Albany State running back Nathan Hoyte escapes the Lane defense Saturday during the Rams’ stunning loss to the Dragons — but it was by no fault of Hoyte, who finished with 76 yards and two TDs.
JACKSON, Tenn. -- Lane coach Derrick Burroughs said the Dragons had their three best days of practice this week.
Burroughs will want to repeat those practices after Lane upset No. 12 Albany State, 26-24, at Lane Field on Saturday.
For the Rams, it was a shocking loss, wrapping up a three-game span that included their three longest road trips of the regular season -- to Birmingham Ala., to play Miles, to Indianapolis to play Kentucky State and to Jackson, Tenn., to play Lane.
Needless to say, ASU coach Mike White and the Rams were ready to come home after their first loss to Lane in the 46-year history of the series.
"It's been a pretty tough three weeks, but I think (Lane) actually outplayed us," White said. "They were more physical than we were. I didn't think they would be able to run the ball, but that's where we broke down."
The Rams, who lost their first SIAC game in over a year, are at home next Saturday against Morehouse for a game that could go a long way in deciding the SIAC East Division champion.
Lane had lost the previous 10 games to the Golden Rams, including a 43-13 blowout win for Albany State last season.
"We don't have everything that Albany State does," Burroughs said. "We are a make-do team. I am proud of the kids. I knew something good was going to come out of practice this week. I couldn't say we would beat Albany State, but we were focused."
After giving up three touchdowns in the first half, the Dragons (3-3, 1-2) played lock-down defense in the second half, limiting the Golden Rams (4-2, 2-1) to 52 yards of offense.
The Lane defense especially stepped up in the fourth quarter.
Albany State's Brandon Hamilton hit a 39-yard field goal less than two minutes into the fourth quarter to narrow the Lane lead to 26-24.
The Golden Rams then forced Lane to a three-and-out, but Lane's defense did the rest. The Dragons held Albany State to minus-41 yards of offense on the Golden Rams' final two possessions.
"I challenged the guys at halftime," Burroughs said. "They were playing with a little swagger because we had played better the last couple of game. Albany State had some big plays on us, and we had to show how much we loved each other."
Lane sacked Albany State quarterback Stanley Jennings three times for losses of 17, 12 and 12 yards.
Two of those sacks came on ASU's final drive of the game, killing any chance the Rams had on getting into field goal range to set up a potential game-winning kick.
"Everything that could have gone wrong trying to get that drive going, did go wrong," White said.
Lane defensive back A.J. Thompson also had his second interception of the game. The first interception came during Albany State's first possession of the second half.
On second-and-35 at the Albany State 19-yard line, Thompson intercepted a Jennings pass and returned it to the 34-yard line.
"I just wanted to help my team," Thompson said. "Our offense was clicking and was able to put the ball in the end zone. Our defensive line played good today, and the defensive back played together."
The Dragons drove 66 yards to take a 26-21 lead on a McKinsley Marbury five-yard touchdown run. That, along with some defensive stands, was all Lane needed to win.
Jennings had his second subpar game in a row, throwing for 160 yards, one TD and two interceptions on 8-for-20. Running back Nathan Hoyte proved to be ASU's biggest weapon, rushing for 76 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries.
Only three receivers caught passes for an ASU offense that gained just 253 yards of offense -- over 100 yards fewer than the Rams had averaged through their first five games.
Octavius Staton led ASU with 77 receiving yards and one touchdown on four catches, while Ronnie Tubbs had three catches for 84 yards.
Marbury finished 18-of-25 passing for 142 yards and a touchdown, and he ran for 142 yards and three touchdowns.
The first half saw the Dragons scoring three touchdowns, and each time Albany State answered.
The Dragons took their first possession 55 yards to score on a one-yard Marbury run for the 7-0 lead.
Albany State answered with an 11-yard run by Hoyte to tie the game 7-7 with 13.5 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
The Dragons took the lead right back on the ensuing possession as Marbury found William Golston for a 17-yard touchdown pass to take a 13-7 lead after a missed extra point.
After two three-and-outs, Albany State took a 14-13 lead on a 23-yard pass from Jennings to Staton with 8:32 remaining in the half.
Lane again scored on the its next possession as Marbury ran the ball in from two yards out after he ran the ball 35 yards the previous play.
Albany State took the lead back before halftime on a six-yard run by Hoyte.
"We played good offense in the first half; I'm just not sure what happened in the second half," White said. "Defense played better in the second half."