Albany State LB Marcavius Dudley (37) and the Rams’ Dirty Blue defense will look to beat Wingate for the third straight year when the teams meet again today, this time in North Carolina. (Herald file photo)
Want To Listen or Follow Online?
WHAT: Rams’ 1st road game.
WHEN: 1:30 p.m. today.
WHERE: Wingate, N.C..
RADIO: 98.1 FM.
ONLINE: Live updates @ twitter.com/AlbHeraldSports.
ASU-Wingate game to be streamed live online by Bulldogs
WINGATE, N.C. — Albany State fans not making the 400-mile trip to Wingate today still have an opportunity to watch the 16th-ranked Rams take on the Bulldogs.
Wingate University will broadcast the game live online at wingatebulldogs.com for a fee of $5.95.
The stream, which will feature multiple cameras and three commentators, can be found by clicking the live video tab at the top of the website.
WINGATE, N.C. — Albany State coach Mike White was rather frank two months ago when talking about his secondary.
“Here it is without sugar. Last year, we were terrible against the pass,” White said at the team’s annual Quarterback Club reception in July. “It was history. It was the worst pass defense in the history of Albany State. It was that bad.”
The Rams’ secondary will get their stiffest test of the season today against Wingate — a team that airs the ball out as much as anybody in Division II.
ASU, which is ranked No. 16 in the latest Div. II poll, is coming off an emotional, season-opening revenge victory against North Greenville — the team which knocked the Rams out of the postseason last year — but White knows Wingate (0-1) presents a whole new set of challenges.
“(Wingate) doesn’t have a lot of running game there. This is going to be pass, pass, pass,” White said.
And the Rams think they are ready for it.
ASU shut down North Greenville’s passing game last week, allowing just 44 yards through the air in the first three quarters. The Crusaders finished with 113 passing yards — but it was a performance by the ASU defense that suggests it has come a long way from the a 2011 squad that allowed 2,747 yards through the air last season, which was nearly 1,000 years more than any other team in the conference.
The Rams’ next challenge is a Wingate (N.C.) team that threw the ball 48 times in its season opener last week against Saint Augustine’s. Wingate quarterback Robbie Nallenweg was 33-for-48 for 275 yards, three interceptions and a TD.
“We have been waiting for this test for a long time, and we are ready,” said Rams linebacker Marcavius Dudley, who leads the team in tackling after one game.
Wingate’s pass-happy offense is nothing new to ASU, which defeated Wingate in the second game of the regular season last year, 49-28, and a year before that in second round of the Division II playoffs. In that game, the Bulldogs threw an eye-popping 55 passes and racked up 320 yards through the air.
“We expect the same thing (today),” White said. “There will be a lot of throwing. They are very good at it, so that’s what we have to defend.”
And that’s what the Rams have been focusing on this week in practice. In fact, they have been putting an emphasis on their coverage since spring practices.
“(Today) is an opportunity to show we’ve come a long way,” Dudley said. “We have constantly been going over defense and constantly been going over coverages and schemes and what we need to do. We know what we need to do. We just have to do it.”
Wingate coach Joe Reich has had to make the 400-mile trip to Albany the last two years and is happy it’s ASU’s turn to load up the buses.
“(The Rams) are going to be very talented. They are every year,” Reich said during his preseason interview on wingatebulldogs.com. “They are one of the premier teams down there, and I think from our standpoint it’s more about a chance to come home and get them at home. I don’t know if that will make a difference for them or not, but it will be nice after playing them down there twice.”
Reich also remembers how ASU was able to win the last two meetings: physical play on the offensive and defensive lines.
“I think they are a little bigger and little more powerful than the (South Atlantic Conference) is right now,” Reich said. “Up front, their offensive line and defensive line are probably a little more bigger and a little more physical.”
ASU also has its skill players, like senior wide receiver Ronnie Tubbs, who exploded for 136 yards and three touchdowns last season against Wingate, or senior running back Nathan Hoyte, who had a career game last week when he rushed for 194 yards and two TDs.
Hoyte could be poised for another breakout game against a Wingate defense that gave up 136 rushing yards last week.
“It’s going to come down the O-line and the receivers’ down-field blocking,” Hoyte said. “That’s pretty much what I felt like helped me out last game, so I am going to do my best to read the holes they open up for me. And the potential to have a big game is always there when everybody is doing their job.”
Hoyte and his blockers were on the same page against North Greenville, avenging ASU’s 63-14 loss to the Crusaders in last year’s playoff game.
White said one of the biggest challenges this week was shifting the team’s focus to Wingate after such an emotional victory.
“The first thing I said to them after we played North Greenville was — and everybody was really happy after that game — but the first thing I told them was that we will be glad (Saturday) night and then let it go and move on to Wingate,” White said.
Hoyte said the team has bigger goals than simply avenging a playoff loss.
“We are focused on every game as they come,” Hoyte said. “After the win against North Greenville — we were proud about that win. But coming into (today’s) game, we know that we have a mission at hand. It wasn’t just to beat North Greenville and give up on the rest of the season. It’s to win every game that we can, and we are definitely focused going into the game against Wingate.”