One of the QBs competing for the starting job, Keenan Grissett (17), breaks multiple tackles Friday during the Rams’ annual Blue and Gold spring game at the Coliseum. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
ALBANY — Luther Edwards pleaded for his fellow seniors to set the tone for the 2012 season. He also wanted that steak dinner.
Albany State’s senior running back got both.
After a shaky start for the Albany State offense Friday, the Gold Rush came back to win the 4th annual Blue and Gold scrimmage, 43-32, and they were awarded the traditional steak dinner for the winners in the process.
“With us being seniors, I wanted us to step up and set the tone early so everybody can fall in line,” said Edwards, who was held out of the end zone but broke away for several long runs, including a 50-yarder in second quarter.
Edwards’ backfield mate and fellow senior Nathan Hoyte scored on a 38-yard run, and quarterback Keenan Grissett, who is battling for the starting job with Blaize Schaeffer, threw a pair of touchdowns to senior wideout Ronnie Tubbs.
The scrimmage was broken up into four 15-play periods and gave both the Gold Rush offense and the Dirty Blue defense several ways to rack up points.
For the second year in a row, head coach Mike White and his defense had to settle for hot dogs, which the losing team gets for dinner.
“Since I am on the defensive side (this year) I’ll go eat some hot dogs,” White said with a laugh. “But I’ll take a bite of steak later.”
White doubles as the team’s defensive coordinator, but he saw some promising play out of the offense, which returns more than half of its starters from last year’s playoff team.
“Those (offensive seniors) have been doing it the whole offseason. In the weight room when we are working out, they train and try to get better mentally,” White said. “They always are talking their teammates up, and I think that will pay huge dividends, because in 2011 we didn’t have that.”
The ASU fans, who sat through off-and-on rain to watch the scrimmage, got to see Grissett and Schaeffer trade snaps and continue their on-going battle to replace Stanley Jennings.
Schaeffer, who backed up Jennings last season, took the field first but struggled on his first two possessions, fumbling several exchanges from center and Albany High grad Christian Turner before being sacked by Daniel Affortu for a safety. Grissett, a transfer from Gardner-Webb, scrambled for a 12-yard gain on his first snap and then led the offense down the field for its first touchdown on a short pass to Tubbs.
“They are both good guys. I don’t know who is going to get the starting position, but it is close,” said Tubbs, who looked like he was in midseason form by adjusting well to passes and making diving catches. “I felt good. I felt a step faster. I’m really comfortable because of all the hard work we put in the offseason.”
As the game went on, Schaeffer began to handle the snaps better and picked up several first downs with his legs, but it was Grissett who stole the show with his game-winning and steak-clinching 7-yard toss to Tubbs in the corner of the end zone for the final score.
“I was very impressed with (Grissett) running the ball,” offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Uyl Joyner said. “Keenan really ran the ball well, and he did a good job of keeping it simple and making the easy plays. I think Blaize started kind of pressing (at the beginning of the game) and trying to make the big play. He is still learning and growing, and we are looking for bigger things out of him also.”
The defense led the entire first half before Hoyte’s touchdown tied the game at 30-30. The offense took a 31-30 lead into the fourth quarter thanks to Zack Holley’s extra point and extended its lead in the final minutes of the scrimmage, which gave the offense six ways to score (6 points for a TD, 2 for a PAT, 3 for a field goal, 1 for a first down, 3 for a run over 20 yards and 3 for a pass over 25 yards) and the defense nine ways to score (7 for a TD, 1 for a missed PAT, 3 for a missed field goal, 4 for a turnover, 2 for a drive stop, 3 for a three-and-out, 2 for a sack, 1 for a forced fumble and 1 for a tackle for loss).
The Rams’ Sept. 1 season opener at home against North Greenville is still dozens of practices and hundreds of preseason snaps away, but Friday was all about setting the tone — which is what drove Edwards to challenge his fellow seniors before they stepped on the field.
“(Edwards’ pregame speech) was about setting the tone,” Hoyte said. “The younger guys will follow what we do, and if we don’t show them the right way to work out then we can’t expect to have a productive season.”