ALBANY, Ga.- Junior Caleb Edmonds began his reign at quarterback by completing 16 of 32 passes for 229 yards and a touchdown. However, the Albany State Golden Rams fell just short of handing Albany State interim head coach Dan Land his first career victory.
The Golden Rams made a furious comeback against their in-state rivals, but ASU dropped a 21-13 decision to the 16-ranked Valdosta State Blazers. The contest was the season opener for both teams.
After Albany State failed to score on its first possession, the Blazers opened the scoring when running back Cedric O’Neal put his team ahead with a 9-yard touchdown. The PAT was good, and VSU had an early 7-0 edge at the 10:55 mark. The Valdosta State drive went six plays for 45 yards in 2:23.
While ASU struggled to find its offensive punch in the first half, the “Dirty Blue” Defense kept the team to remain in the game. Albany State forced two Blazer field goal misses and held VSU scoreless until 40 seconds left in the first half. The Blazers would strike back with a 15-play, 93-yard, four-minute drive. With 40 seconds before halftime, quarterback E.J. Hilliard found Dallas Baldner for a 28-yard touchdown. The successful PAT put Albany State into a 14-0 deficit at intermission.
At the 5:24 mark of the third quarter, the Golden Rams scored their first points of the 2015 season. Edmonds hit Yancey Burns for a 35-yard strike to cap a 5-play, 53-yard drive that used 2:03. The PAT attempt was no good, but ASU cut its deficit to 14-6.
The Blazers answered with another score with only five seconds expired off the fourth quarter clock. ASU fumbled the snap on an attempted punt, and VSU controlled the ball at the home team’s 3-yard line. Two plays later, Austin Scott’s 2-yard scamper, coupled with a successful PAT, gave Valdosta State a commanding 21-6 advantage.
Less than five minutes later, Albany State would rally once again. The Blazers had the ball in ASU territory when Tavarius Washington intercepted Hilliard’s pass and returned it 53 yards to the Valdosta State 5-yard line. Jarvis Small needed only one play to score and put the Golden Rams within a touchdown, 21-13, with 9:51 left in the contest.
Valdosta State used a majority of the game clock in the final stanza, but the Albany State defense was strong again. The Golden Rams forced the Blazers to punt with 2:36 left in the game. ASU made one final push towards victory from its own 4-yard line.
Facing a third and long situation, Edmonds and wide receiver Quadrey Simmons connected to keep the drive intact. Simmons caught a 33-yard pass from Edmonds, and the Golden Rams still had a final chance. ASU advanced the ball to the Valdosta State 40-yard line, but faced a fourth-and-14 situation with only 1:17 remaining. The Blazers deflected Edmonds’ pass attempt twice, and the ball fell just out of the reach of Yancey Burns to end ASU’s hope for victory.
Small carried the ball 19 times for 86 yards. Burns led the Albany State receiving core with five receptions and 85 yards. Jessie Atkins had four receptions for 48 yards before leaving the game with an ankle injury.
Despite allowing 21 points, the ASU defense had in impressive performance. Tavarius Washington, the preseason SIAC Defensive Player of the Year, led the unit with a game-high 10 tackles (eight solos), a sack and an interception. Nick Scott added six tackles (five solos), and Zane Fields had four tackles with a sack, a pass breakup and two quarterback hurries.
The Golden Rams’ offense collected 308 total yards and had two interceptions, while the defense recorded six sacks and five pass breakups.
Albany State returns to action on Sept. 12 when they travel to Phenix City, Ala. to battle SIAC rival Tuskegee University in the 2nd annual White Water Classic. The non-conference showdown is slated to begin at 5 p.m. (Eastern Standard ) at Garrison-Harrison Stadium.
Courtesy: Albany State Athletics