regular season, the No. 10 ranked Blazers know the competition is only going to get tougher, which includes this Saturday’s game against the
Arkansas Tech Wonder Boys.
Despite a 3-5 overall record, Tech has impressive performances this season, which includes a 30-25 victory over Arkansas-Monticello and a near upset over Delta State on the second week of the season. Last week ATU racked up more than 450 yards of offense in a 49-26 loss to West Alabama.
Offensively, quarterback Rico Keller leads the Wonder Boy attack. Keller has combined for 13 touchdowns, eight passing and more than 1,300 yards in just six games this season.
Last week, theVSU defense chased UAM quarterback Scott Buisson around the field, something Dean said will benefit his team this week when they face Keller.
“You know you have to contain and you have to break down when you have an elusive guy at quarterback,” Larry Dean, senior linebacker, said. “You’re going to have to really key in and tackle the guy.”
Keller’s favorite target will be wide receiver Roger Jackson, who leads the team in receiving with 523 yards and eight touchdown receptions.
For VSU’s offense, many challenges await as they take on the Wonder Boy’s defense, which ranks sixth in the country in rushing defense. Despite the ability to stop the run, Tech has trouble limiting the opposing passing game, as opponents are averaging more than 255 yards passing per game.
Unfortunately for VSU, the strength of their offense is the running game with the attack of David Arnold, David Bailey and Ronnye Nelson.
“They’re last in the conference in pass defense and they’re first in run defense, that is obvious,” Austen Roberts, junior quarterback, said. “We feel like we have some good stuff for this week and I think it just comes down to executing it.”
As for who will start this Saturday at quarterback, the decision is still uncertain as Roberts left last Saturday’s game against Monticello at halftime with a heel injury. He was replaced by Brett Whitmire, who played the entire second half despite not being fully recovered from a dislocated left shoulder.
“We are just trying hard every day,” Roberts said. “We’ve both been working and I guess it is up to (the coaches). We have just been going out there and handling business.”
Blazers look to avoid upset bug
The past few weeks, the upset bug has bitten several top teams in the Gulf South Conference in the recent weeks. Two weeks ago Harding University took down Delta State and last weekend Ouachita Baptist took down North Alabama in overtime.
Despite the recent upsets, the Blazers are aware of what is at stake in each remaining game—a conference championship. This week, head coach David Dean has closed practice to the media and the community in order to keep his team focused.
Early travel plans for VSU
When VSU plays a game in Arkansas they do not ride a bus, instead VSU is one of the few division II teams to fly. Due to the cost of flying, the team cannot afford to spend the night in a hotel, which means the team flies the same day of the game.
This week the Blazers will hit the air for the second time this season. Unfortunately for VSU, this week’s game against Tech is scheduled for a 3 p.m. E.T. kickoff, which means the flight is scheduled for an 8 a.m. takeoff from the Valdosta Regional Airport. With the early departure, the team will be awake before sunrise.
“I don’t think it’s going to affect our team at all,” Brett Whitmire, redshirt freshman,said. “I mean we had an eight hour bus ride to North Alabama and we know how we played after that.”
After landing in Littlerock, Ark. at 9:45 a.m. E.T., the team will then have a walk-through, a pre-game meal and an hour and a half bus ride to Russellville, Ark. all before taking the field for warm-ups.
Injuries take toll on offense
Injuries are a part of football. Last season, the VSU defense was hampered by injuries. Now in 2010, it is the offense that is quickly being struck by the injuries.
Several key players are suffering from injuries, including offensive lineman Kyle Fox, who is out with a leg injury, Ronnye Nelson (broken bone in foot), who is not expected to miss any game time, Gerald Ford (MCL sprain), who suffered his injury on his game winning touchdown against UAM, Austen Roberts (heel injury) and Brett Whitmire (dislocated shoulder), who played the entire second half last weekend.
“Football, you’re going to play through injuries,” Roberts said. “It is kind of part of (football).”
With the injuries, VSU is turning to young players, as six of the 11 starters on offense were freshman or sophomores last weekend against UAM, which does not include Whitmire.
L. Dean to break record
This weekend, VSU senior linebacker Larry Dean will re-write the VSU record books when he becomes the school’s all-time leading tackler.
Dean needs just two more tackles to break the record of 340 career tackles, which was set in 1986 by former Blazer and Atlanta Falcon great Jessie Tuggle.
Dean began the season needing 95 tackles to break the record. He is second in the nation in tackles on the season.