They’re four quarters away from playing for a national championship.
After pulling off a convincing 48-26 victory over Carson-Newman this past weekend,ValdostaState(10-2) is one of the final four teams in the nation still playing football.
The second round attendance more than doubled at the quarterfinals game nevertheless it wasn’t enough to keep this week’s contest inValdosta.
With the NCAA deciding to let Minnesota-State Mankato (13-0) host the semi-finals round, the Blazers are forced to compete way outside their element.
“If you’re playing in the cold, you’re playing for something and that’s a very true statement,” David Dean, VSU head coach said.
That something is to send the Blazers to Florence, Ala. in two weeks to play for their second Division II championship title in five years.
Mankatois predicted a 36 high/ 14 low with a chance of fog according to a ten-day forecast this Saturday.
This will be a game of not only physical strengths but mental toughness as well.
The last time VSU played in snowy weather was en route to their championship win in 2007.
Most of the Blazers have never played in shivery weather before which could play a major role against the undefeated Mavericks.
“Once you get out there and you get to playing, I think all that goes away because you get your adrenaline going, you’re body heat gets going,” Dean said.
Hopefully that will be the case for the Blazers, who go up against another run-heavy attack style team.
The Mavs biggest threat to be noted by VSU is wide receiver/punt returner Adam Thielen.
The conference standout is one of the seniors who’ve kept this squad thriving despite off the field controversy.
The Mavericks are currently without their head coach Todd Hoffner.
The 2009 Northern Sun Intercolligate Conference coach of the year is on administrative leave after he was arrested on suspicion of child pornography.
The felony charges were dismissed November 30th however his timetable for returning is still uncertain.
Hoffner wasn’t around to see his team advance in the playoffs beating MWU 17-10 last Saturday.
Aaron Keen has taken over head coaching duties in his absence from the program.
VSU hopes to extend their all-time semi-finals record to 4-0 Saturday.
It will be a treat to see if the freshmen running back tandem of Cedric O’Neal and Austin Scott can come through yet again in the biggest game of their young lives.
The two have indeed lead the way eclipsing the single season team rushing touchdowns (34) record in VSU history.
If the running game is fluid, this makes quarterback Cayden Cochran’s job much easier.
First team All-GSC Cochran finished with three touchdowns and 246 passing yards against Carson-Newman.
Cochran must be prepared for the streaky Mavs defense this week.
MSU forced three interceptions in their win over Missouri Western last weekend.
The Mavs effective running back trio is lead by redshirt freshman Connor Thomas.
Thomas, who tallied 159 rushing yards last week, rushed in the game-winning touchdown over Missouri Western.
The NCAA Division II semifinals are set for 2 p.m. at Blakeslee Stadium inMankato, MNand will air at 3pm on ESPN3.com.