ALBANY — It was rainy, sloppy and for the few fans who braved the wet weather to watch it, Saturday’s game between Albany State and Elizabeth City State was likely a little boring for the first half.
But it was also exactly what the Rams needed.
ASU wore out Elizabeth City in the second half for a 34-13 victory to get into the win column for the fist time this year, giving Rams coach Mike White his 100th career win.
“To reach that milestone is huge, and it’s nice to have that,” White said. “I just wanted us to play better. I wanted that more than anything, and the 100th win had to come with it.”
The victory also prevented ASU (1-2) from falling to 0-3 for the first time since White’s first season as head coach in 2000.
“This really started last Sunday. We were 0-2, and that gives you a chip on your shoulder,” ASU offensive lineman Hakeem Lassiter said. “During the week, it was our preperation heading into (Saturday’s) game that made the difference.”
The Rams outscored the Vikings 28-13 in the second half with TDs from QB Frank Rivers on a 1-yard run, Tavarius Washington on a 60-yard interception return, Camilla native Jaquan Williams on a 19-yard pass from Rivers and RB Adrian Alexander on a 14-yard run.
Rivers finished the game 14-for-24 for 129 yards, one TD and one interception, but the Rams got most of their yardage on the ground, gaining 289 yards as a team. Alexander rushed for 126 yards on 10 carries, while Phillip Moore finished with 91 yards on 14 carries.
It was a sloppy first half for both teams, who were a combined 3-for-13 on third downs and didn’t get into the red zone once before halftime.
In the closing minutes of the first quarter, ASU safety Dexter Moody picked off ECSU quarterback Casey Turner on the 5-yard line and returned it almost 30 yards. The Rams then put together their best drive of the quarter and marched all the way to the 24-yard line, but a Zachary Holley 41-yard field goal came up just short to keep the game scoreless.
The teams continued to trade punts back and forth for the second quarter until Holley lined up for a 39-yard field goal on a 4th-and-10 with 28 seconds left in the half. But instead of letting Holley boot it, holder Devonta Osborne picked the ball off the ground, slid out of a tackle in the backfield and ran 20 yards for a touchdown.
The PAT was blocked, but the Rams were still able to take a 6-0 lead into halftime.
ASU’s first score in the second half was set up by a perfect punt from Ryan Latner, who booted the ball to the 1-yard line. Elizabeth City handed the ball off three straight times and punted it back to the Rams, who marched into the red zone for the first time in the game. Rivers then connected with Orion Ponder on a 19-yard pass on third-and-long to the 1-yard line, setting up a Rivers 1-yard TD run to give ASU a 13-0 lead.
On ECSU’s next drive, Washington picked off Turner and returned the interception 60 yards for a TD to put ASU ahead 20-0.
“I knew I had my man on the back side, so I was just trying to stay close to him,” Washington said after the game, reliving his first-career pick-6. “Coach White had told us all week to be expecting the pass, so I was expecting it and he threw it. And I was ready for it.”
The Vikings scored with 4:22 left in the third quarter, but ASU bounced back with a TD with 6:18 left on a 13-yard TD pass from Rivers to Williams, and then Alexander ran in from 14 yards out with 1:28 for the Rams’ final score. Elizabeth City scored on the final play of the game to end the game.
NOTES: The Albany State Marching Rams Show Band did not perform at halftime because of the rainy conditions. It was believed by school officials to be the first time in years that the band, which is considered one of the best among HBCU schools, did not take the field at halftime. … ECSU had only two players from Georgia on its roster: WR Javoris Bryant from Decatur and OL Travis Dungee from Powder Springs. … The Vikings didn’t waste any time packing up the buses and heading back to Elizabeth City, N.C. The team made the 12-hour trip back home Saturday night, putting the Vikings back in North Carolina at 11 a.m. today.