Valdosta St. tops Winston-Salem 35-7 for D-2 title

By JOHN ZENOR | December 15, 2012 | 6:33 PM EST

Valdosta State's Matt Pierce (26) celebrates his touchdown on the opening kickoff with teammates Chas Matthews, right, Chris Anderson (80) and Eric Scott (29) in the first half an NCAA Div II national championship college football game against Winston Salem State at Braly Municipal Stadium in Florence, Ala., Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

FLORENCE, Ala. (AP) — Matt Pierce returned the opening kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown and freshman Cedric O'Neal ran for 140 yards and a score to lead Valdosta State to a 35-7 victory over Winston-Salem State on Saturday in the Division II championship game.

The Blazers (12-2) took a 21-0 halftime lead en route to their 10th straight win and first national title since 2007, coach David Dean's debut season. The Rams (14-1) were trying to become the first historically black school to win the Division II title after losing in the semifinals last season. But they couldn't overcome six turnovers, including several that hurt promising drives.

The Blazers needed 12 seconds to score and five minutes to build a 14-0 lead against a team that hadn't trailed by more than a touchdown all season.

Cayden Cochran was 18-of-26 passing while throwing for a touchdown and running for a pair. O'Neal carried 24 times.