Blazers are 2012 NCAA Division II Football National Champions
Valdosta State used a dominating running game and a defense that forced six turnovers, to defeat Winston-Salem State 35-7 to win the school's third NCAA Division II Football National Championship on Dec. 15, 2012 in Florence, Alabama.
The Blazers tallied 207 yards rushing, the most surrendered by the Rams this season, and scored three touchdowns while the Blazer Black Swarm defense intercepted three passes and also recovered three fumbles. With the victory, VSU finished the year at 12-2, including wins in each of its last 10 games.
Valdosta State quickly got on the board as Matt Pierce returned the game's opening kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown to put the Blazers in front 7-0 just 12 seconds into the game.
VSU forced a turnover on downs on the first Winston-Salem State drive of the game and proceeded to march 63 yards for a touchdown. Cedric O'Neal opened the drive with a 12-yard gain before Cayden Cochran completed three passes for 24 yards. An O'Neal one-yard run on a third-down play brought up a fourth down play, from which O'Neal burst through the line and broke a tackle before racing to the end zone for a 14-0 VSU advantage.
Cochran pushed the Blazer lead to 21-0 with 5:40 to go in the second quarter as he capped off a 13-play drive with a one-yard plunge for a touchdown. The junior completed all seven of his passes on the drive for 30 yards while O'Neal put VSU in scoring position when he took a hand-off and was stopped up the middle before bouncing the ball outside for a 19-yard gain to the WSSU 1. After a pass gained no yards, Cochran plunged into the end zone on a keeper for the score.
Both teams threatened over the remainder of the half, but were unable to find the end zone. The half marked the first time that Winston-Salem State had been shut out in a half this year. The Rams out-gained Valdosta State 249 to 162 during the first 30 minutes of play, but turned the ball over two times and saw Valdosta State come up with three sacks to thwart any scoring attempt.
Winston-Salem State got on the board on its second drive of the second half as it marched 80 yards on eight plays. VSU almost stopped the drive as Dominique Wheeler, who had ended the previous WSSU drive with an interception, had a ball go through his hands on a potential second interception. Five plays later, Kameron Smith hooked up with Jameze Massey from 29 yards out to cut the Ram deficit to 21-7 with 9:25 to go in the third quarter.
After Jeremy Grable stripped Smith from the ball on the VSU 1, a fumble that was recovered by the Blazers in the end zone, Valdosta State put together its longest scoring drive of the year, both in terms of plays and time of possession to push its lead back to three touchdowns. The Blazers used 17 plays on the drive and took 7:30 off of the clock as it marched 80 yards. Much of the offense came on the ground as O'Neal picked up 35 yards rushing while Austin Scott had 15 more. Facing a third and seven from the WSSU 17, the Blazers went to the air for the touchdown as Cochran lofted the ball to Quin Roberson for the score and a 28-7 VSU lead.
A muffed punt on the WSSU 6 yard line led to a Cochran 1-yard touchdown run to close out the scoring with 3:32 to play.
Scott gained 38 yards in the game to finish the season with 1,030 on the season, giving Valdosta State two 1,000 yard rushers in the same season for the first time in school history as O'Neal, who recorded his fifth 100-yard game with 140, finished the year with 1,198, the fifth-most in school history.
Valdosta State tallied 316 yards of total offense in the game, including 109 through the air by Cochran, who completed 18-of-26 passes. Quin Roberson and Regginald Lewis caught six passes each while Chris Pope led the defense with 10 tackles and a fumble recovery. In addition to the six turnovers, VSU also recorded five sacks in the game, including two by Tyler Josey.
Winston-Salem State had 412 yards of offense as it passed for 310 and ran for 102.