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Sweeping the nation: UNCP beats defending champion Valdosta, 34-29

Staff report

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VALDOSTA, Ga. — The No. 14 University of Noth Carolina at Pembrook football team entered the season with a slate that included both teams from last year’s national championship game.


Thursday, the Braves completed the sweep, topping defending national champion Valdosta State 34-29.


The Braves had prevously beat Winston-Salem State in their season opener.


The triumph marked the second-straight victory for UNCP (8-1) which matched a school record with its fourth road win of the season. It was the fourth loss in the last five outings for Valdosta State (5-4), which will wrap up its season next weekend at Texas A&M-Kingsville.


“We knew after the Newberry loss that we had two games left that were crucial,” said UNCP coach Pete Shinnick. “Our guys took on the challenge. They bounced back last week with a great victory and then came on the road in a short week and did what they needed to do. I am just extremely proud of the way we played tonight.”


Redshirt freshman Rontonio Stanley accounted for 238 all-purpose yards and a pair of scores and Luke Charles broke his single game passing record for the third time this season.


Stanley’s 238-yard (142 receiving, 96 rushing) night included an 18-yard touchdown run and an 82-yard touchdown reception. Charles threw for 408 yards and three touchdowns on 35-of-50 passing with one interception. Te’Vell Williams had nine receptions for 102 yards for the Braves as well.


UNCP’s defense turned in six sacks on the night, including three by Matt Turner, who became the first player in school history to accomplish to hit the milestone feat twice in one season. L.J. Stroman turned in a game-best 11 tackles and Dominique Bridges and Fred Williams both recorded interceptions.


The Braves scored points on four of their first five possessions on the night, including a 25-yard field goal by Connor Haskins with 4:22 left before halftime that gave the visitors a 20-0 advantage. Valdosta State got on the board with a 69-yard touchdown pass from Cayden Cochran to Seantavius Jones just more than a minute later, but the Braves carried the 20-7 lead into the break.


The Blazers continued to whittle away at the deficit and climbed as close as four points, 27-23, on Dominique Wheeler’s pick-6 late in the third quarter, but UNCP answered with Stanley’s long-scoring reception 28 seconds later to all but seal the outcome.


Backup quarterback Kaleb Nobles hit Regginald Lewis on a 5-yard scoring pass with 43 seconds left to play, and Valdosta State recovered the onside kick moments later, but Williams intercepted Nobles on the ensuing offensive play to provide the final.

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