Sammy Edwards has found his groove under center.
The junior quarterback torched the No. 4 Keiser Seahawks (1-2) of the National Athletic Intercollegiate Association (NAIA) on Saturday to the tune of 479 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Blazers (3-0) to a 49-25 win.
His strong performance was good for the third most passing yards in a single game in VSU history, trailing only Chris Hatcher and Dusty Bonner.
Head coach Tremaine Jackson never doubted that Edwards would have a big game.
“I think he takes coaching the right way, and he prepares the right way,” Jackson said. “I think he’s in a room where he’s being pushed by a lot of people, and [it’s] just the way he attacks the week and attacks the test and film study. I knew he was going to have a good day just by what he did Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday.”
It was a stark contrast from last year’s meeting between the two. The Blazers struggled to put away the Seahawks in that game, winning 36-21.
For Edwards, it was a complete makeover from a year ago.
“It’s night and day from a year ago,” Edwards said. “It is what it is. We didn’t have the year we wanted last year, but we’ve worked really hard for this year this past off-season on getting where we want to be.”
Still, it was the Seahawks struck first as quarterback Bryce Veasley hit tight end D’Andre Golden for a 63-yard touchdown pass. Keiser would miss the extra point but still hold an early 6-0 lead.
That lead lasted all of six plays.
Facing a third-and-long early into the drive, Edwards found junior wide receiver Council Allen down the sideline for a 48-yard gain. Three plays later, Edwards hit graduate wide receiver B.K. Smith for a 17-yard score to put the Blazers ahead 7-6.
The Blazers found pay dirt again on their next drive. This time, it was sophomore wide receiver Ted Hurst who scored, hauling in a 37-yard pass from Edwards.
A fumble halted VSU’s next drive as Hurst had the ball knocked free on a reception. Defensive back Wendol Philord recovered the ball, giving the Seahawks new life.
The Seahawks took advantage, scoring on their ensuing drive to draw back within a point.
The Blazers put together another scoring drive just before halftime, thanks in part to a 39-yard pass from Edwards to graduate wide receiver Xavier Williams. Allen scored on the next play on a seven-yard pass from Edwards to put the Blazers ahead 21-13.
Allen has nothing but love for the receiving room, believing that the various play styles each player brings makes it fun to be a part of.
“I love this receiving room because it’s different,” Allen said. “Like, everybody plays differently. You got different play styles. Everything’s different.”
The Blazers marched down the field and added another seven to the scoreboard. Sophomore running back Isaiah Flowers finished the drive by muscling his way into the end zone for a one-yard score.
Another promising drive for the Blazers ended with their second fumble of the day. This time, it came by way of a strip sack on Edwards near midfield.
Much like their first forced turnover, Keiser was able to turn the second one into another touchdown. However, the game remained a two-score game as redshirt freshman defensive back Theron Stoops blocked the PAT attempt.
Special teams made another big play as Williams ripped off a 60-yard kickoff return to put the offense in scoring position. It was just part of what Jackson thought was a strong showing by special teams.
“We really believe in special teams and field position and getting blocked kicks and things of that nature,” Jackson said. “It showed up tonight. Hopefully, we can continue to get better. … I thought our kids responded to the plan and executed it with special teams playing the right way.”
The Blazers capitalized on the short field, scoring on a 21-yard pass from Edwards to redshirt freshman wide receiver Rodney Bullard. That gave the Blazers a 35-19 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Still, the Seahawks refused to go away as they put together a 12-play drive capped off by a three-yard touchdown run by Veasley. Once again, the game remained a two-score game as Keiser’s two-point try was unsuccessful.
It was all VSU from there as sophomore running back Bud Chaney rushed for a pair of touchdowns to put the game away.
For the Blazers, nine different players caught at least one pass, with two receivers, Smith and Williams, going over 100 yards. Hurst nearly made it three, going for 94 yards on the night.
Despite the turnovers, Edwards believes the offense is close to reaching its true potential.
“We got to cut some turnovers out, for sure, but I have full trust in our coaching staff and [offensive coordinator Rick] Bowie,” Edwards said. “We’re both on the same page with that, and I think we’re hitting the point of where we want to be.”
The Blazers will be at home once again on Sept. 23 at 7 p.m. when they host the North Greenville Crusaders (2-1, 1-0 Gulf South Conference) to kick off GSC play as part of Family Weekend.
Written by Austin Bruce, Co-Editor in Chief. Photo courtesy of Austin Bruce.