The Blazers (5-1, 2-1 Gulf South Conference) will have their hands full on Saturday when they travel to Clinton, Mississippi, to face the Mississippi College Choctaws (2-3, 1-2 GSC).
The Choctaws, known in recent years to run the triple option offense, has been a mixed bag in 2023.
In addition to their use of option runs, the Choctaws have also incorporated a spread passing attack into the offense. Mississippi College has also featured multiple schemes on defense throughout the season.
Head coach Tremaine Jackson says it is unlike anything he’s ever seen in his coaching career.
“The last game and three quarters, they’ve been spread and throwing the ball down the field, and the first three games and a quarter, they were back to their traditional triple option with all the formations and things that they do,” Jackson said Wednesday. “And so, first time in my career that we got to get ready for four different schemes because they’ve done the same thing on defense as well. They were three down to start, and now they’re four down. It really makes us go back to being about us.”
The Blazers are coming off their first loss of the season, a 49-25 setback against No. 8 Delta State. VSU struggled against a powerful Statesmen running game while also having three turnovers.
“This team’s handled it the right way,” Jackson said of the loss. “A lot of different looks on guys faces. We know we lost the game, not necessarily that they beat us, right? We really feel good about our direction moving forward.”
The Choctaws, meanwhile, last saw the field on Sept. 30, a 30-14 win over Shorter. Before that, the Choctaws were on a three-game losing streak.
Though the Choctaws have changed things up this season, Jackson believes that the challenge of preparing for Mississippi College remains the same.
“Well, the challenge is always when you’re a triple option team, the week changes anyway,” Jackson said. “So, the week changes, especially when you’re a triple option team but you have the ability to be spread and spread option in some form or fashion. It makes us go back to our day one rules. As you get going into the season and game planning, sometimes you can get away from those things.”
Jackson added: “We’ve got to be base and vanilla and make sure our kids can fly around, but most of all, we got to be us. We got to be physical and violent. We got to go play fast, and so we look to get back on track and doing that.”
As the Blazers look to move on from their loss to the Statesmen, “remember Lot’s wife” has been the mantra for the team. Jackson thinks the team has done a good job of taking accountability following the loss.
“We looked at the two things that were detrimental: the first half pick and then the fake punt in the second half,” Jackson said. “We went to work on how to make sure that never happens to us again. That’s what I think they’ve responded the right way to.”
This week marks the third time the Blazers have been away from Valdosta this season. Though Jackson believes the trip to Mississippi is a less than ideal time for team bonding, he does think the team travels well.
“We can team bond closer than 10 hours,” Jackson jokingly said. “We don’t necessarily have to do that, but I think we do travel well. I think our kids like being on the road because they truly love being around one another, and so it is fun for us.”
Jackson added: “I think the important [thing is] we have to travel the right way to give ourselves an opportunity to be successful. It starts on tomorrow night and Friday, and hopefully, we wake up Saturday and have a good routine.”
Written by Austin Bruce, Co-Editor in Chief. Photo courtesy of Austin Bruce.