ASU quarterback David Kooi, above, and Keenan Grissett didn't do enough in Saturday's first scrimmage to determine who will start in the season opener in two weeks. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
ALBANY — Albany State’s 11-on-11 scrimmage Saturday didn’t shed too much light on the quarterback battle between Keenan Grissett and David Kooi.
But then again, the duo had to go face-to-face against the “Dirty Blue” defense.
Grissett, Kooi and the ASU offense didn’t score in Saturday’s scrimmage, which consisted of 48 offensive plays divided into four quarters. The only points of the day came during the first quarter when safety Jeremy Reynolds picked up a fumble on a bad snap and ran it back 50 yards for a TD.
The lack of scoring by the Rams’ offense, however, was a little deceiving because the scrimmage format caused several long drives to be reset at the 20-yard-line when a new quarter began.
“You want to get that ball in the end zone, but I will take this because I know in a real game that drive isn’t going to start over just because a quarter ends,” offensive coordinator Uyl Joyner said. “I think some of those drives would have been touchdowns.”
The lone touchdown came on a mishandled snap by Grissett, who watched Reynolds, a junior transfer from Valdosta State, pick it up and dash into the end zone.
“The ball got kicked around a little bit, and I came from the safety spot,” Reynolds said. “And just like the drill, I scooped it up and scored. It got the team fired up and gave them a spark.”
Reynolds shared time in the secondary with Monroe grad Chavius Jackson and Dexter Moody, both of whom are also new to the team.
“I’m glad (Reynolds) is on my team,” Grissett said with a laugh after the scrimmage. “I’m glad it wasn’t a real-life game, because that (fumble) could have cost us big.”
Grissett and Kooi both took 24 snaps and each had a drive that would have likely ended in the end zone if their 12-play quarters hadn’t ended. It was also the first chance for both quarterbacks to put their talents on display against an Albany State defense that is looking to redeem itself after finishing an uncharacteristic ninth in the conference last season.
Grissett said it looked like the “Dirty Blue” was back.
“They fly,” Grissett said. “They have a big-time lineman in Justin Blash and safeties like Dexter Moody and Chavius Jackson who came through. There’s two lanky, rangy and athletic corners out there in Gary Howard and Keionten Miller. And those linebackers can fly. Wherever the ball is, they are going to be there.”
And it wasn’t just the starters, which include former Monroe star and the team’s leading tackler from last season, Larry Whitfield, who were making plays.
“I think the highlight that I like about our defense right now is that we are putting a lot of guys on the field, and our play doesn’t drop when we sub,” White said. “I think that’s the strength that we have right now.”
Both White and Joyner said they would need to watch film before they would be able to completely evaluate the scrimmage, and one thing they will be closely assessing — just like the hundred or so fans who were on hand Saturday — will be the play of their quarterbacks.
Joyner had said earlier in the week that he hoped the scrimmage would be a key tool in determining which QB would start under center for the Sept. 1 season opener against North Greenville, but he said Saturday that neither took the lead in the race to replace Stanley Jennings as the starter.
“That’s the disheartening thing. You wanted one of them to push himself forward,” Joyner said. “It’s a good and a bad thing, really. It’s good to have two guys who are competing hard, but both guys can do different things. Keenan’s strength and David’s strength are not the same, so it’s definitely making this evaluation kind of tough. It’s almost more about where we want to go with our offense and doesn’t have as much to do with the guys.”
When asked where he wants to go with the offense, Joyner’s answer was simple: “To the end zone.”
And even tough the Rams’ offense didn’t find the end zone Saturday, Kooi said he felt good about his first chance to direct the “Gold Rush” at game speed.
“I think we did well as an offense,” Kooi said. “We completed passes, we ran the ball well, the quarterbacks stayed in there and threw the ball and got out when we needed to.”
Grissett directed two long drives in the third quarter. One of them was highlighted by a 23-yard pass to former Mitchell County star Jessie Atkins and a 15-yard pass to Orion Ponder, while running back Adrian Alexander broke free for some first-down runs on the other.
Kooi came closest to the end zone in the final quarter but was sacked near the 20 on the final play to end the scrimmage.
Even though the quarterbacks remain in a highly-competitive race for the starting job, they’ve found ways to help each other through the process.
“Just like we were at the beginning of the camp, we are pushing each other,” Grissett said. “Before the scrimmage started during an early-morning walkthrough, me and (Kooi) sat and talked and said, ‘When I’m out there I’m gonna watch you. When you’re out there, you’re gonna watch me. And we can help critique each other.’ ”
Grissett’s final critique of the scrimmage was one filled with hope.
“We are going to get better,” he said. “Albany State is going to get better, and we are going to push for this championship.”
NOTES: Kooi limped off the field after his final series of plays, but his injury doesn’t appear to be serious. He said after the scrimmage that his hamstring just tightened up during a play when he was forced to scramble outside of the pocket. … The longest offensive play from scrimmage came in the fourth quarter when Kooi connected with WR Ronnie Tubbs down the sideline for a 58-yard pass. The drive didn’t translate into any points, however, because the offense had just two plays left. … Last season’s scrimmage had the same format, and the ASU offense scored just once on a short run from Daryl Carey.