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Blazers must beat UNA to save season

Following two tough conference losses the Blazers football team is faced with a must win situation against the University of North Alabama Saturday.

Against West Georgia and for the second game in a row, VSU took a lead late into the fourth quarter, only to give up a go-ahead touchdown with little time remaining.

The loss dropped VSU to 6-3 on the season and 1-2 in conference.

“It was disappointing,” Head Coach David Dean said.

“We basically had everything in our hands. We held our own destiny. If we won that game, as it turns out, it wouldn’t matter what we would have done against North Alabama, and I think we would have been in the playoffs. It hurt because we basically lost it the same way as we did the week before, on the last drive of the game.”

The loss turned an already huge game into a must-win for the Blazers, if they intend on participating in postseason play. The good news for VSU is they are coming off a bye week while North Alabama is coming off an impressive 28-3 victory over the same West Georgia team that defeated VSU the week before.

There’s no doubt VSU is using the bye week as an advantage heading into this Saturday’s game.

“When I first looked at the schedule, I thought, ‘Gosh, I hate having the off week so late in the season,’ but it turned out to be a blessing,” Dean said.“Coming off two straight losses, it gave us an opportunity to heal up, it gave us an opportunity to sit back, refocus, regroup and recharge our batteries. We’ve been able to kind of sit on it and let it build here for a couple weeks.”

The bye week has also given Dean and his team a chance to reassess their mentality heading into the biggest game of the season.

“It’s a playoff mentality,” said Dean.“We got to win, there’s no doubt about it. If we don’t our season is over. We got twelve guys who do not want to play
their last football game this Saturday.”

The Blazers defense will once again face a very stout offense. North Alabama ranks a top the Gulf South Conference in passing offense, averaging 302 yards per game also averaging over 30 points a game.

It’s going to be important for the Blazers to put pressure on the quarterback in order to aid their defensive backs against this potent pass attack.

“We have to be able to put pressure on the quarterback and that’s what we did in the regular season last year, we were not able to in the playoffs and they scored a lot more points on us,” Dean said.

“Our front four has to get in there and make sure we get around the quarterback a lot. When they make catches, which they are going to do, we have to hit them. We can’t let them turn those 5, 6, 7 yard catches into 14, 15 yard gains.”

On a defense that includes 7 former Division-I players, there’s no doubt that North Alabama may have the most talented defense the Blazers will have faced this year. However, Dean believes his team can have success against them if they do one thing: limit mistakes.

“We’ve got to be able to mix throws and runs. We can’t be one dimensional and we force them to make us one dimensional. We can’t make a lot of mistakes. We can’t have penalties, turnovers, drops, missed blocks, we have to perform,” said Dean. “They take advantage of a lot mistakes that you make and we don’t want to do that.”

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