This story was written by Chris Webb.
No. 13 Valdosta State [2-1 (0-1)] lost 49-32 to No. 14 Delta State University [2-0(1-0)] in a high scoring contest that has become the norm when these two Gulf South Conference foes suit up against each other.
DSU emerged on top after running away in the second half behind their powerful passing attack lead by reigning GSC Freshman of the Year Tyler Sullivan who finished 41-64 with 502 yards (a Bazemore-Hyder Stadium record) and three touchdowns.
For VSU it was an uphill battle from the start having to overcome two fumbled kickoffs by Vincent Dallas and Nick Davis in the first quarter.
The Statesmen turned both into touchdowns, gaining an early 21-6 lead.
“It took away a lot of momentum coming in, it’s always frustrating when you allow quick scores like that,” VSU head coach David Dean said. “We made the mistakes and they made us pay for them, it very well could be the difference in this game.”
The Blazer defense remained posed early however and showed signs of life in the second quarter when the Blazers forced three straight turnovers including a sack fumble by defensive tackle Bryson Brindle with 4:30 remaining in the second quarter.
VSU was able to convert the fumble into a touchdown bringing the lead to 21-19 Statesmen.
Each team added another touchdown before half bringing the score to 28-26 DSU as things looked to start rolling in VSU’s favor for the first time in the game.
The two sides combined for 92 plays and 557 yards in a fast past first half.
Starting quarterback Jake Medlock went 8-11 for 154 yards and added a touchdown on the ground as well before being replaced by Kaleb Nobles on the last drive of first half, he would not return to action.
“We talked about it as a staff coming in that it was something we wanted to do and we just felt it was the right opportunity to put him in,” Dean said. “[Medlock] was only reading one guy then taking off running, when we entered the hurry up mode we knew we weren’t going to be able to do that anymore.”
The Blazer offense looked over whelmed and was not able to put anything together on the Statesmen defense like they had in the first half; VSU had only 66 total yards of offense in the third quarter.
With VSU’s offenses lacking the ability to move the ball consistently, the pressure fell on the defense to make something happen, and it just never did.
Lone bright spot for the Blazer’s offense tonight was wide receiver Chris Anderson who had a career night picking up 181 yards and a touchdown on 11 catches.
The Statesmen nonetheless dominated possession and exploited the VSU secondary often adding two early touchdowns in the third quarter, including an 85-yard pass by Sullivan to wide receiver Casey Osborne making it 42-26 heading into the fourth quarter and never looked back.
Osborne finished the day with nine catches for 192 yards and two touchdowns, as VSU could find no answer for him and Sullivan.
Penalties also hurt VSU dearly during the second half and really stopped them from gaining any momentum back on either side of the ball.
“We had them third and 20 one time then give up 20 yards in penalties, we gave them the first down, we just can’t do that,” Dean said.
The Blazers picked up 14 penalties for 126 yards including huge personal foul calls on key third down plays that resulted in direct first downs, extending drives for the Statesmen’s offense.
“We can’t make that many mistakes against a team like Delta State and expect to win,” Dean said. “My hat’s off to Delta State though for capitalizing on them.”
The Blazers look to bounce back next week as they hit the road for their first true road game of the season when they battle GSC rivals North Alabama next Saturday in Florence, Alabama.