Albany State quarterback Frank Rivers talks to offensive coordinator Steve Smith during a game earlier this season. Rivers bounced back from a rocky start to the season and turned into one of the conference’s top passers, leading the Rams to an SIAC championship. (Staff photo: John Millikan)
ALBANY — 2013 was the third straight season with a new starting quarterback for the Rams.
After Saturday’s SIAC championship victory against Miles, Albany State junior and Grambling State transfer Frank Rivers said he would be putting an end to that trend.
When asked if he would be returning to Albany State for his senior season, the 6-foot-5 signal caller flashed a smile and said he would be back.
“I loved it here,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in the world.”
Rivers ended the season with 19 passing touchdowns and just six interceptions, including a 12-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio during the team’s five-game winning streak to end the season.
With his 13-for-26 performance for 106 yards on Saturday, he eclipsed 2,000 passing yards for the season, which ranked second in the conference behind Lane’s Chris Rini.
Rivers also ran for four TDs and 107 yards during the season and had a key 18-yard rush on third down early in Saturday’s game, extending a drive that eventually resulted in Rivers tossing a TD pass to Lenard Walker to put Albany State on top, 7-0.
Rivers said Saturday was the perfect ending to his first collegiate season as a starting quarterback.
“This means the world,” he said. “This was my first year as an Albany State Ram and a starting quarterback, and I led my team to a championship. It means the world.”
PROUD COACH: White sat on a bench on the sidelines after Saturday’s win, shaking dozens of hands of exuberant fans and players and watching the Rams pose for photos with the championship trophy.
It was a proud moment for the long-time coach, who managed to turn around a season that looked lost even a month ago.
“This is going to stick out,” White said when asked if the 2013 title would mean more than his other five SIAC championships. “This means a lot, in terms of what we have been through the whole year. Our seniors believed we could get it done, and here we are.”
At 1-4 after a devastating loss to Lane on Oct. 12, the Rams likely needed to win four straight East Division games to clinch a spot in the championship game — something not many around Albany or the conference thought would happen.
“Not a lot of people believed in us, but (the seniors) did,” White said. “They kept us positive when it didn’t look good sometimes.”
It didn’t look good Saturday night with the Rams down by a touchdown heading into the fourth quarter, but like they have done for the past month, they found a way to win.
“I just asked them to be confident and to believe at halftime,” White said. “We weren’t playing bad, but we weren’t making plays either. In the second half we came out and started making plays.”
MVP MOODY: Nobody made bigger players on Saturday than safety Dexter Moody, who was named the MVP of the game after blocking a punt and intercepting a pass in the end zone — two plays that led to 10 fourth-quarter points.
“Wow,” White said when asked about Moody. “He’s pretty good.
“He took over there. I am so proud of him and proud that he won the MVP, because he deserved it. He put us on his back and made some plays and got momentum going back our way.”
Moody, a senior who will enter the 2014 NFL Draft as the top-rated Division II prospect at his position, ended the year with three interceptions, following a junior season when he finished third in the nation with seven interceptions.
NFL scouts showed up at ASU practices this season to watch Moody, and the 6-3 native of Twin City has had several conversations with NFL teams about next year’s draft and his future as a professional athlete.
And his performance in the closing minutes of his final college game won’t be overlooked by those scouts.
“I am going to remember this one for a long time,” Moody said on Saturday. “It means a lot to me, knowing that we started out 1-4 and a lot of people counted us out.”
RADIO LEFT OUT: For Albany State fans who didn’t make the three-hour drive to Atlanta on Saturday, many were expecting to hear Albany State’s biggest game of the season broadcast on the radio.
Instead, Fred Suttles, the longtime voice of Albany State, was nowhere to be heard on the airwaves.
Because of technical problems and communication issues with the SIAC, Suttles and his radio team were unable to air the game — a first for the crew in more than a decade.
“It was disappointing because that was the biggest game of the year, and I know we have a lot of people depending on us to get our games,” Suttles said.
With the game being held at Lakewood Stadium, the main high school venue for Atlanta’s public schools, seating for the media was extremely limited, forcing both the Heritage Sports Radio Network and the ASU radio team to broadcast from outside.
HSRN and Bounce TV were provided multiple phone lines and broadcast the game, but Suttles was denied a phone line after being told by the conference before he left Albany that he would be provided one.
Suttles was then forced to call the game through a cellular line, but because of his position outside next to the band, he was unable to be heard over the radio and had to cut off the broadcast.
“It seems like we kind of got left out in the pasture there,” Suttles said.
Suttles and HSRN ran into a similar problem two years ago in the inaugural SIAC championship game when they had to scramble hours before kickoff to find a phone line.
“HSRN couldn’t broadcast that game (two years ago), because the phone lines (the SIAC) were supposed to have set up weren’t activated,” Suttles said. “Fortunately for us, we were able to make it work on a cellular line.”
Fans accustomed to Suttles’ play-by-play on 101.7 FM instead had to settle for updates every 20 minutes on Saturday.
“We just hope to be able to do it next year and have a better backup situation,” Suttles said. “I think it could have been avoided, but that’s what happened.”