Orion Ponder returns a kickoff for a TD during the second half of Saturday's Circle City Classic in Indianapolis.
ALBANY -- When Darryl Carey stepped into Lucas Oil Stadium over the weekend, one thing came to mind.
"That's a big ol' stadium," Carey said on Tuesday about what his first thoughts were before Albany State trounced Kentucky State in Saturday's 28th annual Circle City Classic in Indianapolis, 57-31.
"It was the experience of a lifetime," said ASU running back Carey, who had a 5-yard rushing touchdown in the contest.
Carey then added: "The fact that we got to experience something like that and get the win at the same time is a blessing."
Before Tuesday's practice, ASU players were still talking about playing in front of 36,831 screaming fans, and Rams coach Mike White was still talking about the 12-hour bus ride.
WHO: Albany State (4-2, 2-0) at Lane College (2-3, 0-2)
WHAT: Rams’ sixth game of the season, third in the SIAC.
WHEN: 2 p.m. Saturday.
WHERE: Jackson, Tenn.
RADIO: 98.1 FM.
FOLLOW THE GAME ONLINE: twitter.com/AlbHeraldSports.
"Indianapolis is probably still on some of us," White said. "I know it's still dragging on me. (Monday) morning when I came in, I still felt it after a cup of coffee. I still felt like I was a little sleepy."
ASU's trip -- the third-longest in the history of the program -- started Thursday evening when the Rams loaded up for the overnight bus ride.
It was a ride Carey dealt with by having a "long (song) play list and plenty of snacks."
The team finally arrived at its hotel at about 8 a.m. Friday morning, and White said he was finally able to rest for a few hours before he was whisked away to a press conference in front of nearly 500 sponsors, media members and fans.
"That's when it hit me that this was a big deal," White said. "It was the biggest press conference/banquet that I have ever been involved with. It was nice, and I knew at that time it was a little bigger than what we have been accustomed to. I probably enjoyed that part, but really we were trying to hone in and do the things we normally do."
So with parades, concerts and festivities happening all around the Circle City, the Rams quietly prepared for their SIAC game against Kentucky State.
"We had some people that came over that were associated with the Classic and talk to us about the history of it and some of the other teams that played," White said. "Other than that, we tried to keep it as normal as we possibly could."
Once the team finally stepped into Lucas Oil for the 2:30 p.m. game, defensive lineman Antorio Wells said it was everything he expected.
"I was in awe of how it looked and how big it was," Wells said about the 63,000-seat stadium, which actually ranks 30th in seating capacity out of the 32 NFL stadiums.
For many of the players, playing on the same field as NFL superstars was a bigger deal than playing in front of thousands of fans.
"There was just a feeling you get as a football player getting to play in the Colts' stadium where Peyton Manning plays," Carey said. "You look around and try not to get overwhelmed, because you still have to play a football game."
Rams receiver Ronnie Tubbs, who caught a 28-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter from quarterback Stanley Jennings, had difficulty putting it into words just how great it fell to toss the ball to the official and celebrate with ASU's offensive linemen after putting the Rams ahead 29-13.
"It was amazing," Tubbs said. "It was a dream come true for me, especially scoring in front of all those fans."
But what had all the Rams excited -- more so than playing in front of thousands of fans or playing on the field that will host the Super Bowl in a few months -- was the fact that they stayed undefeated in the SIAC.
"It was definitely a heightened atmosphere," White said. "Just playing on that field and in that dome was very nice. I think what made it really nice is that we won the game."
ON THE ROAD AGAIN: During a span of three weeks, the Rams will have spent 2,820 miles and more than 24 hours on buses taking them to three straight out-of-state games.
The Rams traveled to Fairfield, Ala., on Sept. 24 to play Miles College, then to Indy to play Kentucky State last Saturday and next will go to Jackson, Tenn., this Saturday to face Lane College.
And White said that has meant a lot of bonding time for the team.
"Your leaders kind of stand out more, and they feel closer to each other," White said. "This is really the only time they eat together and sleep under the same roof. Everybody is together, and it's more of a team atmosphere.
"All of us dress the same, so it's a different bond when you are on the road. No one is here with us, it's an us-versus-them attitude."
HOME AWAY FROM HOME: Saturday was the second home game this season for Albany State that wasn't played at ASU Coliseum, an anomaly that White said the team just has to "deal with."
"This has been a tough road, going to Birmingham, then going to Indianapolis, then turning around to take this long trip again (to Lane College on Saturday)," White said. "You know it's coming, and you just have to make the best of it."
ASU opened up the season with a home game in Macon against Savannah State in the Music City Classic, which the Rams won, 37-34. ASU will play just four of its 10 regular-season games at ASU Coliseum this season. The two remaining home games for the Rams are Oct. 15 against Morehouse College and Oct. 29 against Benedict College.