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ASU NOTEBOOK: Rams hope TD vs. KSU sparks star WR Tubbs

Albany State WR Ronnie Tubbs watches the ball into his hands for an 18-yard touchdown against Kentucky State last Saturday.

Albany State WR Ronnie Tubbs watches the ball into his hands for an 18-yard touchdown against Kentucky State last Saturday.

Spring Hill (Ala.) College to join ASU’s conference in 2014-15 — just not in football

MOBILE, Ala. — One month after announcing the addition of Central State University (Ohio), Albany State’s conference added another school to the mix.

The increasingly-crowded conference will soon have 14 members with the addition of Spring Hill College (Ala.). Spring Hill College, which is located in Mobile, does not have a football team but will begin playing a full conference schedule in 2014-15 in 17 sports.

The conference announced that its Council of Presidents, by unanimous vote, approved the application of Spring Hill College for conditional membership this week, contingent upon acceptance into NCAA Division II.

Spring Hill is currently a member of the NAIA and in the States Athletic Conference but will apply for its NCAA membership in January to begin the three-year transitional process toward full membership into Division II.

“We began the process of determining the future of our athletics program nearly two years ago,” Jim Hall, Director of Athletics for Spring Hill College, told the conference. “After thorough study and deliberation, we came to the conclusion the NCAA Division II was the right fit for Spring Hill College.

“We look forward to joining 26 of the 28 Jesuit Colleges and Universities nationally that are members of the NCAA. As we made our decision to pursue NCAA Division II membership we also hoped to secure membership in a prestigious conference that was a good fit geographically and philosophically. We are pleased to have our application accepted by (Albany State’s conference) and eagerly await the opportunity of further developing our programs at the NCAA Division II level.”

ALBANY — Ronnie Tubbs saw the football floating through the crisp, Chicago air, and a single thought went through his head.

“I gotta go get it,” the senior wide receiver said on Thursday.

Tubbs, Albany State’s preseason HBCU All-American, hauled in the 18-yard pass from quarterback David Kooi in Saturday’s victory against Kentucky State in the Chicago Football Classic for his first TD catch of the season.

ASU offensive coordinator Uyl Joyner is hoping it’s a sign of things to come for the talented receiver out of Yazoo City (Miss.), who is off to a slow start this season.

“He had a couple of bad games, but he is back,” Joyner said. “He is a big-play receiver, and we need him to be successful, and he knows that.”

Tubbs was ASU’s leading receiver last season (45 catches, 845 yards and 10 TDs) but has been fighting a nagging injury to his groin and back spasms this year, and it’s shown on the field.

After catching two passes for 29 yards against KSU, Tubbs now has just 12 receptions for 109 yards through five games this season. He eclipsed 100 yards receiving in three of the final four games last season.

In games last season when Tubbs caught a TD, the Rams were 7-0. When he was held out of the end zone, they were only 1-4.

“He has been working really hard to try to get back,” Joyner said. “He is a leader on our team, and we look for big things out of him. I think the rest of the team looks for big things out of him. When he is down we are kind of down also.”

But Tubbs thinks he’s on the upswing — and so do the Rams, who snapped a three-game losing streak with a 17-14 victory against Kentucky State.

The Rams want to keep their momentum rolling Saturday against Lane, and they also want to keep feeding Tubbs the ball.

“He is confident, and he goes out there and plays hard,” Kooi said. “We just have to keep him in the game, keep throwing him the ball, keep giving him touches and he will fight for you.”

No one fights harder than Tubbs.

“He is a worker,” head coach Mike White said. “He is going to work through anything. He is the toughest on this field regardless of the position. He is going to try to fight through anything.”

In fact, the coaching staff had to force Tubbs to sit out of practice Tuesday to get some extra rest for his nagging injuries. He was back on the field Wednesday and Thursday, shrugging off the pain.

“It’s not anything I can’t pull through,” Tubbs said. “I try not to let it get to me and try to just keep working hard.”

For Tubbs, it’s about pushing himself for the sake of the team.

“I feel like I have a family to feed,” said Tubbs, referring to his teammates. “That’s why I work so hard.”

RELIEF FOR GRISSETT: Keenan Grissett thought his season was over.

So did Joyner and the rest of the Rams.

“The only person that didn’t was the one who gets paid to decide that,” Joyner said, referring to the team’s doctors and trainers.

The Rams dodged a bullet Thursday when they learned that Grissett’s knee injury that knocked him out of Saturday’s game against Kentucky State wasn’t as serious as many initially thought.

“We thought he tore a ligament and found out (Thursday) that he didn’t,” Joyner said. “He will be coming back soon.”

White ruled Grissett out against Lane and said that junior quarterback Rodney Castlin will back up Kooi. Castlin took some snaps with the first-team offense on Thursday but is unlikely to see much playing time Saturday.

CONFIDENCE IN THE KICKING GAME: Dillan Fontaine earned the job as ASU’s starting placekicker two weeks ago, and the freshman from Deltona, Fla., is quickly earning respect from his teammates and coaches.

Fontaine, who was thrust into the starting lineup after Zach Holley was 0-for-2 in field goals in the Rams’ 13-12 loss to Elizabeth City State on Sept. 15, has been perfect the last two games. He hit both of his field goal attempts against Miles on Sept. 22 and was 2-for-2 on PATs and hit his only field goal attempt Saturday against Kentucky State.

“He’s doing a good job,” White said. “We really haven’t had a whole lot of kicking issues other than that Elizabeth City deal. Other than that, they have been pretty solid the whole camp.”

Punter Justin Keable is having a good season, too.

Keable, a junior from DeLand, Fla., has averaged 39.94 yards on his 38 punts and has pinned opponents inside the 20-yard line seven times. Last season, ASU punter Luke Jones averaged just 32.8 yards per kick and pinned opponents inside the 20 nine times.

“(Keable) is quietly doing good,” White said. “He’s not doing it quite as consistently as I would have liked, but Justin is a good punter. I think he is an exceptional punter, but he just has to get some rust off. But he has definitely been a huge plus for us.”