Scouting the Statesmen

Photo by Daniel Kay

Photo by Daniel Kay

ALBANY -- The scouting report is in.

Delta State, which takes on Albany State on Saturday in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Division II football playoffs, is coming to town, and the Statesmen (9-3) will be the second straight team that the Rams (11-0) face for the first-time ever.

So what does head coach Mike White and ASU know about them? Not much, aside from watching film, except that they are 10-4 in the playoffs, won the Division II National Championship in 2000 and have an explosive offense.

But just as much as the Rams don't know about Delta State, the Statesmen don't know about Albany State. Which is why DSU head coach Ron Roberts and his team are preparing for the best.

"They're a very good football team. They're extremely talented, they have a big, physical defense, big physical running backs and a big talented quarterback. So we'll have our hands full," said Roberts, who was named the school's 17th head coach in 2007. "They're used to winning - they're undefeated - so we're going to have to have our best football (to be successful)."

Just like Wingate -- the team Albany State beat, 30-28, in the second round -- the Statesmen will be dangerous on offense. But unlike Wingate, they're not one-dimensional.

Quarterback Micah Davis has thrown for 3,475 yards and 26 touchdowns this season, but running back and All-American Trevar Deed leads the team with 941 yards and 10 TDs on the ground. Deed and second-string running back Brandon Lucas both finished with more than 100 yards rushing in the team's 47-24 second-round win against North Alabama.

"Our offense has been outstanding this year," Roberts said. "Obviously they have a great defense -- No. 1 in the country -- so that's going to be the matchup."

Roberts then added: "Our quarterback Micah Davis has been great for us all year, running back Trevar Deed is an All-American and has been outstanding in big games and running back Brandon Lucas is electrifying. The defense has also come along the past couple of ballgames."

Davis said the offensive line in particular is one of Delta State's strong points.

"Our offensive line has only given up about 10 sacks this year, which led the (Gulf South Conference), so they've done a good job," said Davis, a junior transfer. "We also have some pretty good skill players who (contribute every game)."

The Statesmen also enter the game without any major injuries, whereas the Rams recently lost team leaders Ernest Seay and Kareem Hess, and SIAC All-Conference first team defensive lineman Justin Blash is questionable.

"We're about as healthy as we've been all season long," Roberts said. "So we should be firing on all cylinders, and it should be a heck of a matchup and a good football game."

The offense-defense battle is the obvious storyline, but equally interesting is whether Delta State's playoff experience and success will benefit the team more than Albany State's home-field advantage.

"I think the 'been-there done-that' factor is huge. We've been in a lot of big games this year and a lot of games that have a lot of impact and exposure," Roberts said. "So I think the big game isn't going to affect our kids. We've had to fight for them, tooth and nail. Our guys have a workman's mentality over here, so I think our guys are focused."

"(And Albany State Memorial Coliseum) is a great environment. There's going to be a huge crowd, that's great. I think we're going to feed off that energy. It's going to be one of the biggest crowds we've played in front of this year, so it should be a great football game."