Valdosta State managed to slow down the most prolific offense in NCAA football history, and in doing so won its first Division II Football Championship by defeating top-ranked Pittsburg State, 36-31, December 11 in Florence, Alabama.
The Blazers, whose defense goes by the moniker "The Black Swarm," forced four Pittsburg State turnovers, including two interceptions by senior cornerback Terrance Bell. His second interception came with 38 seconds remaining in the game to seal the victory.
Pittsburg State, which jumped out to a 14-0 lead eight minutes into the game, entered the Division II final averaging 57.6 points and 614.6 yards per game. Their 837 points scored bested an 118-year old record held by the Harvard team that scored 765 points in 1886.
The Gorillas also gained 8,976 yards of offense on the season, eclipsing Texas Tech's record of 7,576 yards set in 2003.
None of the daunting figures mattered to Valdosta State, which held Pittsburg State to 371 yards of offense and 26 points below its scoring average.
Despite the early 14-point deficit, Valdosta State was able to turn the momentum in the game on Bell's first interception.
"The second one was the most important because it sealed the game," Bell said after the game. "We knew if we kept the game close in the fourth quarter, we would have a chance to win."
The Blazers, who won 13 straight games after a season-opening loss, scored 17 points in the second quarter to force a tie at halftime. The final points came on a 27-yard field goal by Will Rhody three seconds before the intermission.
"We didn't feel comfortable going into halftime tied,'' said Pittsburg State coach Chuck Broyles.
Valdosta State limited the Gorillas to only 42 yards rushing in the second half. A safety due to a low snap on a punt gave the Blazers a lead they would never relinquish.
Tyran Robinson gave his team a 26-17 lead with a 23-yard touchdown run.
Pittsburg State cut the deficit to 26-24 on a one-yard run by Joe Taylor with 2:58 remaining in the third quarter.
Valdosta State was able to increase its advantage to 12 points thanks to a seven-yard touchdown pass from Fabian Walker to Raymond Thomas and a 28-yard field goal by Rhody.
The Gorillas used the passing of reserve quarterback Andy Majors to go on a 73-yard scoring drive, which was finished by starting quarterback Neal Philpot's one-yard run with 7:27 remaining in the game.
Valdosta State attempted to control the ball and the clock on its next drive. The Blazers extended the drive thanks to a fake punt on fourth-and-5 at the Pittsburg State 44. Linebacker Fred Dunn, the upback on the punting team, gained six yards on the play.
"He is a senior and he's always saying there is no tomorrow, basically trying to talk me into using that play," said Valdosta State coach Chris Hatcher. "It wasn't that big of a gamble at the time, but it ended up being huge on our part because we ate up a little more clock and we forced them to go a long way there at the end of the game.''
Pittsburg State, which finished the season 14-1, took over at its own 14-yard line with 1:51 to play. Bell ended the drive by intercepting Majors near midfield and returning it to the Gorillas' 19-yard line.
"This football team is not the most athletic team I've had in my years as coach here, but they are the best group of people,'' Hatcher said.
Walker, a transfer from Florida State, threw two touchdown passes and ran for another to lead Valdosta State's offense, which gained 366 yards.
But it was Valdosta State's defense that stood out in the victory.
"I don't know what they did to slow us down," Philpot said. "We beat ourselves. We turned the ball over. Up front Valdosta was big and physical. We were not able to establish drives, and we started playing catch-up.''
The national title capped a successful fifth season for Hatcher, who also was an all-America quarterback for the Blazers from 1991 to 1994. Hatcher is 59-7 as coach at Valdosta State.
Pittsburg St. 31, North Dakota 19; Valdosta St. 45, West Chester 21.
|Valdosta St.||0||17||9||10 -- 36|
|Pittsburg St.||14||3||7||7 -- 31|
PS: Jimmie Taylor 32 interception return (Nathan Alleman kick), 14:04
PS: J. Carpenter 10 pass from Neal Philpot (Alleman kick), 7:37.
VS: Zach Parker 1 pass from Fabian Walker (Will Rhody kick), 14:12.
PS: FG Alleman 30, 7:54.
VS: Walker 4 run (Rhody kick), 2:45.
VS: FG Rhody 27, :03.
VS: Team safety, 13:19.
VS: Tyran Robinson 23 run (Rhody kick), 8:14.
PS: Joe Taylor 1 run (Alleman kick), 2:58.
VS: Raymond Thomas 7 pass from Walker (Rhody kick), 14:15.
VS: FG Rhody 28, 10:49.
PS: Philpot 1 run (Alleman kick), 7:27.
Announced attendance: 8,604.
Valdosta St. Pittsburg St.
|Time of Possession||31:09||28:51|
Rushing: Valdosta St. -- Brown 11-72, Robinson 11-68, Walker 11-55, Dunn 1-6. Pittsburg St. -- Philpot 20-117, Race 8-39, Taylor 5-9, Bean 2-5, Majors 5-(minus) 12, Weeks 0-5.
Passing: Valdosta St. -- Walker 19-27-1-165. Pittsburg St. -- Majors 11-14-1-148, Philpot 5-11-1-60.
Receiving: Valdosta State -- Dalton 4-48, Robinson 4-22, Aurandt 2-18, Adams 2-17, Parker 2-12, Taylor 1-14, Brown 1-11, Stephens 1-9, Callaway 1-7, Thomas 1-7. Pittsburg St. -- Austin 8-119, Carpenter 4-38, Ward 2-31, Twito 1-13, Taylor 1-7.