McKINNEY, TX -- In a national championship game that lived up to the hype and more, the No. 3-ranked Valdosta State Blazers beat No. 2 Ferris State in a 49-47 thriller Saturday to claim the 2018 NCAA Division II National Championship.
It was the Blazers' fourth national title and first since 2012 (2004, 2007, 2012, 2018).
In a game that saw nine lead changes, the Blazers, led by redshirt sophomore quarterback Rogan Wells, amassed 496 yards of offense with 122 yards rushing and 374 through the air.
Wells, who finished runner-up to Ferris State's Jayru Campbell in the prestigious 2018 Harlon Hill, threw 19 of 31 for 349 yards and five touchdowns, tying the NCAA Division II Championship Game record for touchdown passes. He also caught a touchdown on a great throw from freshman quarterback Ivory Durham, putting the Blazers up 49-38 early in the fourth quarter. With his reception, he set the NCAA Division II Championship Game record for touchdowns responsible for with five passing and one receiving.
Ferris State had 270 yards on the ground with 179 yards passing for 449 for the game. Campbell went 10 of 18 passing for 99 yards with one touchdown and one costly interception, while he had 22 carries for 122 yards and a score on the ground.
Jevon Shaw tossed an 80-yard touchdown pass on a halfback toss and pass for the first score of the game after VSU missed a field goal on its opening possession.
The Bulldogs stymied the Blazers' running game as redshirt freshman Jamar Thompkins had 16 carries for 72 yards to lead the team, but freshman Seth McGill scored on the lone rushing score on a 4th and goal from the one-yard line with five seconds left in the first half putting the Blazers back on top at intermission, 28-24.
Despite the struggles in the running game, the VSU "D" came to play as the squad made big hits all over the field all game. Senior Raymond Palmer led the team with six solo tackles and one assisted, along with two huge tackles for loss for four yards. Senior David Brown, who had a 100-yard INT return last week, had seven tackles in the game.
VSU accounted for eight tackles for loss for 23 yards and one sack on the elusive Campbell in the game. Junior Alex Brown had a huge INT return for 31 yards setting the Blazers up for a 42-31 lead with 4:25 left in the third, marking the first double-digit lead of the game for VSU.
Durham's pass to Wells put VSU up 49-38 with 11:36 left, but the Bulldogs wouldn't go quietly, cutting the deficit to eight at 49-41 with 5:25 left. VSU went for it on a 4th and 4 from the FSU 34, but the Wells pass fell incomplete.
Ferris State took over at its own 34 with 2:17 left with Campbell completing his first pass for 12 yards and rushed for 11, before hitting Syd Barnett for 35 yards to the VSU eight. From there, Barnett scored on the ground.
Campbell's two-point conversion pass failed as he threw high of Shaw. The Bulldogs kicked the onside kick, but freshman Jackson Bull came up with the ball as the Blazers took a knee on three plays to end the game.
The Blazers, who were picked fifth in the preseason Gulf South Conference poll, capped an undefeated season for the first time in school-history and sent numerous records throughout the year both school, conference and nationally.