At first glance, it looks as if the Fort Valley State defense was not effective against Tuskegee on Saturday with the Wildcats falling 35-28.
But a closer look reveals the Wildcats’ defense actually had a solid game, forcing five turnovers, while giving up fewer than 300 yards of total offense. The big scores of the game came right at the beginning of the second half, when Tuskegee struck twice in the first three minutes, one on a 89-yard kickoff return and then on an interception return for a touchdown.
That turned a 14-7 halftime FVSU lead into a 21-14 deficit, and FVSU was never able to recover.
The Wildcats return home Saturday to face Kentucky State.
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“We feel like we are playing good defense right now, and we know that we are getting better every game,” cornerback Andrew Campbell said. “We play together, and we play fast and physical, which leads to us creating turnovers. Sure, we have some cracks that we need to fix, but we aren’t giving up long drives. I feel like we are on the verge of being a great defensive football team.
“The more we play together, the better we will get. We have faith as a team that we will continue to get better, because the chemistry here is great. I came a long way to be a part of this football team, and so far, it has been the experience of a lifetime.”
FVSU is giving up 143 yards rushing per game, but teams are only averaging 3.8 yards per carry. Meanwhile the Wildcats are giving up 188 yards passing per game but have six interceptions through the first five games. Covering kickoffs have been a season-long problem, as the Wildcats are giving up 27 yards per return. Making it even more difficult for the defense are the 13 turnovers by the Wildcats’ offense.
FVSU has adapted to having four new players in the secondary getting major playing time. Freshman Karonte Donaldson had three tackles and a pass breakup against Tuskegee, while Brian Walker, a transfer from Delta State, had five tackles to go along with an interception.
They play along with Campbell, who came previously played at Idaho and a junior college, and Michael Lee, who started for three years at Massachusetts before transferring. Lee had six tackles and an interception against Tuskegee.
“We had some players leave at the beginning of the year, and that probably put us a little bit behind, but the guys that have stayed have a very close relationship,” said Lee, who played his high school football at Eagle’s Landing in McDonough. “The Tuskegee loss was definitely a frustrating loss for us, and when you watch the film, it shows that we should have won the football game. Tuskegee has been one of the better teams in the SIAC for a long time, and we were not going to back down against them, and I think we proved that we are one of the better teams in the SIAC.
“We have come back after that loss and probably had our best practice of the year on Tuesday. It’s time for us to put two good halves together on both sides of the football and make a statement on the football field.”