The scenario for the Valdosta State football team is simple – win the four remaining games on the schedule and win at least a share of the Gulf South Conference championship.
This comes after the Blazers knocked off then third ranked North Alabama 5-0 a week ago and after the Harding Bison upset the Delta State Statesman this past Saturday, giving all three teams’ one loss in conference play.
“(Winning a conference championship) would be pretty exciting,” senior offensive tackle Kyle Fox said. “I think we have the team to do it as long as we stay focused and do what we have to do.”
Head Coach David Dean agreed with Fox’s comments, as he told local media on Tuesday afternoon he is glad the conference race is back in VSU’s hands.
“It is back in our hands, which is where we wanted it,” Dean said. “It was a good weekend for us with West Alabama beating Henderson (State) and Harding beating Delta (State), everything has fallen into place to put it back into our hands.”
Although the Blazers now control their own fate, the focus isn’t on winning their first conference championship since 2004. For now, their focus is directed towards the Arkansas-Monticello Boll Weevils, who they host this weekend at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium.
“The big thing we have to do is just focus week-to-week,” Dean said. “Right now we have to focus on Monticello and not worry about anything else down the road. We have to worry about what Valdosta State is doing and worry about playing Monticello.”
So far this season, UAM has experienced the ups and downs, as they currently sit with a 3-4 overall record, with three losses coming while starting quarterback Scott Buisson was out with an injury.
“(Arkansas-Monticello) has a good quarterback,” defensive end Schneider Cineus said. “They have a good offense and a good system and he is a good player. (Buisson) has been there the last four years so he has grown tremendously.”
Buisson returned last weekend and led the Boll Weevils to their first win since Sept. 18, as UAM took down the West Georgia Wolves, 31-24.
In his five games this season, Buisson, who won the 2008 Gulf South Conference Offensive Player of the Year, has thrown for 1,143 yards for a total of seven touchdowns and three interceptions. Buisson has also rushed for 177 yards as he leads an option attack and a play action passing offense for UAM.
“I just know Buisson is extremely dangerous,” Dean said. “He makes a lot of things happen. He runs the ball very well and he throws the ball very well. He was well deserving of that conference Player of the Year.”
In 2007, VSU handed Monticello a 63-28 beat down, however Dean remembers that despite throwing three interceptions, he was impressed with the play of Buisson.
“He gave us fits when he was a true freshman and I told the guys today that I think he has a better cast around him now,” Dean said.
As for VSU, the defense has clearly earned back the name of the Black Swarm after posting an impressive shutout of UNA last Thursday night.
“We’ve been saying the Black Swarm is back since the end of spring,” Cineus said. “The Black Swarm is back. Like I said all of the hard work we put in at practice and the preparation by the coaches and the players, it has been shown throughout the course of the season.”
Offensively, redshirt freshman quarterback Brett Whitmire looks as though he will miss his second straight game with a dislocated left shoulder, despite saying he feels 100 percent.
“I think I am 100 percent,” Whitmire said. “But I stand behind Austen and the coach’s decision, but I do want to be out there.”
If Whitmire is unable to go, Dean said junior Austen Roberts will get his second career start. Roberts made his first career start last Thursday night in the Blazers 5-0 win over North Alabama. He completed 19 of his 32 passing attempts for 137 yards with an interception in the absence of Whitmire.
“It looks like it is probably going to be Austen,” Dean said. “I don’t think Brett is 100 percent healthy yet. He is throwing the ball a little bit better but I just don’t know if he can take a true shot yet but it looks as though it is going to be Austen again.”
Earlier this week, Dean said if Roberts continues to play well, he could be named the permanent starter for the remainder of the season.
“It depends on how Austen keeps playing and how we play offensively,” Dean said. “We played very well the other night although we didn’t put up a lot of points onto the board. I think the poise that (Austen) showed in that game and the confidence that everyone around him showed in him meant a lot to me.”
The game this Saturday is set for a 2 p.m. kickoff. The game can be heard on the Blazer Radio network and can be read online at www.vsuspectator.com