VALDOSTA, Ga. (UNA Media Relations) – An interception by A.J. Bracey on the final play of the game preserved a 30-24 lead and gave the University of North Alabama its sixth straight win over Valdosta State at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium.
The Lions, now 1-1 overall and 1-0 in the Gulf South Conference, trailed 24-21 in the fourth quarter before getting a game-tying field goal and a game-winning interception return for a touchdown.
Valdosta State drops to 0-2 on the season. The Blazers are 0-1 in the GSC.
With the game tied at 24-24, UNA freshman linebacker Christon Taylor picked off a Adam Robles pass and returned it 36 yards for a touchdown with 7:51 left in the game. Chandler Carrera‘s extra-point attempt was blocked but UNA led 30-24.
VSU’s final possession began at its own one-yard line but the Blazers moved all the way to the UNA 37 when Robles Hail-Mary attempt was picked off by Bracey near the UNA goalline.
The win was the first as a head coach for UNA’s Chris Willis. It was also UNA’s 10th in the last 13 meetings with the Blazers, including six straight in Valdosta. The Blazers have not defeated UNA in Valdosta since 2007.
North Alabama’s offense moved quickly on its first possession, covering 54 yards in just four plays. A 29-yard pass from Blake Hawkins to Delvon Carpenter moved the ball to the Blazers 28. Two plays later, Hawkins hit Austin Hicks with a 17-yard touchdown pass. Chandler Carrera‘s PAT made it 7-0 at 13:13 of the first quarter.
Valdosta State responded with a 17-play drive on its first possession, but the Blazers came away scoreless. After the drive stalled at the UNA eight-yard-line, Andrew Gray missed a 25-yard field goal attempt at the 6:04 mark of the first quarter.
UNA was moving the ball again on its next possession but the Lions failed to handle a lateral near midfield and VSU’s Josh Ealy picked up the ball and raced 38 yards to the end zone. Gray’s kick tied the game at 7-7 with 3:54 left in the opening quarter. The turnover was UNA’s first of the season.
In the second quarter UNA a 13-play drive to the VSU one-yard-line where the Lions faced a third-and-goal at the one. Hawkins could not handle the snap and VSU recovered, with Hawkins injured on the play. Valdosta State drove the ball to UNA’s 49 before Dwain Smith picked off a tipped pass and returned it 45 yards to the VSU nine. Three plays later, back-up quarterback Rico Bruton scored on a one-yard run and Carrera’s PAT made it 14-7 with 14 seconds left in the half.
Valdosta State took the second half kickoff and quickly tied the game, marching 47 yards in nine plays to the end zone. Rogan Wells ran in from a yard out for the score and Gray’s kick made it 14-14 at the 11:03 mark of the third quarter.
Bruton then engineered his second scoring drive of the night, taking UNA 66 yards in seven plays to regain the lead. Bruton had two long runs on the drive and capped it with a four-yard touchdown run. Carrera’s kick gave UNA a 21-14 advantage with 3:02 remaining in the third quarter.
Late in the third quarter Bruton was picked off by VSU’s Brandon Roe who returned the pick to the UNA three-yard line. The Lions defense held and Gray came on for a 20-yard field goal that gave VSU its first lead at 24-21 with 12:53 left in the game.
Bruton drove UNA to the VSU three-yard line before the Lions called on Carrera to boot a 20-yard field goal and tie the game at 24-24 with 8:12 left in the game.
North Alabama hosts West Alabama on September 23 at Florence’s Braly Municipal Stadium at 6 p.m.