Albany State QB Stanley Jennings proved he was mortal Saturday against Kentucky State in the Circle City Classic, completing just nine passes, getting sacked four times, throwing one interception and acting hesitant to scramble at times in the open space at Lucas Oil Stadium. Nonetheless, the Rams rolled to their most points since 2004 in the 57-31 win. (Reginald Christian/Albany State University)
INDIANAPOLIS -- The Rams look unsettled from the outset in cavernous Lucas Oil Stadium on Saturday when sophomore kicker Brandon Hamilton was forced to make a touchdown-saving tackle on the opening kickoff.
But ASU overcame any nerves to post an impressive 57-31 victory against Kentucky State at the home of the NFL's Indianapolis Colts and site of Super Bowl XLVI in 2012. The stadium's retractable roof never opened on a partly cloudy afternoon with outside temperatures in the 50s, marking the first time Albany State played in a closed dome. The reported attendance in the 63,000-seat stadium was 36,831, and the large crowd was excited to watch the shootout.
ASU players stared up in awe after the game at the replays shown on the large video screens.
"I'll never forget this," ASU senior safety Jamarkus Gaskins said before repeating it again: "I'll never forget this."
What will he remember most?
"The fact we won. My teammates came out to play ball, and we won," he added.
JENNINGS GOOD, NOT GREAT: Senior quarterback Stanley Jennings didn't post remarkable numbers Saturday in Albany State's win, but he sure picked his spots.
Jennings completed only nine passes, was sacked four times, threw one interception and was hesitant to scramble for first downs in open space. Even so, the Rams posted their highest point total since 2004.
"We were never worried," sophomore receiver Orion Ponder said. "We just know we needed to win this game."
The Rams drove into field-goal position on their first drive when Jennings rolled left before finding sophomore receiver Michael Nelson wide open on a deep crossing route. Nelson probably could have scored by running down the sideline, but he was tackled after cutting back to the middle of the field and recorded a 65-yard completion.
Jennings was also sharp enough to take advantage of a free play with 39 seconds remaining in the first half. He quickly looked downfield because of an offsides penalty, finding junior receiver Ronnie Tubbs in one-on-one coverage down the right sideline for a 28-yard touchdown.
"Our offense has really been putting up some numbers, and I was kind of surprised that we sputtered there offensively," ASU coach Mike White said.
ASU turned to the ground game instead, with junior running back Nathan Hoyte repeatedly sprinting to the outside while picking up a season-high 104 rushing yards on 14 carries. Senior running back Darryl Carey carried two defenders on a 5-yard touchdown run in the first half and junior running back Luther Edwards sealed the victory with a 26-yard touchdown scamper.
Gaskins' two defensive touchdowns also helped the offense.
"It lets our offense be able to run the ball and pass it," Gaskins said. "It lets them have a little breathing room. We're not putting all the pressure on them."
MORE SPECIAL TEAMS WOES: It looked like special teams wouldn't be a problem this week when the Rams and Thorobreds opened the game by trading 29-yard field goals. Then senior kicker Tory Torstenson and sophomore kicker Brandon Hamilton each missed an extra point by striking the right upright.
KSU senior defensive back Keith Massey also set a Circle City Classic record with 243 kickoff return yards, including a 91-yard touchdown in the third quarter. The Thorobreds entered the game ranked first in Division II on kickoff returns, and ran real or fake reverses on each return.
It wasn't all bad, however, for the Rams. Sophomore cornerback Brandon Brown and junior linebacker Bruce Ryles each blocked an extra point and KSU failed on two fake punt attempts.
NOTES: ASU improved to 15-8 against ASU, continuing an eight-game winning streak in the series. It was the first appearance for both teams at the 28th annual Circle City Classic, which hosted a concert by rapper Bow Wow and R&B artist Monica after the game. ... The matchup was considered a home game for Albany State, which wore its blue uniforms with gold numbers. Mike White improved to 18-2 at neutral sites. ... The Rams continue their SIAC schedule at Lane on Saturday ... KSU receiver Raphael Amey finished with 234 receiving yards on 14 catches.