Last season's second round of the Division II playoffs featured an intriguing matchup between two high-powered offenses led by Albany State quarterback Stanley Jennings and Wingate quarterback Cody Haffly.
ALBANY -- Stanley Jennings is refusing to let Albany State lose, and Cody Haffly is making opposing defenses look silly.
The two quarterbacks, who will face off today when No. 7 Albany State (1-0) and No. 23 Wingate (0-1) play at 7 p.m. at the ASU Coliseum, went toe-to-toe in last season's NCAA Division II playoffs.
Jennings and the host Rams won the second-round game in a 30-28 shootout, but Haffly and his Bulldogs are back in town and ready to exact some revenge in Albany State's home opener.
And ASU coach Mike White knows just how dangerous Haffly, who threw for 330 yards and three touchdowns in last year's playoff game and 306 yards and four touchdowns in last Saturday's double-overtime loss to No. 14 Valdosta State, can be.
"As he goes, their offense goes," White said about Haffly, who finished last season 274-of-448 for 3,952 yards and 42 touchdowns as one of the top-rated quarterbacks in all of Division II football. "You're trying to make sure you are doing all the little things you are supposed to be doing (as a defense). I don't know if you can really stop a guy like that, as much as try to keep everybody else in check."
While the Rams will be trying to contain Haffly and his talented group of receivers, Wingate will be dealing with Jennings, the reigning SIAC Player of the Year who led ASU on two fourth-quarter touchdown drives in the final two minutes of the Rams' season-opening 37-34 win last week against Savannah State.
But Jennings said he expects a far more talented defense than the Savannah State squad he scorched for 240 yards and two touchdowns in the air and 25 yards and a score on the ground.
WHO: Wingate (0-1) at Albany State (1-0)
WHAT: Second game of season for both teams, rematch of last year's second round of Division II playoffs.
WHEN: 7 p.m. today.
WHERE: Albany State University Coliseum.
RADIO: 98.1 FM.
LIVE UPDATES: Log on and follow the game twitter.com/AlbHeraldSports.
"The Savannah State defense was basic, and Wingate's defense throws a lot of wrinkles in there," said Jennings, who has been watching film all week to try and understand those wrinkles. "They can bring all the linebackers on a blitz, or move around before the snap. And their cornerbacks can play up and press the slot receivers instead of the outside receivers. You never know what they are going to do."
Wingate coach Joe Reich said he knows Jennings is the heart and soul of ASU's offense, but he is more focused on getting his team better in this non-conference contest before his team's South Atlantic schedule starts.
"I know it sounds like coach talk, but we have to concentrate on us getting better," Reich told The Herald in a phone interview this week. "We don't spend a lot of time talking about one guy. The biggest thing from our standpoint for these out-of-conference games is to concentrate on us getting better."
One of the areas Wingate is looking to improve on is run defense. Last week, Valdosta State ran for 272 yards and three touchdowns and averaged seven yards per carry.
Reich knows his team can't have that same breakdown against Albany State, which doesn't just rely on Jennings for its offense. ASU running backs Darryl Carey and Nathan Hoyte are looking for a breakout game after combining for 91 yards against Savannah State.
"We need to be able to stop the run," Reich said. "We gave up way too many yards rushing. Some of those were schematic things we need to buckle down on. We worked on it all week. We have to be able to stop the run. That's fundamental football.
"It goes back a million years ago when football was invented."
While ASU is looking to expose a Wingate rush defense that was picked apart last week, the Bulldogs are eyeing a Ram secondary that gave up several big passing plays against Savannah State.
SSU quarterback A.J. DeFilippis connected on passes for 32, 45 and 45 yards -- all of which were 1-on-1 plays where the receiver burned ASU's cornerback. White remembers Haffly hurting the Rams with deep passes last year, and he said it's something that they have been preparing for all week.
"We have worked on that every day this week. We have put a lot of time into it," White said. "Have we got it solved? I won't know until (today)."
One thing White and the Rams did know heading into today's home opener is that they will have a throng of supporters ready to cheer them on.
"You want to play well in front of your home crowd," White said of the Rams' 2011 home opener. "Probably the glaring word is mistakes. I just want us to make sure that we clear up a lot of things that we thought we had last week, but we didn't. We just need to stay mistake free for the first quarter, second quarter, third quarter and fourth quarter. The whole game."