COLUMBUS -- Following a 37-31 loss at Lane College on Oct. 12, the Albany State Golden Rams season had been pretty much left for dead.
Albany State was 1-4, an uncharacteristically slow start, and the chances of playing for a SIAC championship seemed slim.
But on Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium, the Rams continued their recent surge as they knocked off Fort Valley State 19-10 in the 24th annual Fountain City Classic. The win was Albany States fourth straight and sends the Rams (5-4) into this weeks SIAC championship game against Miles College (6-3). That game will be played at 7 p.m. on Saturday at Lakewood Stadium in Atlanta.
Im very proud of these kids, Albany State head coach Mike White said. We believed we could come back from the start we had, and to see it happen, especially with the Fountain City Classic being the game that sent us into the title game, was pretty sweet. Our seniors and leadership never really let up, even when we were 1-4. We knew if we started winning games, we could control our own destiny, and we did.
Albany State has now won 10 of the past 12 meetings between the two teams, and the all-time series, which dates back to 1949, is tied, 31-31-3.
Both teams spent the first seven minutes of the game sputtering on offense until FVSU -- which wouldve gone to the SIAC title game if itd won -- got a turnover on downs at the Wildcats 36-yard line. FVSU (4-6) then went 64 yards in nine plays, taking more than six minutes off the clock before Malcolm Eady found Donte Warren for a 22-yard touchdown pass. Christopher Ward made the extra point to give the Wildcats a 7-0 lead they would hold after one quarter.
Following a short Albany State punt, FVSU took over on its own 41 and drove to the Rams 4 before settling for a 23-yard field goal by Ward to go up 10-0 midway through the second quarter.
FVSUs defense was the story of the opening two quarters, as the Wildcats allowed just 45 yards on 28 offensive plays by Albany State. Rams quarterback Frank Rivers was just 4-for-16 passing for 18 yards and was sacked three times, while the ground game managed just 27 yards on 12 carries.
Meanwhile, FVSU was able to get 156 yards on its 27 plays in the first half. Eady was 8-for-9 for 124 yards and a touchdown and DeAngelo Smith and Warren had three catches apiece for 57 and 49 yards, respectively.
Albany State picked things up in the third quarter, forcing a turnover on FVSUs opening possession of the second half and then going 48 yards in six plays to score on a 14-yard touchdown run by Adrian Alexander. But the snap on the extra point snap was bad, so FVSU still led 10-6 with 10:37 to go in the third period.
FVSU returned the subsequent kickoff to the Albany State 23, but Ward missed a 38-yard field goal to keep it at 10-6. The Rams kept the momentum in their corner with a three-play, 80-yard drive capped off by a 42-yard touchdown pass from Rivers to Jessie Atkins. However, the extra point was off again and Albany State led 12-10 with 7:58 left in the third quarter.
We didnt make a lot of major changes at halftime, White said. We just fixed some small things. We made one or two plays and the momentum of the game flipped. It was a great ballgame.