May 15, 2021

UWG survives upset bid in South Georgia

(Albany, GA/ — In the first of three-straight road games, the West Georgia Wolves rose above adversity in South Georgia on Saturday evening, surviving an upset bid by the Albany State Golden Rams at Albany State University Coliseum with a 27-23 victory.

The matchup was the Wolves’ third opponent in the first four games of the season that participated in the postseason of the 2015 season, as the Golden  Rams advanced to the SIAC championship game last season, playing UWG’s 2016 Week 2 opponent, Miles. West Georgia used a solid mix of defense and special teams along with several key conversions on the offensive side of the ball to move to 4-0 on the year.

The game opened with Albany State taking the ball and picking up one first down before the UWG defense stiffened, forcing a punt. The Wolves took the ball inside ASU territory, and a 23-yard completion from junior quarterback Will Gardner to junior receiver Qa Walker on fourth down set up an 11-yard touchdown scamper from Lamarcus Franks for an early UWG advantage. Eric Autry’s kick was true, giving the Wolves a 7-0 advantage.

Albany State mounted a drive on the strong arm and legs of quarterback Caleb Edmonds, as the senior led the Golden Rams down the field for a 75-yard drive in 12 plays. ASU converted two third down plays on the drive, and a 16-yard touchdown pass tied the game at 7-7.

But that didn’t stay for long, as Devontae Jackson took the ensuing kickoff back 97 yards for a UWG touchdown, the third longest play in school history. The extra point was no good, but the Wolves led 13-7. Jackson’s return was the first kickoff return for a touchdown at UWG since November of 2014, when Denarius Appling returned a kick against Florida Tech in University Stadium.

(Photo: Tim Morse/The Albany Herald)

(Photo: Tim Morse/The Albany Herald)

But Edmonds and the ASU offense took just seven plays to march 73 yards for a second score, taking a 14-13 lead with three minutes left in the opening quarter of the contest.

That was the way things would stay until the Golden Rams’ first drive of the second quarter. Edmonds faded back to pass on 3rd-and-3 from the ASU27, and A.J. Leggett stepped in front of a pass in the flats for his third interception of the year. The transfer from Marshall wasted little time in sprinting down the sideline for the second interception return for a touchdown this season by a UWG player and a 20-14 lead.

The two teams exchanged possessions for the bulk of the remainder of the quarter until West Georgia took over at the ASU39 with 1:55 left after a nifty 21-yard punt return by K.J. Parmer. Gardner completed two passes and Albany State was called for two penalties on the drive. The first was a 21-yard strike to Qa Walker that put the Macon native over the 1,000-yard mark for his career at UWG. The second was Walker’s second touchdown reception of the season, a two-yarder and Gardner’s seventh touchdown pass, giving the Wolves a 27-14 advantage heading into the locker room at the break.

The second half was a defensive struggle, as both teams moved the ball between the 30s, but Albany State was the only team to score. The Golden Rams had a 39-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter, and with just seconds left in the game, UWG punter Jordan Ikner ran out the back of the end zone to give the Golden Rams a safety.

Dylan Donahue was all over the field again, as the All-American defensive end had three sacks for the second-straight game. Cam Magee had nine tackles to lead UWG defensively, including eight solo stops. Gardner was 17-for-29 on the night with a touchdown and 214 yards passing. Walker ended the game with seven receptions for 74 yards and a score. Devontae Jackson had another great all-purpose game, collecting 65 yards rushing to lead the Wolves, 46 yards passing and 109 return yards for a 220-yard night.

West Georgia will return to Gulf South Conference play next weekend, taking on North Alabama at Braly Memorial Stadium in Florence, Ala. in a matchup of the two teams tied for the GSC Championship last season.

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