Written by Kyle Dawson, Sports Editor
VSU football silenced the West Georgia Wolves as they won 38-27 to reclaim the Peach Basket after UWG threw four interceptions. Coach Bell said he didn’t realize how intense VSU’s rivalry was with the Wolves.
“It was intense from the time we walked out here in warm ups,” Bell said. “I didn’t know it was that bad. This is an intense and passionate rivalry, and our guys played their heart out.”
After starting Adam Robles against Kentucky State, Bell started Roland Rivers against tonight. The Blazers came out of the locker room ready to play. The defense forced a UWG fumble, and the offense promptly scored on the ensuing drive as Rivers threw to Damien Strange for seven yard touchdown. Strange had two other touchdowns during the game.
“[In the red zone,] I just try to stay on their toes and get separation,” Strange said. “If you’re in the red zone and get good separation, it’s an easy touchdown.”
UWG struck back quickly with two touchdowns of their own, both on rushing plays. Then after a couple of Rivers touchdown passes in the second quarter, the Blazers regained the lead. In the third quarter, the Blazers gave up a 41 yard touchdown pass to Alex Armah and a 24 yard touchdown run by LeMarcus Franks. VSU then scored 17 unanswered points to close out the win.
Head coach Kerwin Bell said the team played a balanced game for four quarters.
“We are playing really good football,” Bell said. “We won the turnover battle big time. We didn’t give up any sacks. Special teams played pretty even. We were looking for a balanced team win with good office, good defense and good special teams.”
Bell said the decision to go with Rivers was a tough one, but he thought Rivers stepped up to the challenge.
“He was really zoned in, and he wanted this game,” Bell said. “He had a really good week of practice. The decision came down to this morning. Adam wasn’t bad, but I saw it in Roland’s eyes. He came to play, and he played like he’s played in practice.”
Rivers said he loved how the team stepped up against adversity and played like a family.
“Coach Bell just told me to play fast and make better decisions,” Rivers said. “Some teams could’ve folded tonight, but we stayed in it the whole game and believed. My offensive line stepped up, and didn’t allow any sacks. The whole team played as a family, and if we do that, we’ll go a long way.”
After Rivers had to leave with cramps, Robles came in during the third quarter and threw two touchdown passes to regain the lead. Bell said Robles was very important during the win.
“Adam was the deciding factor in the second half,” Bell said. “It was good to see, and he helped us win the game.”
VSU’s defense, who has relied on turnovers all season, gave up some big plays, but they stopped the Wolves when it counted. Raymond Palmer had two interceptions and Kenny Moore and Dante Robinson both had one.
“We had a good game plan all week, and we locked in,” Larry Murphy, VSU defensive back, said. “We stuck to the game plan, and we took in coaching on the sideline. We work on interceptions every day in practice. Our coach calls plays that end in turnovers.”
Bell said the team has really gotten better as they play in the system more.
“They just believe in this staff,” Bell said. “We didn’t come out the gates the way we wanted to the first week or two, but we just kept getting better. I love their attitude in practice. They just keep trying to get better every week, and I think this showcases their work.”
Bell said he kept reminding the team of a boxing match between Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran. He said he wanted the team to take the will away from the Wolves and get them to say “no mas” like Duran.
“In big games like this, Xs and Os sort of go out the window, and it’s more about who takes whose will,” Bell said. “It’s about who really wants it. I think during the second half, I guys really bent their backs and were able to finish the game the way we were talking about in practice.”
Bell and the Blazers actually have cinco mas. Five games remain until the playoffs start. The Blazers’ next test will be a conference game against Mississippi College on Saturday, Oct. 15, at 4 p.m. in Clinton, Mississippi.