Special to the Journal
Freshman running back Adrian Alexander rushed 110 yards on six carries and scored three touchdowns to lead the Albany State University Golden Rams to a 38-29 come-from-behind victory over the Fort Valley State University Wildcats in the 22nd Annual Fountain City Classic on Saturday. A standing-room-only crowd of 21,953 cheering fans witnessed as the Golden Rams clinched the SIAC’s first East Division championship. The Golden Rams will face Miles College in the inaugural SIAC title game on Nov. 12.
Fort Valley State outscored the Golden Rams 14-10 in the first half. Albany State emerged in the second half and scored 13 unanswered points to finish the regular season at 8-2 overall and 6-1 in conference play. The Wildcats drop to 2-8 and 2-5 in the SIAC.
The Wildcats scored the game’s first points late in the first quarter on a fumble recovery. On Albany State’s second possession of the game, quarterback Stanley Jennings fumbled the ball and Wildcat defensive back Calvin Jackson scooped up the ball and ran 10 yards to score with 5:52 on the clock. Justin Rosenbaum’s PAT gave the Wildcats a 7-0 lead.
Fort Valley State scored again and took a 14-0 lead on its first possession in the second quarter. Quarterback Antonio Henton completed a 46-yard pass to Terrell Walker to set up the three-play scoring drive. Aaron Courtney rushed one yard at 12:29 to score for the Wildcats. Later in the quarter, the Rams went 29 yards on four plays to score after senior defensive lineman Justin Blash recovered a fumble by Travis Richmond. Alexander scored his first touchdown, rushing from 12 yards out, and Tory Torstenson’s PAT cut the Wildcats’ lead to 14-7 with 5:56 on the clock. The Rams marched 77 yards on 12 plays on their final possession of the quarter, and sophomore kicker Brandon Hamilton booted 22-yard field as time expired to score for Albany State. The Wildcats led 14-10 at the half.
It was all Albany State in the second half. On their second possession of the third quarter, the Golden Rams went 80 yards on two plays to take the 17-14 lead. Alexander raced 69 yards to the Wildcat end zone, scoring his second touchdown with 10:59 on the clock. On the ensuing drive, Fort Valley went three-and-out and freshman linebackers A.J.Cunningham and Tyrone Davis blocked and recovered a Fort Valley punt. Jennings connected with sophomore tight end Darius Nelson on a four-yard pass to score, but Torstenson’s PAT was blocked, giving the Rams a 23-14 lead.
With just 10 seconds off the clock in the fourth quarter, Hamilton kicked another 22-yard field goal to make the score 26-14. Fort Valley put points on the scoreboard when Henton and Walker connected on a 6-yard pass and Rosenbaum’s PAT cut ASU’s lead to 26-21. Later in the quarter, junior receiver Ronnie Tubbs caught a 24-yard pass from Jennings at 3:11. Alexander scored his third touchdown of the afternoon on a 15-yard run to seal the 38-21 win for the Rams with two minutes remaining in the game. The Wildcats, however, would not go away. Christopher Slaughter caught a 6-yard pass from Henton, and the two-point conversion from Henton to Joshua Harris was good, but it was much too late.
Jennings completed 12-of-25 passes for 194 yards and two touchdowns, and led the Golden Rams to 362 total offensive yards. Tubbs caught five passes for 101 yards and a touchdown. Henton threw for 118 yards, completing 10-of-21 passes, for two touchdowns. Travis Richmond rushed for 104 yard on 15 carries and Aaron carried the ball 13 times for 61 yards, including the touchdown run. Walker had 80 yards on four receptions.
Blash led the “Dirty Blue” defense with eight tackles (five solo), forced and recovered a fumble, and assisted on a sack. Senior defensive back Jamarkus Gaskins recorded six tackles, recovered a fumble, broke up a pass and had a sack, while junior defensive back Matthew Taylor add six tackles. Daniels led the Wildcats with 19 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble. Ricky Johnson recorded eight tackles and a forced fumble.
The Golden Rams will face Miles College in the inaugural SIAC Football Championship game on Nov. 12. Kickoff is set for 3 p.m. at Panther Stadium at Clark Atlanta University.