UWG Comeback ends Blazers Season

| November 30, 2015

Valdosta State Football

CARROLLTON – Another heart-stopping matchup ended unfavorably for the Valdosta State football team on Saturday, as the Blazers came up just short in a 27-20 round 2 playoff loss to the West Georgia Wolves in Carrollton.

Valdosta State never led in the contest until the 5:35 mark in the fourth quarter, when the Blazers took a 20-19 lead on a two yard completion from EJ Hilliard to Cedric O’Neal. It was a lead that held for just two minutes, as Dallas Dickey returned fire on the ensuing drive, which included seven plays, all rushing attempts, for 72 yards and the game winning score.

The Blazers struggled to find their footing in the early going and fell behind 10-0 early in the second quarter. The black swarm remained stingy, however, and gave Valdosta State a spark midway through the frame when Peter Tulloch laid a big hit on a receiver to knock a potential completion loose. Senior Kenny Murphy was there to snatch the ball out of the air before it hit the ground, and the big linebacker lumbered down the sideline, shedding multiple tackles en route to a 79-yard return that cut VSU’s deficit to three points at 10-7.

Valdosta State’s defense held on UWG’s next possession, but James Dugan pinned the Blazers at their own 4-yard line after a 46-yard punt. VSU was promptly forced to kick it away, and UWG held favorable field position after Gavin Wilson’s punt rolled out of bounds at the VSU 38-yard line.

The Wolves took advantage of the opportunity and tacked on an additional touchdown with less than one minute to play in the first half to lift their lead to 17-7 at intermission.

VSU was held to just 103 total offensive yards in the first half, but Head Coach David Dean’s squad regrouped at the break, and after another strong stand by the Blazer defense early in the second quarter, Valdosta State pieced together one of their best drives of the afternoon. Hilliard and Co. began a march down the field that lasted over six minutes and included 13 plays, the last of which was a 2-yard completion to senior Will Johnson for his first career touchdown. The score trimmed UWG’s lead to 17-14, and set the Blazers up for an opportunity to take their aforementioned only lead of the contest, despite a safety early in the fourth that extended UWG’s advantage to 19-14.

West Georgia was held to just 81 passing yards on the day, and Dickey was limited to just eight total completions and just one completion in the second half. The Wolves did their damage on the ground, however, with 292 rushing yards, 75 of which came on UWG’s final drive. Both Dickey and Devontae Jackson rushed for over 100 yards at 115 and 126, respectively, while Lamarcus Franks added 72 rushing yards on seven carries.

Hilliard finished with 25 completions on 37 attempts for 201 yards, and the senior quarterback paced the Blazers offensive attack with his legs, acquiring a team-high 46 rushing yards in the game. Greg Dent led the way for Valdosta State’s receiving corps, hauling in six passes for 84 yards.

With the loss, Valdosta State’s season comes to an end at 9-3, while the Wolves improve to 11-1 overall and advance to face Tuskegee, who defeated North Alabama 35-31 after scoring with 19 seconds remaining in Florence, Ala. on Saturday.

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