Following a 13-10 win over the Newberry Wolves, the Bowie State Bulldogs advanced to the Regional Final of the Division II football playoffs. They will face regional No. 1 seed Valdosta State.
This is the first time in school history the Bulldogs have advanced past the second round in the Division II Playoffs.
Their win Saturday also gave them their 12th win this season, setting a new school record for wins in a season.
Bowie State is the first team since the 2012 Winston-Salem State Rams to win 12 games in a season and advance to the quarterfinals of the Division II Playoffs.
The Bulldogs will look to repeat the history made by the 2012 Rams, who advanced to the Division II Football Championship game that season.
Valdosta State ended the regular season with a 9-1 overall record and a 6-1 Gulf South conference record.
The Blazers were controversially given the number one seed in Super Region II over the Bulldogs despite losing their last game of the regular season against West Florida, who received the third seed.
Also read: Bowie State running back named finalist for Division II Player of the Year award
Be that as it may, Valdosta received a first-round bye kicking off their Division II playoff run this past Saturday, defeating West Georgia 66-35.
The last time Bowie State and Valdosta State played against each other was in the second round of the 2018 Division II playoffs, with the Blazers winning 66-16 before winning the championship.
Will history repeat itself with the Blazers getting the upper hand, or is it the Bulldogs’ time to shine?
Only time will tell but for now, let’s preview the matchup.
Keys to Victory
While this Valdosta State team may not be as good as it was in 2018, one thing that hasn’t changed about VSU is that it has an elite offense.
The Blazers averaged 44.3 points per game and 525.7 yards of total offense, ranking in the Top 10 in Division II.
The Blazers are only one of two teams in Division II that averaged over 250 yards or more on the ground and through the air.
Valdosta State had three players score at least nine rushing touchdowns this season, including quarterback Ivory Durham who scored 12 touchdowns and 23 passing touchdowns.
Along with Durham, VSU’s duo of running backs Seth McGill and Jamar Thompson, who accounted for 13 and nine rushing touchdowns, respectively, averaged 100.3 and 76.6 rushing yards per game.
They were among the top red-zone offenses in the country, scoring on 46 of 50 attempts, including 39 red zone touchdowns.
The one struggle for the Blazers is one they share with the Bulldogs, and that is their defense allowing big plays to opposing offenses.
Unlike Bowie, however, Valdosta State struggled giving up big scoring games to multiple teams in the second half of the season.
After getting off to a good start defensively, allowing just 30 total points in their first five games, including a 55-0 shutout win against Delta State, they fell off a cliff allowing at least 14 points in each game since.
The Blazers have allowed at least 30 points in three of their last four games, including their 61-42 loss against West Florida, which snapped a nine-game win streak.
Valdosta State has allowed over 100 rushing yards in all but one game this season, which does not bode well against a Bowie State team that is one of the top run teams in the country.
This Bowie State defense is much better than the defense that played Valdosta State in 2018. This Bulldogs’ defense has given up 12.7 points this season while they allowed 27.2 points back then.
Bowie’s performance against Lenoir-Rhyne had a much better defensive output against Newberry, holding them to 214 yards of total offense.
It was difficult going for the Bulldogs early, giving up multiple long drives to Newberry, though, as they have done all season, they got stops when they needed them.
Bowie’s offense, however, was the biggest story from the game, with the headline being its rare off-night on the ground, recording just 20 rushing yards snapping a six-game streak with over 100 rushing yards.
As a result, Ja’rome Johnson was tasked with carrying the offense through the air, attempting 31 passes, the second-most he has had this season posting 244 passing yards and scoring two touchdowns.
In Valdosta State’s last two games, the Blazers have allowed a combined 1,068 yards of total offense, including 300 yards passing in each game.
Seeing as the Blazers allowed just 29 rushing yards in their playoff opener against West Georgia, Johnson may need to warm up that throwing arm for this game.
Johnson needing to be the offense’s focal point could be a problem for the Bulldogs, as he was banged up in the game against Newberry and has been banged up in the past couple of games.
This game will come down to which team will perform better in its strongest area; Valdosta State’s offense versus Bowie State’s defense. Valdosta State is the most high-powered offense the Bulldogs will have played all season, and that spells trouble for them, seeing as they have struggled against lesser teams. If Bowie can limit big plays while making big plays on the other end, they could have a chance, but they may be outmatched in this one.
Valdosta State 45-28
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