Albany State football coach Mike White and the Rams had a lot of thinking to do during their eight-hour bus ride back from Jackson, Tenn., this weekend, where ASU lost for the first time ever to Lane.
ALBANY -- Albany State's eight-hour bus ride back from Jackson, Tenn., on Saturday was a lot different than the Rams' long trips home after wins in Indianapolis and Birmingham, Ala.
The Lane College Dragons made sure of that.
Lane's 26-24 victory against the Rams (4-2, 2-1) handed ASU its first SIAC loss since 2009 and made that bus ride seem a lot longer than eight hours.
"It was a solemn road trip back," senior defensive lineman Antorio Wells said after practice Tuesday. "Everybody had to think about it and couldn't believe it."
ASU's first loss to Lane in the 46-year history of the series was demoralizing, but the Rams have a chance to shake off those solemn feelings in Saturday's showdown with Morehouse College -- the first SIAC East opponent for ASU.
And that's exactly what Rams coach Mike White was telling his players one day after the team's second loss of the season.
"If we don't win this game, you can just about kiss the conference goodbye," White said. "That's how you bounce back (from the loss to Lane)."
Morehouse is 5-1 overall and 1-0 in the East Division. Saturday's game will be ASU's first against an East Division opponent, which means if the Rams run the table the final four games of the season they will be guaranteed a spot in the SIAC Championship Game on Nov. 12 in Atlanta.
Right now, ASU and Morehouse are the clear favorites to represent the East Division in that inaugural championship game.
The implications of Saturday's game at ASU Coliseum are so big that White admitted Tuesday he had been thinking about Morehouse even before the Rams left for Jackson, Tenn., last week.
"I would be lying if I said we weren't peeking ahead and getting ready for Morehouse and thinking about it because of what it meant for us," White said. "We have to make this four-game run regardless of a win or loss against (Lane)."
Senior linebacker Bruce Ryles agreed that the loss to Lane was "disappointing," and the only way to bounce back is to get back to work.
"You come out here and you work hard," Ryles said. "We know what we did, and we know that we can be better as a team. The simple mistakes that we made can be handled and taken care of through the week to make sure they don't happen again."
SINKING IN THE POLLS: Once ranked in the Top 10 in every major Division II poll, the Rams now find themselves slipping out of the Top 25 after Saturday's second loss of the season.
For the first time this season, ASU dropped out of the Top 25 in the American Football Coaches Association Coaches Poll. The Rams, who were ranked No. 12 in last week's AFCA poll, were as high as No. 6 before losing the third game of the season to Valdosta State.
Polls have mattered little to the ASU players and coaches this season, who understood that much of their early-season achievements in the rankings were due to the team's success last year.
In other polls, the Rams fell from No. 11 to No. 22 in the D2football.com poll; from No. 4 to No. 9 in the Sheridan Broadcasting Network Black College Football Poll; from No. 2 to No. 5 in the Heritage Sports Radio Network Division II Top 10 Poll; and from No. 4 to No. 8 in the Boxtorow HBCU Football Media Top 10 Poll.
KICK AWAY: White began the season with little to no confidence in his kicking game, but the Rams' kickers -- consisting of Brandon Hamilton, Tory Torstenson and recent addition Luke Jones of Australia, who joined the team in Week 3 -- have since changed their coach's mind.
Placekickers Hamilton and Torstenson started the season off shaky, missing a field goal and several extra points. However, the duo stepped up during the Rams' past three games. During that three-game span, Torstenson was 11-for-13 on extra points and hit his only field goal attempt, and Hamilton -- who has also impressed his coaches with his kickoffs -- was 3-for-3 on field goals, including 38- and 34-yard kicks against Miles that turned out to be huge in the Rams' one-score victory.
On Tuesday, White said he finally has confidence to send out the field goal unit.
Jones, meanwhile, has averaged just under 34 yards per punt -- a number that isn't very impressive until you see that opponents have had no return yardage on the former Australian Rules footballer star's past 17 punts.
"Luke has been very quick with his punts," White said. "He has not been getting the distance we have looked for, but he has definitely been getting the ball out of there, and we have covered it pretty good."