Late TD Gives No. 24 Valdosta State 31-28 Win Over No. 18 UWF

October 29, 2023

Never was the old axiom about winning everywhere but on the scoreboard more apparent than in No. 18 UWF’s heartbreaking 31-28 loss to Gulf South Conference rival No. 24 Valdosta State Saturday night.

By most measures, the Argos (6-3, 4-2 GSC) outperformed the Blazers (8-1, 5-1 GSC). Yet, in the final tally, both on the scoreboard and in the GSC standings, Valdosta State came out on top.

UWF held the Blazers to minus-3 yards rushing and 272 yards of total offense while racking up 444 yards of offense (248 rushing and 196 passing), but a series of miscues – a fumble inside their own 5, a pair of missed kicks, a handful of passes that were ever so slightly out of rhythm, a key missed fourth-down conversion, and a few defensive hiccups – added up to three points too few.

“We’ve got to clean up mistakes,” head coach Kaleb Nobles said. “I’m looking at the stats and we won a lot of stats and did some good things, but there are no moral victories. Our guys have got to know. We’ve got to execute on third downs better. We’ve got to get them off the field better. On defense, we can’t give up drive-extending plays, and we’ve got to be better on special teams.”

Early in the contest, the Argos seemed poised to run away with the game. They quickly went ahead with a 20-yard touchdown pass from Peewee Jarrett to John Jiles on UWF’s first drive and followed with a 14-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a Jamontez Woods 1-yard run and a 14-0 lead in the second quarter.

It was the first of two rushing touchdowns on the night for UWF as three players – Jarrett (120 yards), Woods (51), and CJ Wilson (70) – paced a strong ground attack.

Unfortunately, a second-quarter fumble on the UWF 3 resulted in a scoop-and-score for the Blazers and turned the game’s momentum.

“Those guys did a great job,” Nobles said. “I told the guys earlier in the week I wanted to run the football. We had good chances to run the ball. Peewee’s one of our best guys running the football. I gave him a lot of carries and he wants to do that. Best quarterback in the country in my opinion. He’s going to throw the ball well. He’s going to run the ball well.”

Nobles added, “I know everybody is going to focus on the fumble that flipped the momentum, but we are not in that game without CJ, Jamontez, Peewee, Jalen Bussey, those guys.”

In reality, the Argos shook off the fumble reasonably well. Indeed, after Valdosta State tied the game at 14, Jarrett connected with Jiles on a 33-yard pass to push to put UWF up 21-14.

The game would enter the break tied, though, after Blazers quarterback Sammy Edwards scored on a 6-yard run to cap a late-second-quarter drive that covered 77 yards.
Valdosta State didn’t hold a lead in the game until the 0:36 mark in the fourth quarter when Edwards connected on a 28-yard touchdown pass with Ted Hurst.
Jarrett guided the Argos to within field goal range with 1 second to play, but a 51-yard attempt by Griffin Cerra went wide right.

“Unfortunately, kicking is the toughest job on the team … because everybody’s watching you and everybody knows when you mess up,” Nobles said. “You can get covered up at other positions. Griff is going to know, because I am going to tell him enough this week, ‘Hey, it doesn’t change anything. You are our guy. You are the guy I trust, and you are the person we are going to put out there to go make plays … We trust Griff and we know he’s going to help us win games down the stretch.”


Despite the disappointing outcome, there were plenty of positives for the Argos.
The defense, under first-year coordinator Kavell Conner, continued to impress, holding the Blazers to abysmal rushing numbers while keeping Edwards under duress most of the contest.

All told, the Argos sacked Edwards five times and registered seven quarterback hurries.

Junior defensive end Byron Puryear was a constant presence in the VSU backfield and ended the game with two-and-a-half sacks and four hurries to go along with six tackles.

“Get to the quarterback, that’s my job,” Puryear said. “Especially on third down. They brought me here to pass rush and that’s what I was trying to do.”

Senior linebacker Gael Laurent was the team leader in tackles with eight. Defensive tackles John McMullen (1½ sacks) Collin Shaw (1) accounted for the other tackles-for-loss on the Blazer quarterback.
Offensively, Jiles continued to rack up yards and touchdowns. His five receptions for 92 yards and two scores was a team-best and bumped his season tally to 49 catches for 1,017 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Senior wide receiver Caden Leggett was again solid, hauling in three passes for 50 yards.


After the game, Argos players and coaches expressed a mixture of emotions – frustration about a game that slipped away, but also optimism for a season in which a postseason berth is still within reach, although no longer a given.

“We literally don’t know what the future holds for the playoffs, so the best thing you can really do is win out,” Jarrett said. “If you win out, you put the ball in the NCAA’s hands.”

Puryear added, “We’ve still got to play two games for the rest of the season. Nobody is going to quit on each other. We are just going to try to win out and see what it holds.”

For UWF, whatever the future holds will be decided on what the Argos do on the road next week against Mississippi College, where a 2 p.m. Saturday showdown with the 3-5 Choctaws awaits.

Although he said he wanted his team to let the loss “sting”, Nobles stressed that the team putting the Blazers in their rearview mirror quickly would be key as would maintaining the strong character they’ve displayed all season.

“Coaching in the good moments is easy, but coaching in these moments is when you really find out who you are as coaches and as men,” Nobles said. “I told those guys, don’t lose your belief. Don’t lose the heart that you’ve got. Don’t change who you are just because we lose a game. We’ve still got a chance.”

UWF returns home on Nov. 11 for the regular-season finale, a Senior Day contest against Chowan.

by UWF/photo Emily Miller/UWF


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