Written by Kyle Dawson, Sports Editor
VSU will be kicking themselves after a three point loss in the first round of the playoffs against the University of North Carolina Pembroke that saw 11 turnovers.
The Blazers couldn’t overcome their six turnovers in the game, which included four interceptions from quarterback Adam Robles and two fumbles from return specialist Gary Simon. One of Simon’s fumbles gifted the Braves a short field goal, which proved to be the difference in the end.
Robles, who was pressured heavily throughout the game, was sacked three times. He attempted 55 passes during the game as VSU was forced to play catchup early after going down 17-0 midway through the second quarter.
“They out worked us up front,” Kerwin Bell, VSU head coach said. “We didn’t run the ball well or throw the ball well, and we didn’t protect Adam. When you do that, you’re hit or miss. We couldn’t sustain drives today like we have all year because we couldn’t control the line of scrimmage.”
The Blazers finally got on the board after Robles found Dallas Baldner in the corner of the end zone at the end of the first half, which was set up by two pass interferences called on UNCP. There were 19 total penalties during the game; UNCP had nine for 95 yards, and VSU had 10 for 60 yards.
The Braves were also the benefactors of a missed field goal from VSU’s Andrew Gray, which proved to be costly at the end of the game.
VSU’s defense played well, relying on turnovers as they have all season. Brandon Roe and Kenny Moore each had two interceptions, while Selwyn Carroll had one. However, the defense had a hard time containing UNCP’s standout receiver, B.J. Bunn, who had 8 receptions for 153 yards on the day. They also allowed the Braves to gain 152 yards on the ground.
The Blazers had a chance late as the offense took the field down by three on two separate occasion. Both drives, however ended in interceptions. Bell said the key to the loss was not being able to sustain a drive on offense as two of the Blazers’ three touchdowns came on drives that started inside the 20.
“When you don’t control the line of scrimmage in protection or the run game, you’re not going to drive the football,” Bell said. “When we had a short field, we could make a couple of plays. Our defense gave us some great field position out there today. The disappointing part was not capitalizing on their turnovers.”
VSU was not balanced on offense, running eighteen times opposed to 55 passes. They had to rely heavily on Robles throughout the game unlike previous weeks where Bell could go to Roland Rivers. However, Rivers was out with a shoulder injury.
“You have to give a lot of credit to UNC Pembroke,” Robles said. “They battled and played a great ball game. I was under pressure some, but there were a lot of plays where the offensive line did their job and protected well. Those are the plays we have to execute better.”
One bright spot for VSU was punter Gavin Wilson, who punted nine times for 361 yards. He pinned the Braves inside the 20 four times.
UNCP will go on to face number-one seed North Alabama next weekend, while the off-season starts early for VSU as the team ends its first season under Bell with an 8-3 record.