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Trailing 24-0 early in the third quarter, the University of North Alabama mounted a three touchdown rally but still fell short in a 24-21 loss to Valdosta State at Braly Stadium.
The loss drops UNA to 5-2 overall and 2-1 in the Gulf South Conference, while Valdosta State improved to 5-2 and 2-1.
VSU led 17-0 at the half and scored just two plays into the second half to extend its lead to 24-0. UNA back-up quarterback Luke Wingo then led three UNA touchdown drives covering 57, 81 and 80 yards to close the gap to 24-21 with 3:56 left in the game.
The Blazers then ground out four first downs to eat up the remainder of the clock and seal the win.
VSU finished with 423 yards of total offense, rushing for 187 and passing for 236. Quarterback Cayden Cochran completed 16-of-28 passes for 236 yards and two TDs and running back Cedric O'Neal rushed for 123 yards on 23 carries for the Blazers. Wingo led UNA's offensive effort with 227 yards passing, completing 17-of-31. The Lions' Lamonte Thompson rushed for 119 yards on 17 carries and scored one TD.
Valdosta State got on the scoreboard on just its second play from scrimmage as Cochran hit Gerald Ford with an 81-yard scoring pass. Daniel Andersen added the PST to make it 7-0 at 12:54 of the first quarter.
Andersen then added a 51-yard field goal at the 1:48 mark of the first quarter to extend VSU's lead to 10-0.
The final score of the half came on a one-yard run by Cochran at the 3:05 mark of the second period. Andersen's PAT made it 17-0 at intermission.
After VSU received the second half kick, the Blazers again scored in just two plays. Cochran hit Seantavious Jones with a pass down the left sideline and he went 71 yards for the touchdown. Andersen's PAT extended Valdosta State's lead to 24-0 at 14:23 of the third quarter.
North Alabama's comeback began with a four-play, 57-yard drive midway through the third quarter that ended with a seven-yard Thompson touchdown run. Taylor Pontius added the PAT to close the gap to 24-7 at 7:07 of the third quarter.
The Lions then drove 81 yards in 10 plays to score again as Wingo hit Jason Smith with a nine-yard scoring strike with 8:25 left in the game. Pontius added the PAT to make it 24-14. Wingo then led the Lions on a nine-play, 80-yard drive that he capped with an eight-yard TD run with 3:56 left in the game. Pontius kick made it 24-21.
UNA put Valdosta State in a third-and-nine situation on the following possession but an offsides penalty made it third-and-four. O'Neal rushed for five yards and the first down to give VSU the first down. The Blazers were then able to run out the clock with three additional first down runs by O'Neal.
UNA's Michaell Schuster missed on two field goal attempts in the game, from 53 and 36 yards. Both were long enough but missed wide.
The Lions have a short week as they will travel to Carrollton, Ga., on Thursday (Oct. 18) to take on West Georgia.