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ASU NOTEBOOK: Even one year later, there's still talk about ASU's controversial win vs. Morehouse

Nate Hoyte has emerged as ASU's top running back this season.

Nate Hoyte has emerged as ASU's top running back this season.

ALBANY -- Albany State is certainly focused on Saturday's season-defining game against Morehouse that will either put the Rams back into the national poll or end any realistic hopes of repeating as SIAC champions.

Saturday's conference showdown isn't just big -- it's a "must win," ASU coach Mike White said after Thursday's practice.

But somewhere still in the back of everyone's mind is last season's game between the two teams.

Stories of the instant classic roll off the tongues of players and coaches, almost as if it happened yesterday.

Looking Ahead

WHO: Morehouse (5-1, 3-0 SIAC) at Albany State (4-2, 2-1 SIAC).

WHAT: Rams' seventh game of the year, fourth in SIAC.

WHEN: 7 p.m. Saturday.

WHERE: ASU Coliseum.

RADIO: 98.1 FM.

FOLLOW ONLINE: For live updates from the game, log onto twitter.com/AlbHeraldSports.

ASU came out on top of the intense, controversial game, which was ultimately decided by a touchdown pass from Stanley Jennings to Ronnie Childs with 18 seconds left, giving the Rams a 13-12 victory.

Morehouse players -- and fans who lined the sidelines -- protested loudly that Childs' foot was out of bounds on the catch, pointing to a foot mark on the end line as their evidence.

But the game-winning, fourth-down play stood to keep ASU's undefeated season alive, and the catch was still being talked about after the season by both sides.

"I had seen a Morehouse coach at an awards program in Atlanta (in the offseason), and we were talking about it," Jennings said. "But (Ronnie) was in. We saw the video."

Even current Rams who weren't on the team last season knew exactly what happened last October in Atlanta.

"I watched it on YouTube," said Rams running back Nathan Hoyte, who is a junior transfer from Shepherd University. "I watched the highlights, and I saw how close the game was. It could have gone either way."

And the call on that 6-yard catch by Childs could have gone either way, too.

However, it wasn't the only controversial touchdown catch that was nearly too close to call in that game. At the end of the first half, Morehouse's Derrick Hector snagged a 6-yard catch in that same corner of the end zone, and replays later appeared to show Hector landing on his back out of bounds.

White talked to the officiating crew prior to this season about both plays.

"By rule, both catches were ineligible," White said Thursday. "There is no force-out rule, and that's why I thought our catch was legal. That's why that guy made the call. He said that one of the (Morehouse) defensive backs went up with the receiver, and the defensive back forced the receiver out. So when his foot hit the line, he was still in."

JUST CALL HIM "NATE": Hoyte has emerged as ASU's top running back this season, but he was quick to compliment the entire ASU running back corps after Thursday's practice.

He had nothing but good things to say about "Ironhead, Lue and D.C." -- nicknames for ASU running backs Adrian Alexander, Luther Edwards and Darryl Carey.

Hoyte's nickname is a lot simpler -- "just Nate," he said with a grin -- but his play has been spectacular the last three games. After starting the season behind Carey on the depth chart, Hoyte has stepped into the starting spot with ease. The former Shepherd University standout has run for 97, 104 and 76 yards the past three games and has given the Rams a weapon in the rushing game that they desperately needed.

He said it's his speed and "a little bit of power" that makes him so dangerous on the field. But he also added it's the combination of runners with different styles that has turned around the Rams' rushing attack in the last few weeks.

After the third week of the season, ASU was averaging just 106 rushing yards per game, while Hoyte's team-high rushing average was just 38 yards per game. Now, the Rams are averaging 121 yards per game, and Hoyte's average is up to 65 yards per game.

"Each of us brings something different to the defenses that we are facing," Hoyte said about ASU's versatile backfield. "So it's kind of a change of pace, and it kind of keeps the defense on their toes."