Albany State quarterback David Kooi was having his best outing of the season Saturday before throwing a game-ending interception in the 13-12 loss to Elizabeth City State (N.C.).
ELIZABETH CITY DAILY ADVANCE
ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. — The lack of an adequate kicking game proved costly to Albany State Saturday night as the Golden Rams dropped a 13-12 decision to Elizabeth City State (N.C.).
Ultimately the game was decided by field goals and point-after conversion kicks.
The Vikings (1-2) made them. Albany State (1-2) didn’t.
ECSU’s Brett Symonds, who missed a 32-yard field goal in the first half, drilled field goals of 44 and 29 yards in the second and third quarters as the Vikings rallied to a 6-6 tie, then banged home the all-important PAT to culminate a 95-yard drive that produced the winning touchdown on a 5-yard run by Daront’e McNeill with 8:39 left to play.
Meanwhile, Zachary Holley missed on both of his point-after attempts for the Rams, who dipped below .500 for the first time in five seasons.
When Albany State drove inside the ECSU 5-yard line in the last four minutes of the game trying to get the potential game-winning score, Golden Rams coach Mike White didn’t have enough faith in Holley to go for a field goal when it became fourth-and-goal from just inches away.
“We had already missed two extra points, so I thought it best we run the plays we know we can run,” White said. “We’ve had problems with the kicking game all year.”
After securing a first down at the ECSU 4-yard line, two rushes by Nathan Hoyte and runs by Keenan Grissett and Richard Watson were unable to penetrate the end zone.
While the Golden Rams clearly played better than they did a week ago in a 37-9 loss to Wingate that knocked them out of the national rankings, no one was directing the blame at Holley.
Certainly not quarterback David Kooi, who completed 14 of 24 passes for 228 yards and a touchdown but had a pass intercepted in the red zone on the final drive of the game.
“You can’t point fingers and say it was the kicks,” the senior transfer from Florida Atlantic said. “We still should be able to drive down the field and do what we are supposed to do. It wasn’t just those kicks or not going for the field goal. We left a lot on the field, made some mistakes, and it hurt us.”
“It was a tough loss,” White said. “It’s a bad feeling. We had our chances, we just didn’t finish and we came up short.”
The goal line stand by Elizabeth City State was not Albany State’s final opportunity. The Golden Rams promptly forced a three-and-out and regained possession at the Vikings’ 33 with 1:49 left to play.
After a 13-yard run by Hoyte (17 carries, 94 yards) on a draw play moved the ball to the ECSU 20-yard line, Kooi suffered an unlucky interception that sealed the outcome.
The ball bounced off two players before Julius Williams plucked it out of the air at the Vikings’ 17-yard line. Elizabeth City ran out the clock from there.
In a defensive first half, it was the Golden Rams who managed to score first.
Dexter Moody provided the impetus by ripping a ball out of an ECSU receiver’s hands at the Albany State 14-yard line. Two plays later, Kooi pump-faked and threw downfield to a streaking Jessie Atkins for an 81-yard touchdown pass with 2:54 left in the first half.
Atkins, a Camilla native and former Mitchell County star, lead the Rams in receiving for the third straight game with 93 yards on three catches.
Until that bomb, ASU had just 54 yards in total offense. That could be attributed mostly to field position.
In the first half, the Golden Rams began possessions at their own 20, 15, 6, 1, 14 and 37.
“We were getting the ball like that, it shortens the number of plays that can be called,” Kooi said. “It’s tough for the coaches and the players to go out and try to get off the goal line with limited number of plays.”
Field position improved in the second half and so did the Golden Rams’ stats. Albany State finished with 356 yards.
After the two Symonds’ field goals tied it, the Golden Rams went ahead 12-6 on a 12-yard run by Hoyte with 4:53 remaining in the third quarter.
But they were unable to hold the lead and now have a two-game losing streak.
“We played better this week,” White said. “But we didn’t do the things we needed to do to win it.
“We’re just going to have to evaluate the film and see what we can do from here.”