Albany State Keenan Grissett left Saturday's game against Kentucky State with an injury and how severe it is still isn't know.
WHO: Lane (2-3, 1-3) at Albany State (2-3, 1-1).
WHAT: ASU’s third conference game of the season.
WHEN: 5 p.m. Saturday.
RADIO: 98.1 FM.
LIVE UPDATES: Log onto: twitter.com/AlbHeraldSports.
ALBANY — Saturday’s 17-14 victory in the Chicago Football Classic against Kentucky State did more for Albany State than just prevent a four-game losing streak.
It lifted the spirit of the Rams, who stepped on the practice field Tuesday with renewed hope for the season.
“It gives us a momentum shift,” ASU quarterback David Kooi said. “A win brings the team back together and makes people have something to play for. If we would have lost, it would have been just another thing that would have been negative instead of positive. That win was a positive step to move forward.”
A loss would have put the Rams three games under .500, started them out 0-2 in the conference and made a second straight trip to the conference championship game increasingly difficult.
Instead, ASU (2-3) controls its own destiny in the East Division and can get back to .500 with a win Saturday against Lane (2-3, 1-3) in the Music City Classic in Macon.
“That’s what we needed. It was big for us to get that. We couldn’t take another poor performance,” ASU coach Mike White said. “We can still control how this season goes. We need to win this week, focus on this week, then move to the next week and not focus on anything other than what is in front of us.”
Saturday’s game against Lane will be ASU’s final conference matchup against a West Division opponent.
The Rams are currently 1-1 in the conference, but if they run the table against the four East Division teams at the end of the season, they will automatically secure a spot in the conference title game.
Kooi said he noticed a difference in his teammates as they prepared for Lane on Tuesday.
“Winning, period, is always fun,” Kooi said. “Coming back (from a victory) isn’t as much stress, and coaches aren’t as uptight. It’s a lot better. It’s a better atmosphere for all of us.”
But Albany State still isn’t satisfied.
“We know we didn’t play to our full potential,” safety Dexter Moody said. “We came back out here to practice and are trying to improve every week.”
KOOI’S RETURN; GRISSETT’S INJURY: Keenan Grissett got the start under center for the Rams in Chicago but suffered a leg injury early in the second quarter that took him out of the game.
White said on Tuesday that he didn’t know how serious the injury was.
“His leg got caught underneath him when he tried to make a cut,” White said. “They are taking a look at it, and we are waiting on the results of the MRI.”
ASU’s offense struggled in the first four games of the season under the direction of Kooi, and White said he had hoped Grissett would be able to give the team a spark.
White added that the game plan this past Saturday was to keep the speedy Grissett in the game long enough to establish the running game and then bring Kooi off the bench to close it out.
“That didn’t work well at all. It really didn’t,” White said. “The gameplan was to bring our running game in and try to use (Grissett) as a runner. He is more of a runner than David, and we needed to try to get something positive going in the running game.”
Grissett started the game 0-for-6, threw an interception, lost a fumble and gained 32 yards on 10 rushes before the injury forced Kooi back under center.
“I didn’t know when I was going to get in the game,” Kooi said. “I knew I would be getting in, but I just didn’t know how early. When he went down, they put me in and I was ready. I was pretty much just happy to get back in there.”
Kooi immediately made an impact, completing his first pass to former Mitchell County star Jessie Atkins and marching the Rams down the field for the game’s first touchdown — an 8-yard run by Nathan Hoyte. Kooi was 4-for-4 during the drive for 33 yards and rushed once for eight yards.
“We didn’t have too many incomplete balls,” Kooi said of his performance. “We ran the ball well, and the line blocked well. As a whole, we did well. We didn’t do perfect, but we definitely did a lot better than we had in the past.”
Kooi finished the game 6-for-9 for 59 yards and threw an 18-yard TD pass to Ronnie Tubbs in the fourth quarter to give the Rams a 10-point lead.
“When David came in he made some very good choices, and we ran the ball well,” said White, whose offense racked up 174 rushing yards. “When they pressured him he got outside of the pocket and made some throws. That drive we had for the first touchdown was huge. That lifted a huge weight off of everybody’s shoulders to see us drive the ball like that.”
Kooi took the first-team snaps in Tuesday’s practice and will be the starter Saturday against Lane, while junior Rodney Castlin is now the backup QB until Grissett returns from his injury.