Fort Valley State got two early touchdowns from its special teams en route to a 35-30 victory over Benedict College on Saturday.
The Wildcats (2-2, 2-0 Southern Intercolliegiate Athletic Conference) blocked two punts in the end zone to help lift up a struggling offense. Fort Valley State head coach Donald Pittman said his team needed solid play in all three phases of the game to win.
“Special teams played a major role in this game, we got two touchdowns and they got one score on a kick return,” Pittman said. “When your offense can’t score consistently, you have to find other ways to win.”
Fort Valley State’s defense also rose to the challenge, led by senior linebacker LeRon Furr. He accounted for 12 tackles (four for a loss) and a forced fumble. The defense also held Benedict’s run game to negative yardage.
“We have a very good defense that has been playing really well these past few weeks,” Pittman said. “Their performance today didn’t surprise me at all.
“In our last two games, they’ve held both opponents to under 50 yards on the ground. If we hope to continue this success, we need to become more disciplined and cut down on all of the penalties.”
Benedict (2-2, 0-1) head coach James Woody said his team’s lack of focus led to the loss.
“We just made too many mistakes today. We had a lot of missed blocks today in our special teams unit,” he said. “Guys who were supposed to block out, were blocking in and vice versa. Hopefully, after a good week of practice we will be able to fix that.”
Woody said the best example of the team’s lack of focus was the first play of the second half when a receiver missed his assignment, leading to an interception return for a touchdown.
Former Laney standout Martin Epps, a senior at Benedict, was named the game’s MVP. He had seven total tackles, an interception and three pass breakups. Epps said playing in front of his family and friends provided comfort.
“I have been waiting on this moment for the longest,” he said. “I wanted to end my career in this stadium with a bang and... it means everything.”
Benedict’s Marcus Graham was 15 of 42 for 283 yards and three touchdowns, while receiver Maurice Griffin had five catches for 142 yards and a score.