Albany State safety Jamarkus Gaskins tackles a Miles ball carrier during Saturday's game.
ALBANY -- Twelve hours.
Once the Albany State Rams step on the bus Thursday night, that's how long their journey will take as they ride through the night to Indianapolis for Saturday's Circle City Classic game against Kentucky State.
"That's a long way to go for a home game," ASU coach Mike White said. "But here we come."
The 750-mile trip -- which is the longest for White in his 11 years as coach of the Rams -- is officially a home game for Albany State (3-1). And because the team is leaving Thursday for the 28th annual classic, they only have three days on the practice field to prepare for SIAC foe Kentucky State (3-1).
"Having a short week means we just have to focus a little more," ASU quarterback Stanley Jennings said. "After last game, we didn't do too good on offense at closing them out. A short week means we need to focus and watch a little more film, and we will be alright."
Rams offensive coordinator Uyl Joyner agreed that leaving Thursday night puts more pressure on the team to focus today through Thursday on the practice field.
"We may have a short week in practice, but we are going to have to make it up as coaches and be sharper on the field," Joyner said. "There can't be any wasted time, and we have to make sure we are on top of everything."
The Rams are coming off a 34-27 victory in their SIAC opener at Miles, and White is expecting another test from Kentucky State, which has the third-best offense in the conference behind senior quarterback Jerrel Noland.
Last year, Albany State defeated the Thorobreds, 42-12, but White said the final score was deceiving.
"Even though the score doesn't tell it, we had a tough time against them last year. We had some lucky breaks in the first half, and that's how we got out to the big lead," White said. "And this year they look even better than they did last year. It's going to be a tough game. We will have our hands full."
The Rams talked about Kentucky State during a team meeting on Sunday, but White has stressed all season that the Rams' biggest concern during practice is themselves.
And that's exactly what the ASU coaches were talking about Monday when asked what they needed to work on this week in practice.
Joyner said the offense needs to work on the running game, which got off to a rough start this season before coming alive against Miles thanks to Nathan Hoyte's 97 rushing yards; and White said the defense needs to avoid giving up big plays against a Kentucky State team that hit them for some big gainers last year.
SIAC PLAYERS OF THE WEEK: For the second time this season, ASU quarterback Stanley Jennings was named the SIAC Offensive Player of the Week.
The senior from Marietta completed 18-of-29 passes for 271 yards and threw three touchdown passes Saturday against Miles. It was also the second time this year the Rams have come back to win after trailing earlier in the game.
"I feel like it was probably my best game this season," Jennings said. "I understood the defense and I was able to make some audibles. I was poised in the pocket, and I ran when I needed to."
Jennings, the reigning SIAC MVP, was also named the conference's Offensive Player of the Week after ASU's 48-28 win against Wingate on Sept. 10 where Jennings was 17-of-30 and threw for 307 yards and four touchdowns.
Also garnering honors from the conference was ASU placekicker Brandon Hamilton, who was named the SIAC Special Teams Player of the Week for his two field goal performance in Saturday's game.
"I was pretty consistent," Hamilton said. "Special teams is an important part of the game, and we have to execute our job well. We can help out the game a lot."
Hamilton was 2-for-2 with field goals of 38- and 34-yards while kicking on the artificial turf of Albert J. Sloan-Alumni Stadium. Hamilton said he likes kicking better on turf and will get another chance with the Rams' game in Indianapolis being played at Lucas Oil Stadium.
"The ground is a little more leveled off," Hamilton said. "It helps a lot with the plant foot."
Hamilton, a sophomore from Atlanta, also handles ASU's kickoff duties --- a position he has excelled at in the first four games. On his seven kickoffs in Saturday's game, he averaged 61.7 yards per kick and recorded one touchback.
"I feel like that's where I can help out the most right now is getting the kickoffs deep," Hamilton said. "I heard we struggled with that and coach wanted to focus more on where they get the ball. With my deep kickoffs I have been trying to limit their field positions."
STAYING PUT: Saturday's narrow win against Miles didn't help ASU in the AFCA Division II Coaches' Poll, but it didn't hurt the Rams either.
Albany State received 361 points and stayed at No. 13, just two points ahead of Colorado St.-Pueblo (4-0) in the national poll, which was released Monday. The Rams had been ranked as high as No. 6 in the poll before their loss to Valdosta State on Sept. 17.
Valdosta State has now climbed all the way up to No. 4 after a 38-21 win against Southern Arkansas on Saturday.
Northwest Missouri State continues its hold on the No. 1 spot with 28 first-place votes after a dominating 70-17 win against Fort Hays State (Kan.).
Albany State moved up two spots to No. 4 in the Boxtorow Historically Black Colleges and Universities Football Media Top 10 Poll, which was released Monday.
The Rams, who are unranked in the Boxtorow Coaches' Poll, jumped past Jackson State and Hampton and are behind just South Carolina State, Bethune-Cookman and Alabama State in the media poll.
AND THEY'RE OFF: If Saturday's game between Kentucky State and Albany State is anything like it was last year --- and like most of the games this season have been for the two teams --- expect some points to be scored.
Last year, ASU beat the Thorobreds, 42-12, but Kentucky State had more total offensive yards against the Rams (344) than any other team in the regular season. Noland had 225 passing yards --- also a season-high against the Rams --- and the Thorobreds galloped for 119 rushing yards.
Noland is back under center this season and back to his old ways. Kentucky State is third in the SIAC in scoring (33.5 ppg) behind Morehouse College (37 ppg) and Albany State (36.8 ppg).
"(Noland) is a big guy just like Stanley, and he is throwing it around," Joyner said. "They have a pretty good attack over there.
"They are pretty much just like we are. They may be running it a little better than we are right now. In a lot of categories, we are No. 2 and they are No. 3 (in the SIAC), or we are No. 3 and they are No. 2."