Written by Gabe Burns, Asst. Sports Editor
The Valdosta State Blazers’ first conference game did not play out as the team had hoped. The team’s defense could not find ways to get off the field in a 34-12 loss to the North Alabama Lions.
The Lions (4-0, 3-0) protected their unblemished record with an impressive offensive showing. The team racked up 523 yards of offense and converted a staggering 11 of 15 of their 3rd down opportunities. A Blazers defense that had been the backbone of the team had an underwhelming day.
“Missed tackles, missed assignments, we just didn’t execute what the coaches gave us very well on third down,” said linebacker Kenny Murphy. “We have to get better from that. We’re going back to work tomorrow, that’s all you can do to bounce back from a loss, and keep getting better.”
The Blazers (3-1, 0-1) had a performance that was uncharacteristic of a team that had meshed so well early in the season. The offense was limited to 146 yards and was responsible for only six points. The other VSU score came courtesy of an Egim Etta-Tawo 35-yard scoop and score following Dante Robinson’s forced fumble.
VSU coach David Dean attributed much of the team’s struggles to their inability to flip field position. The Blazers frequently started backed up in their own territory, and falling behind quickly resulted in early decisions to go for it on fourth down, an area in which the Blazers were 0 for 3.
“Bottom-line is they just outplayed us today,” said Dean. “There’s nothing else you can say about it. They outplayed us in every phase of the game. My hat’s off to them. They were the better team today.”
By no means should the Blazers panic. North Alabama got the best of VSU in the regular season in 2014, but the Blazers were able to eliminate the Lions in the first round of the playoffs. It would not be a surprise to see these teams meet again down the line.
On a positive note, VSU running back Cedric O’Neal is now second all-time in career rushing yards at the school after adding 47 yards on the ground. The preseason all-conference back has been the force behind a powerful Blazers rushing attack the last few years, and his spot in the VSU record book in much deserved.
The schedule does not get any easier for the Blazers. The Gulf South Conference gauntlet continues as the team travels to Carrollton to take on the undefeated West Georgia Wolves this Saturday at 2 p.m.