1. Rivalry time: It’s hard to say which school is North Alabama’s biggest rival. Some will say it’s Delta State and others go with Valdosta State. While Delta State and UNA have been playing each other longer, Valdosta State seems to be the more intense rivalry. It’s one of those rivalries where the two teams really don’t like each other. When the Lions and Blazers square off there is usually a lot at stake and today is no exception. This game needs no additional hype, but the winner remains in contention for the GSC title, while the loser faces a tough road.
2. Blazers are back: Valdosta State has had a couple of down years recently, at least down by Blazer standards. The team that used to light up the scoreboard has struggled offensively the last two years as it was unable to get consistent quarterback play and seemed to lack the big-play receivers it used to produce. That has changed this year, however. Valdosta State is leading the GSC in almost every offensive category. The Blazers now have two capable quarterbacks and plenty of big wide receivers and an outstanding freshman running back, to go along with an all senior offensive line. This will be the toughest test of the season for the UNA defense.
3. Remember the shutout: Valdosta State’s most recent visit to Braly Stadium was a memorable one. The Blazers came to Florence in 2010 and completely shut down UNA’s offense in beating the Lions 5-0. It was perhaps the worst performance ever at home by a UNA offense. This year’s Blazer defense might not be as dominating as the 2010 version, but it is very capable. The Blazers are allowing just 324.2 yards and 18.0 points per game. You can be sure that the Blazers will put eight or nine men in the box and dare UNA to throw. If the Lions can’t get anything going in the passing game, then it could be a repeat of the 2010 game.
4. Turning it over: UNA’s defense continued to force turnovers in last week’s 21-16 victory over Texas A&M-Kingsville. The Lions got two key interceptions, including a game-changing 93-yard interception return for a touchdown by Caleb Massey. Forcing turnovers is what UNA’s defense does best and the Lions will need more this week against the Blazers. Because the Valdosta State offense is so strong, the Lions will likely need another game-changing turnover from their defense to win this game.
Jason Smith Wide receiver, 5-10, 157, Jr.
Expect Valdosta State to stack the line of scrimmage in order to shut down UNA’s running game. If that happens the Lions have to make something happen in the passing game and Smith could be the key. With Brian Sutherland still out with a knee injury, Smith is UNA’s top deep threat. The junior wide receiver is still looking for his first touchdown catch of the season and today’s game would be a perfect time to get it. Smith is also capable of making big play on a punt return, and the Lions will need big plays in the kicking game to win this game.
It’s a classic great offense vs. great defense matchup as UNA tries to slow down a Valdosta State offense at leads the GSC in almost every category. The Blazers have a lot of weapons offensively with a big and experienced offensive line and a group of tall and very talented receivers. The key will be UNA’s ability to control the ball on offense and keep the Valdosta State offense in the sideline. To win this game the Lions will need to hit a couple of big plays in the passing game, along with the defense’s ability to force Valdosta State turnovers. The Lions are on quite a roll, but this assignment might be too much for such a young team.
UNA defensive line against Valdosta State offensive line. The Blazers are big and very experienced up front with five seniors starting on the offensive line. Those five have paved the way for the Blazers to lead the GSC in both rushing and passing. UNA’s defensive line, meanwhile, has been much-improved this season, especially against the run. The Lions’ defensive front can’t allow the Valdosta State line to dominate the line of scrimmage and must be able to generate a pass rush.
2 — Touchdowns given up by UNA in the past four games.
4 — Consecutive victories by the Lions entering today’s game.
8 — TD catches by Valdosta State’s Gerald Ford — four times the number UNA has as a team.
14.8 — Points allowed per game by the Lions, tops in the GSC.
18 — Turnovers forced by UNA’s defense through six games.
483,2 — Valdosta State’s total offense average per game, which is first in the GSC.
Valdosta State 30, UNA 21