Valdosta State advances past Carson-Newman - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Valdosta State advances past Carson-Newman

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November 15, 2008

Courtesy of VSU athletics:

VALDOSTA, Ga. - Valdosta State used a strong second-half from its defense to defeat Carson-Newman 24-20 in the first round of the 2008 NCAA Division II Playoffs at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium Saturday afternoon.

After surrendering 287 yards and 14 points to the Eagles (7-4) in the first half of the game, the Blazers (9-2) allowed just six points and 47 yards of total offense in the second half. The lone C-N score of the second half came after Valdosta State fumbled an Eagle punt. Carson-Newman recovered the fumble on the VSU one yard line and scored three plays later on a Buck Wakefield dive.

Carson-Newman opened the scoring on the first drive of the game as it marched 79 yards on nine plays. Quarterback Alex Good picked up 21 yards with a carry on the first play of the drive before Wakefield ran for two more on the ground. Douglas Belk proceeded to gain six more yards on a catch before a pair of carries netted five more yards. Good then found Mo Whitten for 18 yards to the VSU 27 and ran for four more yards. After a four-yard Otis Miller reception, Buck broke through the right-side of the line and raced 19 yards to the end zone for a 7-0 C-N lead.

The Eagles upped their advantage to 14-0 with 3:54 remaining in the second quarter when Wakefield scored on a one-yard run that capped off an 11-play, 77 yard drive, only to have VSU respond with its first touchdown on the next drive. After a pair of passes netted a loss of three yards, Chris Hart found a streaking T.J. Williams for a 71-yard touchdown reception that made the score 14-7 Carson-Newman.

C-N threatened to push its lead back to 14 points with less than a minute to go in the half, but Wakefield fumbled on the VSU 4 and VSU's Sherard Reynolds recovered to keep the Blazer deficit at seven points entering the half.

VSU gained its first advantage of the game with 2:39 remaining in the third quarter when Tucker Pruitt scored on a one-yard run. The Blazers took over the ball on the C-N 39 when Japree Miles stripped Reggie Hubbard of the ball and Everett Kitchens recovered for VSU. Pruitt's first two passes of the drive fell incomplete, but on third down he found Cedric Jones for a 38-yard pick-up to the C-N 1. The senior quarterback scored on the next down and added a two-point conversion on the ground off of a faked extra point attempt to give the Blazers a 15-14 edge.

After Wakefield's third touchdown of the game gave Carson-Newman a 20-15 advantage with 14:13 remaining in the game, the Eagles were unsuccessful on a two-point conversion try. Valdosta State proceeded to march 67 yards in just one minute of action to regain the lead. Ronnye Nelson and Pruitt hooked up for a 30-yard pass on the first play of the drive before Pruitt added two more yards on the ground to move the ball to the Eagle 35. Nelson proceeded to take a hand-off and broke through the right-side of the line before cutting back across the field twice to score on a 35-yard run. VSU was also unsuccessful on a two-point conversion, giving the Blazers a 21-20 advantage with 13:13 remaining in the contest.

Devin Sabina closed out the scoring, but not the drama in the game, with a 36-yard field goal attempt with 5:12 to go. After regaining possession of the ball with 3:42 to go, the Blazer attempted to run out the clock, but were forced to punt with 49 seconds remaining. Jack Fulford was unable to handle the snap on the punt attempt and was tackled on the VSU 40. On the first play from scrimmage, Good looked for Hubbard in the end zone, only to have a pair of Blazers tip the ball away. A holding penalty backed the ball up 10 yards before a second pass to Hubbard was broken up by Reynolds on the VSU 1 before two more Carson-Newman penalties pushed the ball back another 10 yards. The Blazers closed the game by sacking Good on back-to-back plays.

Pruitt completed 9-of-17 passes for 124 yards in the game while Hart was 9-of-13 for 160 yards and a touchdown. Nelson carried the ball 10 times for 83 yards while also catching four passes for 59 yards. Jones caught 5 passes for 62 yards to lead the receivers as VSU tallied 400 yards of total offense in the contest.

The Blazer defense was led by Larry Dean, who tallied 13 tackles, and Reynolds, who finished with 11. Valdosta State forced seven Eagle fumbles in the game, four of which were recovered by VSU. The victory marked the fifth straight play-off game in which Valdosta State has trailed in the second half before staging a come-back victor. The other four second-half come-from-behind victories all came during VSU's 2007 national championship run.

Good carried the ball 18 times for 62 yards while also completing 11-of-19 passes for 118 yards. Wakefield also finished with 62 yards on 18 carries while Miller caught four passes for 47 yards. Mario Russell registered 11 tackle and a pass broken up to lead the C-N defense.

With the victory, Valdosta State advances to the second round of the NCAA Division II Play-offs and will play North Alabama next Saturday, November 22 in Florence, Ala.

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