Valdosta State has pretty much delivered a beatdown on Fort Valley State in recent meetings, and that was again in the air after a score early in the third quarter made it a 28-point game.
There was no beatdown, but Valdosta State maintained control for a 36-21 win Saturday over FVSU at Henderson Stadium in the season opener for both teams.
It was Valdosta States 10th straight win over FVSU and only second in that stretch by fewer than 22 points.
Valdosta State scored on a blocked PAT kick, got a big kickoff return to set up a score, turned in a big defensive stand inside the 4-yard line and kept FVSU from taking advantage of most everything in the first half.
FVSU trailed 29-8 at halftime and had the ball for less than a minute to open the third quarter. Valdosta State then had the ball for less than a minute before scoring on a nice hitch-and-go pass from Cayden Cochran to Willie Downs for 38 yards for a body punch to the Wildcats.
We challenged our guys to come out of the locker room fast, and they did, Valdosta State head coach David Dean said. I guess it was my fault. I challenged them to come out fast, I didnt challenge them enough to finish the game. (FVSU) kept fighting, and they never gave up.
Jonquez Taylor, a junior from Taylor County, had a third-quarter touchdown run for the Wildcats, who hung around but couldnt make a dent until DeAngelo Smiths superb catch of Eugene Smiths heave for 72 yards. Smith scored a play later as FVSU pulled within 36-21 at the 7:38 mark of the fourth quarter.
Tracey Whites stop on fourth down stop then gave FVSU the ball on the Blazers' 47, but upset hopes died with a penalty and then interception.
We dont know how to finish yet, Dean said. We did feel we had the game under control, but thats why we stayed with our offense instead of running the clock out. Those guys have got to learn to finish.
Eugene Smiths return at quarterback was a decent one on paper. The senior completed 17-of-37 for 287 yards with a late interception, and he was sacked four times.
He had a good game, could have had a better one, FVSU head coach Donald Pittman said. He just tried to take the team on his shoulders and had some people open.
Cochran was 20-of-32 for 285 yards and three touchdowns. Downs, who failed to qualify after signing with Florida State and played at two junior colleges, had two touchdowns and 97 yards on three catches. The games offensive MVP also had a nice 58-yard touchdown catch nullified by a hold.
Former Dublin standout Cedric ONeal had 94 yards on nine carries with a long touchdown run.
FVSUs JaBioas Glenn, a Dooly County product, was the defensive MVP with eight tackles, a forced fumble, an interception and an assist on a tackle for loss.
The Wildcats started strong with a three-and-out on defense followed by a three-play, 50-yard scoring drive, with Smith finding Seth Hill for 32 yards and then keeping for the final 6 yards. But the Blazers countered when Jeremy Grable blocked the PAT kick and returned it for two points, so the FVSU lead was 6-2 instead of 7-0.
Regginald Lewis big kickoff return set up Valdosta States short drive for a 9-6 lead.
Thomas Wolfes long punt return set up a short drive for for FVSU, but the Wildcats then missed a 26-yard field goal. Twice in the first half the Wildcats came up short inside the 10.
We missed those scoring opportunities, Pittman said. That was the key. We had a chance to -- I wont say take control -- change the tempo of the game, flow of the game.
Three plays later, ONeal started inside and went outside, sprinting for a 69-yard touchdown run.
Ryan Campbell made a superb bobbling interception to give FVSU the ball at Valdosta States 37 and had first-and-goal at the 3 only to be denied. But Darius Lamar blasted in on the first play and dumped ONeal in the end zone for a safety, pulling the Wildcats to within 15-8 two minutes into the second quarter.
FVSU paid for a three-and-out with Valdosta States 6-play, 68-yard scoring drive for a 22-8 at the 8:29 mark of the second quarter. The dagger came late in the half on a 42-yard scoring pass to Downs with 1:16 left.
It was a learning experience, Glenn said. It shows you where youre at. Now, weve got to improve on the things we were lacking in the game.