The No. 22 Blazers found themselves in a high-scoring affair in their first-ever meeting against the Chowan Hawks Saturday.
However, the Blazers (5-0, 2-0 Gulf South Conference) pulled away in the fourth quarter to down the Hawks (0-5, 0-3 GSC), 51-36.
With the win, VSU has now matched their win total from 2022. The Blazers also rose in the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Coaches Poll to No. 19 and entered the D2Football.com Top 25 Poll at No. 25.
Junior quarterback Sammy Edwards had another career day, going 20 of 29 for 393 yards and a career-high six touchdown passes to five different receivers.
Chowan wasted no time finding the end zone on their first possession. Quarterback Rashad McKee connected with wide receiver Deven Franklin for a 61-yard touchdown.
Edwards and the Blazers quickly responded just over a minute later as he found graduate wide receiver Xavier Williams for a 30-yard touchdown.
The Blazers followed up the fast score with a one-play drive on their next possession. Edwards got it out to junior running back Eric Watts, who took it in for a 50-yard touchdown reception.
A special teams blunder helped set up VSU’s next scoring drive. A bad snap on a punt by the Hawks led to a partially blocked punt, giving the Blazers excellent field position.
The Blazers scored just two plays later. This time, it was sophomore wide receiver Ted Hurst on the receiving end of an Edwards touchdown pass as the Blazers went up 21-7.
The Hawks roared back in a big way, going on a 22-3 run that spanned the final minutes of the first quarter and most of the second. That run put Chowan back ahead 29-24.
Still. It was the Blazers who went into halftime with the lead. Edwards threw for his fourth touchdown of the game as junior wide receiver Council Allen got in on the act.
The Blazers came out of the locker room looking to extend their lead. However, after leading the offense into the red zone, Edwards was picked off by defensive back Nic Wilson.
The Hawks promptly retook the lead on an 8-yard run by McKee. The run capped off a seven-play, 90-yard drive as the Hawks went up 36-31.
The Blazers once again responded with another score. Edwards bounced back with his fifth touchdown pass of the game, getting it to redshirt freshman wide receiver Rodney Bullard for the score.
The Hawks drove the ball deep into VSU’s territory to kick off the fourth quarter. The Blazers, though, stood tall, sacking McKee to help force a 43-yard field goal.
The Blazers came through on the ensuing field goal try as junior defensive lineman J’Quan Hicks blocked Jose Colunga’s kick.
The offense kicked the lead back out to eight as Watts rumbled for a 47-yard touchdown run. Graduate kicker Estin Thiele’s extra point attempt was blocked to keep it a one-possession game.
After a quick three-and-out by the Hawks, the Blazers added an insurance touchdown. Allen hauled in his second touchdown of the day via an 84-yard catch-and-run.
The Blazers’ defense kept the Hawks in check from there, forcing a pair of punts to help salt the game away.
The Blazers will be back at home on Oct. 7 to face the No. 8/6 Delta State Statesmen (5-0, 3-0 GSC) at 2 p.m. for the annual Pink Out Game.
Written by Austin Bruce, Co-Editor in Chief. Photo courtesy of Austin Bruce.