ALBANY — The waiting game continues for Mike White and his Albany State Rams.
Saturday had the makings of a defining win for Albany State against No. 19 Tuskegee, but the visiting Golden Tigers ended the game with 13 unanswered points to win, 19-13.
White will now have to wait another week for his 100th career coaching victory, a milestone that has eluded him three times. And his Rams will have to wait another week to break into the win column.
“It’s hard to put into words how I feel right now,” White said. “We played hard again, but we just couldn’t finish.”
ASU (0-2) is trying to forget about a 2012 season when they went 6-4 and missed the Division II playoffs for the first time in a decade, but two losses to start the season have the Rams stuck in a familiar rut.
For the second straight week, the Rams blew a second-half lead. Last week’s season-opening loss to North Greenville had a different feel after the Rams erased a 17-point deficit in the final quarter before losing on a late field goal.
There was little positive to pull from Saturday’s loss as the Rams gave up their lead on a blocked punt late in the third quarter and then allowed Tuskegee to drive down the field for the go-ahead TD midway through the fourth quarter.
It would have been the Rams’ first win against a nationally ranked team in over a year, but instead the Rams are stuck in a three-game losing streak.
And even though the Rams went toe-to-toe with arguably the best team in the conference, they still have an 0-2 record heading into next week’s home game against a formidable Elizabeth City team.
“The facts are that we are an 0-2 team. That’s our record,” White said. “We just have to play better in the fourth quarter and finish the game. I hate that we had that special teams breakdown. I hate that we struggled in the first half when we should have had more points. But we will get better.”
Quarterback Frank Rivers, playing his first home game in an ASU uniform, was 18-for-36 with one interception and 209 yards and rushed for the Rams’ lone touchdown. The Rams gained 179 yards on the ground and were led in rushing by Kareem Hess (10 rushes, 94 yards) and Phillip Moore (12 rushes, 73 yards). For the second straight game, former Mitchell County star Jessie Atkins, who caught four passes for 52 yards, was the leading Rams receiver.
Tuskegee returned the opening kickoff past midfield and eased into the red zone, setting up a 45-yard field-goal attempt by Trevor Wylie with 11:48 left in the first quarter, but Wylie lined the kick under the crossbar to keep the game scoreless.
Four minutes later, after a Rivers interception at midfield, Wylie connected on a 32-yard field goal to give Tuskegee a 3-0 lead.
The Rams had several chances to score in the closing seconds of the first quarter, but freshman receiver and Camilla native Jaquan Williams was whistled for illegal formation after catching a pass in the end zone and then dropped a TD pass on the next play. Two plays later on third down, Lenard Walker caught a Rivers pass in the corner of the end zone, but the officials ruled he was out of bounds.
Two minutes into the second quarter, Dexter Moody, last year’s SIAC leader in interceptions, picked off a Justin Nared pass. The Rams capitalized on the turnover and took a 7-3 lead on their next possession with a 1-yard TD run from Rivers, who was 12-for-21 for 97 yards and an interception in the first half.
Wylie then pulled Tuskegee to within one point with a 41-yard field goal as time expired in the second quarter.
ASU place kicker Zach Holley opened up the second half with a 25-yard field goal and then nailed another field goal from 43 yards out with 7:13 left in the third quarter to give ASU a 13-6 lead. Holley’s second FG was set up by a fumble recovery from Cuthbert native Jeremy Reynolds.
Tuskegee, however, tied the game at 13-13 after Jason Ashley blocked a Ryan Latner punt, setting up a 1-yard TD run from Nared. The Golden Tigers (2-0) then scored the go-ahead TD with 5:31 left on an 8-yard rush from Hoderick Lowe.