ASU football fans ready to rock and roll vs. Wingate

Photo by Daniel Kay

Photo by Daniel Kay

ALBANY -- This town is thankful for its Rams.

And they don't even need a holiday to remind them.

The Albany State football team (10-0) is gearing up for its second-round playoff game against Wingate (9-2) on Saturday, and the citizens of Dougherty County are expected to show up in droves, despite the fact the game is just two days after Thanksgiving.

"I like ASU, I like football. I like the Rams, their spirit and the city," said Gilbert Udota, a 1980 ASU graduate from Kenya and owner of Oglethorpe Boulevard's Odyssey Records. "I'm around the college, and everything around me deals with football, the Rams and so forth. (They're) the pride of Albany. ... We want the whole town to show up (Saturday)."

It just might.

Gold and Blue colors are everywhere. From sweatshirts to car flags, from signs in front of businesses to words of encouragement painted on cars, there's just a bit more of a reason to show school spirit than usual.

"Whenever it's football season, we sell a lot of everything," Udota said. "Greek (clothing), T-shirts, tickets -- we sell a lot of tickets."

Udota's store sells all kinds of ASU memorabilia and tickets for each game, and he said sales pick up especially during this time of the year.

But in the case of this weekend's game, Udota has had lines out the door.

"I go to all the home games," said Albany State student Elyse Calhoun, who shares classes with players like receiver Ronnie Childs. "Hopefully a lot of people will come (Saturday). I know it's the Thanksgiving holidays, but hopefully a lot of people show up."

If it's anything like the Rams' last game, they will. Almost 24,000 fans were in A.J. McClung Stadium in Columbus as Albany State defeated Fort Valley State, 12-7, in the 21st annual Fountain City Classic, and probably just as many were tailgating outside of it.

Udota was one of those inside, cheering on his former school with a souvenir he picked up at the World Cup this past summer.

"I was the only one there in Columbus with a vuvuzela," Udota said. "(My friends and I) were in Tuskegee, we were in Columbus, shouting 'Go, Rams, Go!' "

But are Udota and fans confident about ASU's chances against Wingate, which put up 614 yards of total offense in a 63-41, first-round win against Morehouse?

Short answer: of course.

"I don't know a lot about Wingate, but we are 10-0," Calhoun said. "So I think we can take it home."

Added Udota: "We need to get on the scoreboard (early). I think if we can get on the scoreboard first, then with our good defense, it will be a good day."

If Albany State does win, it would break a one-and-done stigma associated with the Rams and the playoffs. ASU and head coach Mike White also went undefeated in the regular season in 2004, but lost early in the playoffs as well that year.

"We hope that we'll (finish undefeated)," said Udota, who goes to every game he can and has been to every single Fountain City Classic. "In the 1960s, we went undefeated and unscored (upon), so this could be the second-best (season ever) for Albany State."

That it might.

But according to Udota, it'll take a few tricks from the sleeve of Mr. White. After all, insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

"I read in The Herald that coach White is going to try a new technique and see what (the team can do in the playoffs)," Udota said. "So we're really, really excited. We want to go all the way. We want to beat (Wingate), then Delta State and (eventually) win the championship in Alabama."

Championships take hard work, but fans know the Rams have put in the time. The rest will be decided on the field.

Just ask Albany State students Mike Jack and Tae Woods. They regularly shoot hoops by the field where the ASU football team practices, and see them watering the grass with sweat every week.

"I'm proud of them. I always see them practicing and everything. Their receivers and their defense, they have good work ethic," Woods, a health, physical education and recreation major said Monday during a pick-up game. "They're undefeated. They have good discipline and everything, so they should do good this weekend."