D-II: VSU’s Bell intercepts everything, including a thief
Author: Matt Stewart
Publication Date: 2004-12-13
Division II Championship Notebook
By Matt Stewart
FLORENCE, Ala. –– Valdosta State cornerback Terrence Bell took back more than just two interceptions Saturday in the Blazers’ 36-31 win over Pittsburg State in the Division II National Championship.
He also took back a teammate’s helmet.
Bell was seen running up into the stands at Braly Municipal Stadium in Florence, Ala., minutes afther the game and he wasn’t looking for fans or family members.
Bell was after a Pittsburg State fan, who had apparently taken a Blazers’ helmet that was left unattended to during the celebration.
“A fan took one of the helmets and I tried to go get it, “ Bell said. “I think it was (a Pittsburg State fan).”
After the game, Blazers’ head coach Chris Hatcher identified the missing headgear as belonging to Valdosta State running back Tyran Robinson.
“It was Tyran’s helmet, and we’re going to take it out of his scholarship next semester,” Hatcher joked.
However, Bell was able to recover the helmet after retrieving it from the fan.
Pitt State’s nation leading 368 rushing yards per game was reduced to just 161 rushing yards by the Blazers’ ‘Black Swarm’ defense.
“They put a liitle bit more preasure on us than we are used to,” Gorillas’ head coach Chuck Broyles said. “They slow-played a little bit on the edges.”
After running roughshod over the Valdosta State defense in the first half for 121 yards, the Gorillas’ rushing attack managed just 42 yards in the second half.
“They didn’t do anything unexpected, we just hurt ourselves by turning the ball over,” said Gorilla senior quarterback Neal Philpot, whose team gave the Blazers 13 points off four turnovers. “We just weren’t able to pass like we thought we would, and we couldn’t get the inside running game going like we thought we might.”
The Gorillas were held under 200 yards rushing for just the 24th time since 1986.
Philpot ran for 107 yards in the opening 30 minutes, but found little room in the second half, managing to grind out just 10 yards on six carries. The senior did go over the 10,000-yard mark for total offense in his career in the first quarter. However, he was replaced by junior Andy Majors midway through the third quarter. Majors finished the game 11-of-14 passing for 148 yards.
Down 14-0 early in the second quarter, the momentum swung on Bell’s interception when Blazers’ defensive lineman Calvin English leveled Gorilla running back Germaine Race with a blindside block, knocking Pitt State’s 2,200-yard rusher out for the remainder of the first half.
“I don’t remeber much, I just remember running after the guy,” Race said. “After that, I don’t remember anything.”
Race returned in the second half, and ran for 39 yards on four carries.
“The hit that Calvin made really set the tone for the rest of the game,” Hatcher said. “(Race) had rushed for over 2,000 yards. Take him out of the game and maybe they are not as comfortable.”
With the Blazers clinging to a five-point lead with under five minutes to play, Hatcher gambled with a fake punt on fourth-and-five at the Gorilla 44-yard line. The snap went to upback Fred Dunn, a senior linebacker, who ran for six yards, dragging defenders one extra yard for a first down.
“Fred Dunn is a senior and he’s always saying there is no tomorrow, basically trying to talk me into using that play,” Hatcher said. “It wasn’t that big of a gamble at the time, but it ended up being huge on our part because we ate up a little more clock and we forced them to go a long way there at the end of the ballgame.”
The fake allowed Valdosta State to use up almost three more minutes of clock and forced Pitt State to have to drive 86 yards with less than two minutes to play.
For the eighth time this season, the Blazers trailed in a game, and Saturday also marked the fifth time this year Valdosta Sate was behind in a game for more than a quarter.
“We are not a very good team when we have the lead,” Hatcher said.
Pitt State had only trailed three times prior to Saturday, and had never been behind by more than a touchdown in the second half. (VSU led by 12 in the fourth quarter.)