Albany State wide receiver Ronnie Tubbs runs under pressure from Morehouse defensive back Demario Dixon during the first half of Saturday night’s game at ASU Coliseum.
ALBANY -- Octavious Staton was open -- wide open -- and he made the catch, turned and waltzed into the right corner of the end zone all alone.
He was in!
And so is Albany State.
Well, maybe not absolutely, but the Rams stood up Saturday night, lifted their season above their shoulders and tossed it right back on the tracks: Here comes the Golden Ram Express.
That's what Saturday's 25-15 victory against Morehouse means. It means the Rams can win the SIAC East if they win their last three games. It means the door is now open to the postseason.
It means the Rams control their destiny, just like they controlled Morehouse for most of the night. They had control of nothing until they won Saturday.
"There just was no tomorrow,'' ASU coach Mike White said. "It would have killed our season.''
Now the Rams (1-0 in the SIAC East, 5-2 overall) are the hunters, not the hunted. They were coming off a bitter 26-24 loss to Lane, a team they hadn't lost to in 46 years, and were facing the best team in the SIAC East, a Morehouse team that could have waltzed to the title with a win Saturday.
But that was Saturday night, and tomorrow never looked better for these Rams, who are suddenly a power again -- and a power with a Dirty Blue defense that may carry them to a national title.
"The Dirty Blue is back,'' said White, beaming. "I hope it's back to stay.''
How blue is it?
"It's mighty blue,'' White said. Then he smiled again, even bigger.
Go ahead and smile, ASU. This one felt that good, that sweet. It flipped a season around.
"This game was big," said linebacker Bruce Ryles, who came up with the interception of the night when he tipped Byron Ingram's pass and then caught his own rebound and returned the ball to the Morehouse 15 with 1:52 left in the game and ASU leading, 22-15.
"I saw the ball and thought, 'oh man, I've got to get this,' '' Ryles said. "We had to have this. We had to get this game.''
Ryles thought the Dirty Blue was pretty dirty, too.
"It's so blue that if you cut me right now I would bleed blue,'' he said.
He meant it.
Ryles' interception set up Brandon Hamilton's 25-yard field goal with 11 seconds left that iced it. It sent the fans in Albany State Coliseum 10 feet in the air, even if Hamilton didn't jump.
"I tried to stay humble,'' he said. "I just gave my linemen a high five, and walked off the field. I was confident I was calm, not really nervous. Every kicker wants to be in a situation like that where he can help his team.''
Everybody helped, and just about everybody jumped when he nailed the field goal that made it a two-score game.
"I don't jump too much, but when he made the field goal my heart was pumping. It was pumping about 100 mph,'' said ASU quarterback Stanley Jennings, who completed 15-of-28 passes for 200 yards and tossed two touchdown passes -- a 33-yarder to Staton and a 22-yarder to Ronnie Tubbs, both in the second quarter to lift ASU to a 19-2 halftime lead. Both receivers were in the end zone.
That's the joke about Staton being in, absolutely in!
Morehouse was still upset about the play that beat the Tigers last year when Ronnie Childs caught a TD pass in the right corner of the end zone to beat Morehouse, 13-12.
No one was talking about who was in or out in this one. Unfortunately for Staton, he left the field on a stretcher with an undisclosed injury with 9:25 left in the game.
"We're not sure what the injury is right now,'' White said.
Staton had five receptions for 56 yards, and Tubbs had seven for 87.
"Defense won this game,'' Tubbs said. "I knew we could do it. This is going to give us momentum. This is a real momentum boost for us.
Running back Nate Hoyte scored ASU's first TD on a 2-yard run with 3:27 left in the first, but the extra point was blocked and Morehouse's Joshua Thurston ran it back for two points to make it a 6-2 game.
Then the Dirty Blue took over.
The Tigers drove the ball up and down the field, but when it came time to step up it was the Rams who did the stepping.
Up and over Morehouse into first place in the SIAC East with three games left.
Morehouse could have left its punter in Atlanta, because coach Rich Freeman decided he was going for it on fourth down, going, going and going.
Just take a look at the first half. ASU stopped Morehouse on fourth down, not once or twice. The Dirty Blue took the ball on downs three times, and that doesn't include ended a drive when Morehouse's bigger-than-life back David Carter fumbled the ball away at the ASU 2-yard line. Brandon Brown made the recovery.
Carter, who was averaging 131.2 yards a game, finished with 45 yards on 20 carries. Yes, as White sad -- "Mighty Blue.''
The Rams held Morehouse on the Tigers' first drive on a fourth-and-15 at the ASU 24 when Rashard McRae intercepted a pass.
They stopped Morehouse's second drive at the ASU 34 on a fourth-and-7 on an incompletion, and stopped the Tigers at the ASU 19 on a fourth-and-4 when Jamarkus Gaskins sacked Ingram for a 7-yard loss back to the 26.
The Tigers finally went for a field goal in the third quarter when the Rams stopped them at the ASU 7-yard-line (yes, they held their ground again inside the 10), but a bad snap caused problems for Brandon Hoffman, whose kick wobbled short.
Morehouse finally scored with 5:40 left in the third when Ingram hit Derrick Hector with a 15-yard TD pass and Hoffman's PAT closed things to 19-9, and made it interesting when Carter scored on a 4-yard run with 10:55 left in the game, but Hoffman's PAT went wide right to keep it a seven-point game at 22-15.
And the Dirty Blue did there rest.
"We stood up, stood up on fourth down,'' Ryles said.
McRae, who was standing next to Ryles, finished his sentence.
"We had to step up on fourth down,'' said McRrae, who had a monster game with two interceptions, two breakups, 10 tackles, including one for a loss. "We won this game in practice this week. The coaches had us ready, and we had good practices all week.
"It's blue, real, real blue,'' he said of the defense. "We had to step up tonight, especially on fourth down. On fourth down, it's all or nothing.''
Just like this game was for the Rams -- all or nothing.
"It's great to be alive and kicking,'' White said.