Chowan can’t hold early lead, loses opener

Published 1:01 am Friday, August 28, 2009

Leading 14-7, Chowan University gave up 29 straight points, mainly on turnovers, as Albany State University downed the Hawks 36-21 Thursday night in the season opener for both teams.

The stat sheet did not tell the tale of the contest. Chowan had more first downs and was outgained by just 26 yards in total offense. The Hawks had fewer penalties, more third-down conversions and held the ball for 16 more minutes than Albany, the 19th-ranked Division II team in the nation. But the Hawks committed six turnovers on the night, giving the Golden Rams good field possession.

“You don’t turn the ball over six times against the number 19 team in the country and expect to be successful,” said Tim Place, Chowan’s head coach. “Nothing against Albany State; they are a heck of a team. They have defensive linemen that are men. But we are going to see the same thing in the CIAA.”

Chowan got on the scoreboard on its second possession. Quarterback C.J. Westler hit Kevin Hodrick with a 12-yard pass and then later tossed a strike to Kevin Robledo, who dashed 48 yards for a touchdown with 7:43 to play in the first quarter. Cory Cline booted the extra point to give the Hawks a 7-0 lead.

Albany countered on its next possession. The Golden Rams went to the air and marched down to the Chowan 19. Despite a sack and a penalty, A.J. McKenna hit Demetrice Johnson with a 14-yard touchdown strike at 4:14 of the first quarter. Patrick Cuff’s extra point knotted the game at 7-7.

In the second quarter, Chowan took advantage of an Albany miscue. The Hawks’ Jackey Moore recovered a fumble on the Albany 19. Chowan could not move the ball in three plays, and Cline set up for a 35-yard field goal attempt. The snap was bad, but Westler, holding for Cline, picked up the ball and threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to Kjuan Hollman at 10:56 of the second quarter. Cline gave the Hawks a 14-7 lead with his extra-point kick.

Then the bottom fell out for Chowan. Albany’s defensive line took over and pressured Westler the rest of the evening, forcing three interceptions and five sacks. Chowan also put the ball on the ground three times.

Albany scored on its next three possessions of the second quarter. Darryl Carey scored from three yards out on a handoff at 8:49. On Chowan’s next possession, Westler fumbled and the Golden Rams recovered on the Chowan 10. This led to a 24-yard field goal by Patrick Cuff.

Albany scored just 30 seconds later. On the home team’s next possession, Chowan’s Elliott Smalls fumbled on the first play from scrimmage. On the next play, McKenna hit Johnson with a 25-yard touchdown pass with 5:09 left in the half. Cuff booted the extra point, and when the damage was all over, Albany led for good at 24-14.

Albany State put the game away about halfway through the third quarter. A Westler pass was batted into the air and intercepted by Albany’s Joshua Ingram at the Chowan 1. On the next play, Johnson took a direct snap and crossed the goalline for a 30-14 lead.

Chowan did manage one more score on the last play of the game when Westler hit Robledo with a 20-yard touchdown pass.

Westler finished the game with 205 yards on 20-for-37 passing. Robledo caught seven passes for 106 yards.

Place said his team played well at times.

“The sad thing is we left a lot of opportunities on the field, and that hurts. It hurts because we did some good things at times,” he said. “But I also thought we were our own worst enemy. That’s a struggle, and that’s something we can’t be pleased with and we can’t be comfortable with.”

Chowan’s next game is a historic contest against Old Dominion University in Norfolk next Saturday at 6 p.m.