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RAMS NOTEBOOK: Ponder and fellow WRs step up for Albany St. in Staton's absence

Albany State sophomore WR Orion Ponder led the Rams on Saturday during the win against Clark Atlanta with five catches for 109 yards.

Albany State sophomore WR Orion Ponder led the Rams on Saturday during the win against Clark Atlanta with five catches for 109 yards.

WAYCROSS -- When star receiver Octavius Staton went down with a season-ending knee injury against Morehouse on Oct. 8, the Rams thought their passing game would suffer.

But on Saturday, sophomore Orion Ponder stepped up to lead the Rams in receiving with five catches for 109 yards. Staton's absence was still felt as the Clark Atlanta defense was able to focus on top receiver Ronnie Tubbs, who was held without a catch for the first time this season.

"They played a coverage where they had two guys over there on Tubbs, since Octavius isn't there," ASU offensive coordinator Uyl Joyner said. "We are going to just have to find a way to get Tubbs the ball in certain situations."

Mitchell County grad Jessie Atkins had two catches for 46 yards, while Mark Bell, Janell Jones, Nathan Hoyte, Cessel Taylor and Dougherty grad Michael Nelson each caught one pass.

"I think our receivers played well," Joyner said. "Mark Bell came in and made a couple of plays (and) they blocked well. Michael Nelson came in and did some nice things. Octavius was a special guy, so we know they won't do what he did. He was a star, and they were backing him up. But they came in and played well."

Staton, a senior and the team's only preseason All-American selection, had 27 catches for 477 yards and six touchdowns before his injury.

"We sure do miss him," ASU quarterback Stanley Jennings said.

BACK HOME AGAIN: Rams senior defensive back Rashad McRae grew up 35 miles northwest of Waycross, and had several friends and family members in attendance this past Saturday to cheer him on.

McRae was coming off last week's performance against Morehouse where he had two interceptions, 10 tackles, one tackle for a loss, two pass breakups and a forced fumble and was named SIAC Defensive Player of the Week.

On Saturday, he led the Rams again on defense with eight tackles and two for a loss.

"I was a littler nervous," McRae said. "You always want to do well in front of your family. But once the game really kicked off I got into the groove of it."