The 15th-ranked Tuskegee Golden Tigers made it nine wins in their past 10 meetings with Albany State on Saturday. Tuskegee scored 21 unanswered points in the second half en route to a 28-18 victory at the third annual White Water Classic at Garrett-Harrison Stadium.
The game was a tale of two halves, where both teams only cracked the scoreboard once in the first half and then took the lids off their respective offenses in the second half.
The Golden Tigers went three and out on their opening possession, and Albany State made good on its first offensive series, with Emilio Maldonado chipping in a 33-yard field goal to give the Golden Rams a 3-0 lead.
Tuskegee answered the Albany State score immediately, with a seven play, 76-yard drive that culminated in a Leo Gilbert nine-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Kevin Lacey.
After a scoreless second quarter and a Maldonado missed field goal on the opening Golden Ram possession of the second half, Albany State took advantage of one of the few Tuskegee offensive miscues of the contest. Lacey fumbled the ball away to the Golden Rams as he was being sacked, setting up Albany State on the Tuskegee 3-yard line. They only needed one play to make good on the Golden Tigers’ gift, with Jarvis Small punching it in to reclaim a three-point lead at 10-7.
Both teams swapped one more scoreless possession each, then the Golden Tiger offense exploded for 21 unanswered points.
Tuskegee had an identical drive to their first touchdown, taking seven plays to march the ball 76 yards to the end zone for a 14-10 lead. Jerome Lewis punctuated the drive with a 1-yard run for the score. The Golden Tiger defense held Albany State three and out on the ensuing drive, backing them all the way up to their own 6-yard line. Tuskegee started on the Golden Rams’ 41-yard line after an Albany State punt, and it took just one play to find Leo Gilbert for a touchdown and a 21-10 lead heading into the final frame.
After both teams again swapped possessions in the final quarter, the Tuskegee defense had perhaps their biggest stand of the night with three consecutive sacks of Albany State quarterback Caleb Edmonds. After the Golden Rams punted the ball away, the Golden Tigers came out inspired. Wide receiver Desmond Reece ran a reverse for 13 yards, then Lacey found Reece for a 51-yard touchdown, his longest completion of the night, to take a 28-10 lead.
“We feed off the defense,” Lacey said. “In practice, we actually get to go against the (first-team defense), and it’s always a competition. You never want to go out and have an okay day against the 1’s, you always want to win. When it gets to the game, if they get a stop, you want to one-up them and score a touchdown. Getting those stops makes us want to play better.”
Albany State’s McKinley Habersham, however, got the Golden Rams offense jump-started with a return on the ensuing kickoff to the 50-yard line. It took five plays for Edmonds to find Michael Green for a 21-yard touchdown, and a successful two-point conversion put the Golden Rams within 10 at 28-18.
Tuskegee came out on the next possession with Darnell Hill behind center instead of Lacey, but the Golden Tigers went backwards and had to punt the ball away to Albany State late in the fourth quarter. It was a chance for Hill to get some game experience, according to Tuskegee head coach Willie Slater, but it stymied the Golden Tigers offense.
“I admit, we were looking at the scoreboard,” Slater said. “We wanted the other QB to get some reps, but it dropped off.”
Maldonado missed a field goal attempt on the next Albany State possession, and Tuskegee was able to run out the clock for the victory.
Lacey finished 11 of 19 passing for 250 yards and three touchdowns. Running back Jayjerien Craig was also in triple digit yardage for Tuskegee, rushing 23 times for 130 yards as well. The option game worked well for the Golden Tigers, keeping the Albany State defense off balance much of the game.
“Albany is a very physical team and they’re very aggressive, so you want to counter the aggressiveness with deep passes,” Lacey said. “They make you execute and get those long passes in order to beat them. If you continually have 11 and 12-play drives, you’re not going to score very many points against them. I think we executed well in our option game, and it opened everything up.”
“Just about every play we thought we had worked tonight,” Slater said. “Big plays were what won the game. We were able to control the ball better than we did last week, but we still have a ways to go to control it like we want to.”
Slater and the Golden Tigers, however, improve to 2-0 on the season and 9-1 in the last ten meetings against their rivals from southwest Georgia.
“We’ve been very fortunate. They’re a good program and a good football team,” Slater said.
Saturday at Garrett-Harrison Stadium
A – Emilio Maldonado 33 FG, 10:10.
T – Leo Gilbert 9 pass from Kevin Lacey (Dalton Hall kick), 5:29.
A – Jarvis Small 3 run (Maldonado kick), 9:37.
T – Jerome Lewis 1 run (Hall kick), 2:34.
T – Gilbert 41 pass from Lacey (Hall kick), 1:05.
T – Desmond Reece 51 pass from Lacey (Hall kick), 7:29.
A – Michael Green 21 pass from Caleb Edmonds (Christopher Hun pass from Edmonds), 5:41.
Records: Albany State 0-2, Tuskegee 2-0. Next: Albany State, at Southeastern, Saturday at 7 p.m. EDT; Tuskegee, vs. Florida A & M in Mobile, Ala., Saturday at 7 p.m. EDT.