After a day full of festivities surrounding the 94th annual Turkey Day Classic and a slow start, Alabama State was able to pull away in the second half and close the season with a convincing 37-3 victory over Edward Waters Saturday afternoon at ASU Stadium.
“I think in the first half we played down to their level,” Alabama State interim head coach Donald Hill-Eley said. “It’s kind of hard getting guys to play when they see what is across from them. In the second half, we brought energy and wanted to give the offensive line carries and things they probably have never done in their lives. I know a lot of people wanted us to go for touchdowns but we didn’t want to damage the other team’s spirits and teach our young men character.”
Alabama State (5-6 jumped on top early in the contest with 10 first quarter points, highlighted by a 15-yard pass from Kobie Jones to Joe Williams IV with 3:03 to play in the opening quarter. The Hornets got on the board a possession before that with a 25-yard field goal from Hunter Hanson.
Edward Waters was able to add a field goal with 10:33 to play in the half to trim the halftime deficit to 10-3.
The Hornets were able to take control of the game in the second half, scoring a pair of touchdowns. Ezra Gray scored from four yards out with 9:24 to play to extend the lead to 17-3, before George Golden ran it in from 20 yards out for a 24-3 lead with 3:16 to play in the third quarter.
Alabama State used a pair of fourth quarter field goals from Hanson (26 and 45 yards), and a three-yard run from Robert Pritchett III for the final margin.
The Hornets finished with 218 yards on the ground Saturday, with Golden picking up 67 on just 10 carries. Alex Anderson finished with 46 yards on just eight carries, while Gray finished with 45 and Pritchett III with 37. The Hornets finished with 116 yards passing and hit four different receivers on the day – with Williams IV, Willie White and Nygel Lee each finishing with three receptions – and Javontey Smith with a pair.
Defensively, Kurron Ramsey finished with a career-high 12 tackles for a Hornets’ defense that recorded a sack and forced a season-high six turnovers. Ishmael Aurismond finished with six tackles and a forced fumble.
Alabama State ended the year winning five of their six contests after dropping their first five of the season. They also finished with the same division record as Alcorn State, but finished second in the division due to the head-to-head matchup with the Braves.
“Resilience,” Eley said. “When you start off 0-5 and fight back to finish 5-1, it shows how resilient they are and dedicated. The thing I told the seniors last night is that when you have young people and give them spirit to unite you will find victory. The 0-5 start was a bad dream we will only deal with what is ahead of us.”