No. 1 VSU Handles Tigers in GSC Opener

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VALDOSTA, Ga Top-ranked Valdosta State turned three of five West Alabama turnovers into points on the way to defeating No. 20 West Alabama, 44-27, in the Gulf South Conference football opener for both teams Saturday at Bazemore-Hyder Field.

Valdosta State improved to 3-0 with its 18th consecutive victory. West Alabama is 2-1.

"We didn't make the plays to have a chance and Valdosta State did," UWA head coach Brett Gilliland said. "We had some bright spots at times in each area but not consistently and together.

"All that matters now is how we learn and grow as a team," Gilliland said. "I am excited to see this team matures from this."

Valdosta State almost doubled the time of possession, keeping the ball for just over 38 minutes.

West Alabama had 376 total yards, but Valdosta State amassed 492, 259 of those on the ground for 6.3 yards per carry against a West Alabama defense that was allowing just 99.5 rushing yards per game.

Yards in the passing game were a wash, with VSU throwing for 233 and UWA 232. The difference was the Blazers picked off three passes and the Tigers failed to intercept a pass for the third straight game.

4:56 in First Quarter – Fernando Ramirez made a 19-yard field goal to give Valdosta State a 3-0 advantage.

10:03 in Second Quarter – Ramirez converts again, this time from 34 yards to give the Blazers a 6-0 lead. The PAT failed and VSU led 12-0.

4:59 in Second Quarter – Brian Saunds completed a 3-yard touchdown pass to Rogan Wells with 4:59 left in the first half.

0:40 left in Second Quarter – Demetrius Battle scored on a 3-yard run and Tre Jackson converted the PAT to cut the Blazer lead to 12-7.

0:14 left in Second Quarter – Wells connected with David White on a 29-yard scoring pass, answering UWA's TD by covering 75 yards in just three plays. Ramirez converted the point after to make is 19-7 Valdosta State at the half.

7:41 left in the Third Quarter – Wells hooked up with Lio'undre Gallimore for a 7-yard TD pass. Ramirez added the point after, and the Blazers led 26-7.

4:42 left in the Third Quarter – Jack McDaniels and Bayley Blanchard connected on an 8-yard scoring pass. Jackson kicked the point after and UWA trailed 26-14.

14:45 left in the Fourth Quarter – Aaron Dawson intercepted McDaniels and returned it for 80 yards and a touchdown. Tyson Shaw ran it in for the two-point conversion to extend the Blazer lead to 34-14.

11:56 left in the Fourth Quarter – McDaniels hit Battle for 15 yards and a touchdown pass. Jackson's PAT was true to cut the VSU lead to 34-21.

6:58 left in Fourth Quarter – Ramirez made a 42-yard field goal and Valdosta State led 37-21.

6:31 left in the Fourth Quarter – Derrick Underwood scampered in from 5-yards for a UWA score. The two-point attempt failed, but the Tigers cut the VSU lead to 37-27.

2:51 left in the Fourth Quarter – Wells put the game away for the Blazers with a 23-yard touchdown run. Ramirez added the PAT and VSU led 44-27.

McDaniels completed 21-of-35 for 232 yards and two score but was intercepted twice. Wells completed 22-of-29 for 226 yards and two TDs.

Underwood led Tiger rushers with 48 yards on 11 carries. Jamar Thompkins picked up 94 yards on 14 trips for the Blazers.

Tyriq Martin had six receptions for the Tigers but managed just 35 yards. Christian Saulsberry caught five balls for 100 yards and Blanchard five for 60. Gallimore and Saunds each caught four balls for the Blazers, with Gallimore's good for 62 yards and Saunds 48.

Jeremiah Boyd was credited with a game-high 12 tackles to lead UWA, while Tavarius Hutchinson collected 10 stops. Undraez Lilly was in on two tackles for loss, including a sack. Stephon Williams and Mondrell Jefferson both had seven tackles for the Blazers, with two of Jefferson's being for loss.

West Alabama returns home for the first time since the season opener to host Tuskegee (1-2) in a Super Region 2 game at Tiger Stadium. It will also be Hall of Fame Saturday for UWA, with Gerald Worsham, Michael Flynn and Jerry Smith being inducted into the UWA Athletics Hall of Fame.

VSU travels to Shorter (0-3).