Rams starting QB David Kooi and Albany State managed just 269 yards of total offense — only 34 of that coming from its rushing attack — during Saturday’s loss on the road at Wingate University. (Reginald Christian/Albany State University)
WHO: Albany State (1-1) at Elizabeth City State (N.C.) (0-2).
WHAT: Rams’ second road game.
WHEN: 6 p.m. Saturday.
WHERE: Elizabeth City, N.C..
RADIO: 98.1 FM.
ONLINE: For live scoring updates go to twitter.com/AlbHeraldSports.
ALBANY — David Kooi never likes to rate himself as a quarterback following a game. Instead, he leaves the evaluation process to his coaches.
But the Albany State quarterback didn’t shy away Tuesday when asked to reflect on Saturday’s ugly 37-9 loss to Wingate (N.C.).
“We lost, so you can’t really rate me too high,” Kooi said. “You can’t rate anyone too high with a loss. Everyone had mistakes, and we really didn’t click as an offense. We had a lot of positives, but we had a whole lot of negatives, too.”
ASU offensive coordinator Uyl Joyner said he has been evaluating his players and himself in the three days since the Rams’ offense was held under 10 points for the first time in the regular season since a 41-3 loss to Valdosta State on Sept. 1, 2007.
“I don’t know if I put the guys in situations to succeed all the time,” Joyner said. “That’s where we are at right now. I have to go back and watch the film and evaluate myself, as well as the guys. When you take a whoopin’ like we did, that’s what you have to do — evaluate the whole thing.”
Kooi was 14-for-39 with a pair of interceptions, the Rams’ deep backfield combined for just 34 rushing yards, the entire offense had 269 yards and ASU turned the ball over four times.
Not much went right for the ASU offense Saturday, and the trouble started with the offensive line, head coach Mike White said after practice Tuesday.
“Everything goes back to the line,” White said.
The Rams (1-1) started the season with eight offensive linemen — which was already an uncomfortably low number — but after injuries to center Hakeem Lassiter in the season opener and left guard Victor Moli on Saturday, the team is down to just six, including freshman defensive lineman Craig Calhoun, who was forced to move to offense.
Lassiter (keloid) is out for Saturday’s game against Elizabeth City State (N.C.), and Moli is questionable after a possible concussion knocked him out of the Wingate game.
“Hakeem was a captain, and when he went down we made Moli a captain. So maybe we just need to stop making offensive linemen captains,” Joyner said with a laugh. “Those are two guys who really account for six guys. Moli counts as three, and Hakeem is another three. When you lose two guys like those two, it’s tough.”
Wingate’s defensive line made it even tougher.
Kooi was sacked twice and was under pressure for much of the game, scrambling to find open receivers.
“Once you get popped like that a couple of times, it’s hard to step in there and throw that ball,” White said. “Our quarterback didn’t have the run game, which is important to us. We need our run game. So our play action will work. Once that got taken away and we got behind, we were limited to our passing game.”
However, it wasn’t all bad news for Kooi, who completed a 62-yard TD pass to Mitchell County native Jessie Atkins and had a second TD pass to Ronnie Tubbs dropped in the end zone.
Kooi also never backed down from Wingate’s tenacious defensive line.
“Kooi showed the guys that he has some toughness,” Joyner said. “He stood in there and took some shots. He took three or four good shots and came back and played the next play. That’s about all I could ask for. The numbers weren’t good, but he did show toughness and did show some poise.”
So how do the Rams turn around their offense before they head back to North Carolina for a game against another playoff-caliber team?
Kooi said it’s simple — hard work.
“We just have to push the effort and push everyone to work hard,” Kooi said of facing the Vikings, who ended last year’s regular season with eight straight wins and made the Division II playoffs. “Go fast and do everything full speed, and we will be fine.”
The Rams will still have a depleted offensive line against Elizabeth City State, but White thinks a week of practice could make all the difference.
“The biggest thing we gotta do is establish the line of scrimmage,” White said. “We have to win that battle. They have some big boys up front, but we have to win the line of scrimmage. That is the bottom line.”
GRISSETT STILL IN THE GAME PLAN: ASU’s two-headed quarterback monster of Kooi and Keenan Grissett has yet to be unleashed.
But Joyner said it’s only a matter of time.
“We are going to try to push forward (with using both quarterbacks), and hopefully that can jump off for us and give other teams some problems,” Joyner said.
Kooi completed 36 percent of his passes against Wingate, but the performance still didn’t damage his status as the team’s starter. After a pair of games with little production, Grissett is still in the game plan, too.
Grissett, who lost the competition for the starting job to Kooi in the final week of preseason, rushed for minus-23 yards and was 0-for-1 in the season opener against North Greenville. Then against Wingate, he rushed for minus-7 yards and was 3-for-3 for one yard.
But Joyner said he still expects his backup quarterback to be a big part of his offense.
“It seems like it’s always something. Last week it was the snaps (that hurt Grissett). This week it was (the offensive line) not knowing assignments, which was due to the two new guys in there,” Joyner said. “It’s not him. That’s the good thing. It’s just always another element of the game that is breaking down, and it makes it look like he is not what we need. But he is doing what he can do. He is a good change for us.”