The Valdosta Daily Times
Valdosta State quarterback Cayden Cochran said there is nowhere he or his teammates can turn inside the football team facility without being reminded of the Blazers’ six straight losses to rival Delta State.
“Coach (David) Dean brings it up a lot,” Cochran said. “It is plastered all over the locker room, on every locker, on the doors and everything like that. We know. We are aware.”
Coach Dean said going to the measure of reminding his players isn’t necessary, but he wants his team to remember the losses and what is at stake Saturday when the teams meet at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium for the 2012 VSU homecoming game.
“I don’t think we have to remind them that much, but we are going to remind them,” Dean said. “They know. As soon as we walked into the locker room after the game at North Alabama you could hear some guys talk about Delta State a little bit.”
For the Blazers, it has been six years of losing to a conference rival. For Dean, it is the only Gulf South Conference team he hasn’t beaten in his six years as VSU’s head coach.
“I’ve heard it for six years now,” Dean said. “Hopefully we can get the monkey off our back. It will help. I want these seniors to leave out of here having the opportunity to say they beat Delta State and not leave like some of these other guys — like Larry Dean and Ronnye Nelson and those guys that never had the opportunity.”
When preseason All-American cornerback Matt Pierce was asked about the losing streak, he said, “I am not going to lie, it does bother me, but at the same time, I am trying to approach it as the next Gulf South Conference game.”
Valdosta State’s losing streak to the Statesmen is the longest in the 29-year history between the two schools. Delta State owns an 18-12-1 record against the Blazers.
Of the six straight losses to the Statesmen, the Blazers’ largest defeat was just eight points — a 31-23 loss to Delta State in 2009.
In fact, the average margin of defeat across the past six years has been just 4.8 points.
“It is just a lot of missed opportunities,” Dean said.
Dean said two of the six losses stand out to him as the most painful — a four-point loss in 2007 and last year’s three-point loss inside the final minute.
In ’07, Dean’s first-year as head coach, the Blazers blew a 31-7 halftime lead and allowed 28-unanswered points in the second half to lose 35-31. It cost the Blazers a perfect record in a national championship season.
Last year, the Blazers blew an 11-point second half lead (after trailing 13-0 in the first quarter) and lost in the final-minute when Delta State capped off an 18-play, 92-yard touchdown drive with 40 seconds remaining.
“We were up 11 (points) and driving again and we were ready to put that game away and then we make that mistake. Our running back slips and falls and we threw an interception for a touchdown. Those are probably the two toughest.”
The interception thrown by Cochran changed the game by allowing the Statesmen the opportunity to remain close and score the game-winner with less than a minute remaining.
For players like Edmund Kugbila, last year’s loss was the hardest of the past few years.
“Last year hurts the most and basically that fire still burns inside of us,” Kugbila said.
In 2006, when Dean was an assistant under Chris Hatcher, the Blazers lost 35-28. The following year they blew the 28-point lead at halftime.
The Blazers lost 27-24 in double overtime in the 2008 meeting after going back-and-forth with the Statesmen the entire game.
“I still remember the double overtime loss here,” Dean said. “We fumbled on the goal line going in and had a chance to win that ball game.”
Other losses in the six-year stretch looked like this:
In 2010, Delta State missed two extra points and a field goal but still managed to beat the Blazers 27-23, the Statesmen’s last visit to Valdosta. Trailing by four with less than a minute to play, Valdosta State attempted a quarterback sneak with then-redshirt freshman quarterback Brett Whitmire at the Statesmen’s 14-yard line. Whitmire was stuffed and the Blazers turned over possession of the ball on downs. Delta State ran off the final 30 seconds and later played for the national championship game that season.
Then last year happened, and the Blazers’ losing streak to Delta State became six games, the longest losing streak in the series history.