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Defensive masterpiece

ASU holds Clark Atlanta to 54 total yards in win

Albany State linebacker Demonte Queen (53) and defensive end Johnderrius Lovett sack Clark Atlanta quarterback Trenton Earl during Saturday's game. The ASU defense held Clark to 54 total yards in the 30-7 victory. (Reginald Christian/Albany State University)

Albany State linebacker Demonte Queen (53) and defensive end Johnderrius Lovett sack Clark Atlanta quarterback Trenton Earl during Saturday's game. The ASU defense held Clark to 54 total yards in the 30-7 victory. (Reginald Christian/Albany State University)

ATLANTA — For the second straight week the Albany State Golden Rams played in a homecoming game, and though Saturday’s contest at Clark Atlanta took place some 200 miles from Albany, the Rams looked quite at home from the start.

Dominating on both sides of the ball, the Rams cruised to a 30-7 win over Clark, their 12th straight over the Panthers.

Unlike some recent results in the series, this one was not in doubt late.

Albany State quarterback Frank Rivers passed for 112 yards and rushed for 64 more as the Rams (3-4, 2-1 SIAC) kept their hopes of a berth in the conference championship game alive.

“We have all our goals still intact,” linebacker Glen Stanley said. “Two more wins and we’ll be in the conference championship game back here in Atlanta. We just need to play these last two games like it’s the last two games of our life and we can win the championship.”

While the Ram offense was playing relatively mistake-free football, it was the defense that looked most at home. The ASU front had no problems with Clark’s wing-T attack, holding the Panthers to 54 total yards.

“I thought last week was our best overall game we’ve played all year, and I think this week we improved on it,” ASU coach Mike White said. “We played a good game for four quarters. We just really needed to play well and that’s what our focus was on.”

The Panthers (2-5, 1-4) came in averaging 284 rushing yards but got less than nothing Saturday, particularly in the first half, when they were held to minus-4 yards rushing, 2 total yards and no first downs. The ASU defense recorded 12 plays for negative yardage, and Clark did not gain a first down until 2:16 left in the third period.

“We prepared and we knew exactly what they were going to do,” said Stanley, who recovered a fumble for a touchdown and had a sack in the defensive effort. “We stayed true to our reads and everything worked out well.”

Freshman Phillip Moore rushed for 77 yards on 18 carries for Albany State and former Mitchell County star Jessie Atkins caught four passes for 30 yards. He was one of seven Ram players to catch a pass, including Tevin Isom’s 18-yard touchdown reception midway through the fourth quarter.

Albany State established control from the start, taking the opening kickoff and driving 78 yards in 19 plays, eating up more than 10 minutes before Rivers’ 1-yard sneak gave them a 7-0 lead.

“We’ve been getting in that situation in the past and not executing, so it was good to see this game,” White said.

The big play on the drive came on fourth down from the Clark 26, when Rivers connected with Atkins for 21 yards. The Rams converted four third downs and one fourth down in the drive.

“I know one thing, it showed we’re in shape. Especially the offensive line, 19 plays in one drive, that’s a lot of work for them,” Rivers said. “We’ve got guys that are in shape and are willing to fight to put the ball in the end zone. It took a lot of focus to keep the drive going. There weren’t any drive stoppers.”

ASU freshman defensive lineman Arkeen Riley set the defensive tone on Clark’s first offensive snap, sacking Panther quarterback Trenton Earl for an 8-yard loss.

After an ASU punt pinned Clark inside its 10-yard line early in the second quarter, Earl fumbled at the 1 and the ball was bumped into the end zone, where Stanley recovered it for a touchdown and a 14-0 lead.

“I got off of the ball, I scraped and I saw the ball on the ground and I just jumped on it,” Stanley said.

ASU pushed it to 17-0 in the final minute of the first half on Zachary Holley’s 32-yard field goal.

Holley booted a 21-yard field goal on the Rams’ first possession of the second half for a 20-0 lead, and his 32-yarder late in the third period made it 23-0.

Clark’s lone score came with just under three minutes left in the game. After Albany State’s Quintory Braswell muffed a punt, the Panthers fell on it at the ASU 20, and five plays later Montavious Taylor scored from five yards out.