The Valdosta State football team hosts Fort Valley State this Saturday, looking to bounce back from its season opener (28-24) loss to Saginaw Valley State last weekend in Michigan.
Blazers won’t get a break on their tough 2012 schedule against the Wildcats, who upset nationally ranked Delta State Statesmen (31-23) last week.
VSU will be without a few of their weapons this week, including senior linebacker Chas Matthews and starting quarterback Cayden Cochran.
After separating his shoulder on his 24-yard touchdown run, Cochran was replaced with sophomore Graham Craig in the second half of last week’s contest.
Craig, who went 12 for 19 with a late touchdown pass, finishing with 183 passing yards, will be taking the snaps behind center Saturday as the starter.
“He understands what we’re trying to do and he understands our system,” said Head Coach David Dean. “I feel comfortable with him this week. He’s a smart kid, he works hard. You would like to have your starter, but, if you don’t have your starter, he’s a good one to have.”
The frustrating loss marked the first time since 1990 the Blazers have dropped four games in a row, dating back to the three consecutive losses in the final three games of last season.
Unlike Division I football, VSU is still able to achieve their goals for this season because SVSU was non-region and non-conference game.
The Blazers are aware that the 2004 national championship team suffered a similar late game loss in their first game too.
“That’s motivation really,” said senior cornerback Matt Pierce. “It just shows that it’s the first game and it hurts, but at the same time the season isn’t over. As long as we keep that mind and stay focused we’ll be straight.”
Pierce, who was responsible for one of the four forced turnovers last week, will likely be lined up against All-SIAC wide receiver Christopher Slaughter.
Slaughter led the Wildcats with 72 receiving yards and a touchdown in their upset over DSU.
VSU will be up against another savvy quarterback this week, senior Antonio Henton.
The secondary, after having a poor performance against SVSU, knows exactly what needs to be done to slow down the aggressive Wildcat offense.
”High intensity on every single snap, making sure we don’t take any snaps for granted,” Pierce said. “If we get up at any point make sure we don’t let them hang around. Just take it to them making a real competitive contest.”
FVSU is looking to start its season with two straight win over Gulf South Conference teams while VSU is avoiding its first region loss of the year.
“I think more than anything their ready to go back out and play again,” Coach Dean said. “I think they feel like they left something out on that field.
“This is going to be a heck of a challenge for us. I’m more interested right now in how we respond. It’s not who were playing– it’s how are we going to respond when we go out there. “