|August 30, 2008||1st||2nd||3rd||4th||Final|
|VSU||TD||14:43||Albert Dukes 16 Yd Pass From Chris Hart (Zac Williams kick)|
|VSU||TD||07:18||Michael Brown 35 Yd Run (Zac Williams kick)|
|NEW||TD||01:30||K. Tindal 15 Yd Pass From E. McCollom (B. Blackmon kick)|
|Stats at a Glance||VSU||NEW|
|3rd Down Conversions||4-13||3-14|
|4th Down Conversions||0-1||1-2|
|Passing (Comp-Att)||202 (12-24)||155 (22-32)|
|Rushing (Att)||131 (41)||70 (31)|
NEWBERRY, S.C. - A late comeback for No. 20 Newberry College fell just short, as No. 1 Valdosta State left Setzler Field with a 14-9 win Saturday afternoon. An overflow crowd of 4,589 witnessed a much-hyped matchup that did not disappoint.
Newberry (0-1) saw its 15-game home winning streak come to a close, but also saw an impressive performance against one of the best teams in the country.
"Anybody could have won this game and it was two of the top teams in the country going at it," head coach Zak Willis said. "I thought Valdosta State played exceptionally well and they deserve to be ranked where they are. I'm very proud of our guys. They never gave up and they never quit. Our defense was lights out all day."
Newberry held VSU to 14 points, the Blazers' lowest point output since Sept. 24, 2005, against Central Arkansas. Senior linebacker Will Newell (Irmo, S.C.) led the Newberry defense with nine tackles, while the scarlet and gray sacked Blazer quarterbacks four times and recorded seven tackles for losses and forced two fumbles.
The scarlet and gray established a defensive presence early, pushing Valdosta State inside its own 5-yard line after only two plays. The two teams exchanged punts on four possessions before the Blazers dented the scoreboard first in the second quarter.
After getting the ball on its own 20, VSU drove 80 yards on eight plays to score first. A diving catch for a 41-yard completion on third-and-12 by R.J. Bastone kept the drive alive, and a 16-yard pass from Chris Hart to Albert Dukes put Valdosta State up 7-0 after the Zac Williams PAT.
The Newberry defense put the scarlet and gray on the board after Valdosta State's next drive, thanks in large part to the play of defensive end Jim Page (Clinton, S.C.), who sacked Hart on second down, and stuffed the quarterback at the line on third down at the VSU 11. On the ensuing punt, Blazer punter Jack Fulford was unable to control the snap and was tackled in the end zone by Andre Moyd (Andrews, S.C.) for a safety.
Newberry aimed to keep momentum going in its favor as the first half progressed, but was unable to establish offensive rhythm. Valdosta State pushed to score on the final drive of the half, but Moyd's interception in the endzone with 12 seconds on the clock kept the score at 7-2 at the break.
Both teams' defenses stood strong in the third period, as neither team could reach their opponent's territory until VSU's Sherard Reynolds returned a punt to the Newberry 47 with 49 seconds left in the third.
After NC held the Blazers to a three-and-out, the hosts drove down to scoring position thanks to the play of the receiving corps. Brandon Bostick (Florence, S.C.) rushed for 26 yards on the first play of the drive and a 23-yard pass from Brandon Gantt (Lexington, S.C.) to Kelton Tindal (Sumter, S.C.) put Newberry on the VSU 23. The Blazers held strong on the first three plays, forcing a fourth-and-7 from the 20. Britt Blackmon (Kershaw, S.C.) came in to attempt the first field goal of his collegiate career, but pushed the 37-yarder wide left.
Valdosta State capitalized on the next drive with an 8-play, 80-yard march to paydirt. Michael Brown ran to the left side for a 35-yard touchdown run, putting the Blazers up 14-2 after the PAT.
Newberry got into VSU territory on the first play of the next drive, but was then forced to punt. VSU earned two first downs on the next drive before another punting situation came. Tindal blocked the punt - the fourth blocked kick of his career - and Newberry recovered the ball on the VSU 18.
It took only three plays to find the endzone, as Eric McCollom (Camden, S.C.) hooked up with Tindal on a 15-yard touchdown pass with 1:30 to play. Blackmon's PAT made the score 14-9.
However, the onside kick attempt was recovered by Valdosta State, cutting the comeback bid short.
Newberry put up 225 yards of total offense in the game with Gantt and McCollom splitting time at quarterback. Gantt was 15-of-19 for 102 yards through the air, while McCollom was 7-of-13 for 53 yards and a touchdown.
"I thought Eric McCollom really showed up. He did a nice job for us," Willis said. "Brandon struggled a little at times and played well at times, but I think Eric's arm was a big difference in moving the football for us, and we'll probably use him again against North Greenville."
Despite the first home loss since the close of the 2005 season and the first 0-1 start since 2003, Willis was pleased with the effort.
"I wanted to see how good we were, and honestly, they surprised me. Our kids are pretty good and this may be some of the best football that has ever been played on this field. I'm very proud of where we are. I don't like losing, but I have to be realistic too. Coming within five and having a chance to win it at the end is where I hoped we'd be, and maybe something would go our way, that's all you can ask for," Willis said.
Although the close game with a perennial powerhouse and top-ranked squad, Willis said the team's work is not done and goals are set high.
"I know a lot of people will be happy with where we are, but I'm not. I want to win a national championship and I want to win it at Newberry College with our kids."
Newberry will take the week off before hosting North Greenville University on Thursday, September 11. Kickoff at Setzler Field is set for 7 p.m.