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Albany State loses conference opener to Miles

Albany State safety Dexter Moody, left, and cornerback Quintory Braswell break up a pass in the end zone during Saturday’s game against Miles College. (Reginald Christian/Special to The Herald)

Albany State safety Dexter Moody, left, and cornerback Quintory Braswell break up a pass in the end zone during Saturday’s game against Miles College. (Reginald Christian/Special to The Herald)

FAIRFIELD, Ala. — Saturday wasn’t the homecoming Albany State quarterback Frank Rivers was hoping for.

The Fairfield (Ala.) High School grad returned home for the first time in an Albany State uniform, but Rivers and the ASU offense struggled against Miles, which won Saturday’s SIAC opener for both teams, 22-14.

Rivers started the game with a TD on Albany State’s first possession but then the Rams went ice-cold on offense and didn’t score for the next 46 minutes until Rivers connected with Camilla native Jessie Atkins for his second TD of the day.

ASU (1-3, 0-1 SIAC) suffers a loss to Miles in its SIAC opener for the second year in a row, while the Bears (1-2, 1-0) were able to pick up their first win of the season. The Rams were blown out by Miles in 2012, and while Saturday’s game was much closer, it was still as devastating for an Albany State team that now has a near-impossible road ahead if it wants to return to the Division II playoffs.

The Rams committed 16 penalties for 194 yards and lost two turnovers. Rivers threw for 260 yards with two TDs and one interception on 25-for-36, while ASU’s running backs combined for just 62 yards on the ground. Rivers was the leading rusher for 44 yards. Rams running backs Phillip Moore and Adrian Alexander were the team’s top rusher with 22 yards each.

Atkins had another stand-out game with 13 catches for 160 yards.

Miles received the opening kickoff but was quickly forced to punt, and the Rams marched down the field on their first possession for a quick score.

Rivers got off to his best start of the season and connected with tight end Elijah Jordan three times during the drive before finding Atkins in the end zone with 6:15 left in the quarter to take a 7-0 lead, capping a 12-play, 75-yard drive.

Miles had opportunities early in the game to get on the scoreboard, but placekicker Jason Coste missed a field goal late in the first quarter and the Bears failed to pick up a 4th-and-1 inside ASU’s 20-yard line in the second quarter.

The Rams, however, had their share of miscues in the first half, too. Rams running back Phillip Moore lost a fumble deep in Miles’ territory with 6:32 left in the half, and the Bears answered with a 75-yard, 3-minute scoring drive that was capped by an Antonio Pitts 9-yard TD catch to tie the game at 7-7.

Albany State opened up the second half with an offensive possession that went nowhere, and Miles scored on its first possession of the half when quarterback Demetrice Price ran in for a 37-yard TD. Coste missed the PAT, but Miles still took a 13-7 lead with 9:53 left in the third quarter.

Price then tossed a 5-yard TD to Pitts on the opening play of the fourth quarter to jump out to a 19-7 lead, and Coste nailed an 18-yard field goal to put Miles ahead 22-7 with 8:33 left.

The Rams closed the deficit to eight points with 5:14 left in the game when Atkins caught a 12-yard TD pass from Rivers on a fourth-down play.

ASU is off next week before returning to SIAC action Oct. 12 at Lane College.