ALBANY — Albany State coach Mike White saw a side of his team he had never seen.
The Rams, full of experienced leaders on both sides of the ball, simply lost their composure in Saturday’s 22-14 loss to Miles, which dropped ASU to 1-3 overall and 0-1 in the SIAC.
“When things went wrong Saturday we started pointing fingers on the sidelines,” White said. “We need to get that solved. There was too much bickering going on. We thought we were going to go in there and play better, and they actually outplayed us. We were frustrated, and that’s what happened.”
Now the Rams have a few extra days to think about the loss thanks to an open date this weekend. Players weren’t available to the media on Tuesday because the Rams didn’t practice, but White said there isn’t a sense of panic among the players — just a sense of urgency.
“There’s a sense of urgency, definitely,” he said. “We are 1-3 now, but I don’t know if panicking is going to help us. We just have to block and tackle better.”
The Rams, who don’t play again until Oct. 12 at Lane, will also need to control their emotions better. They were called for 16 penalties for 194 yards in the loss, and several of the flags came on crucial third downs, extending drives for an already efficient Miles offense. Most troubling, however, were the eight personal fouls and unsportsmanlike penalties the Rams racked up.
“The composure we had all year when we were behind, none of that was there Saturday,” White said. “I even thought we lost our control several times. We had some penalties called on us, where they hit us and we hit back. There was a lot of yapping on the sidelines. There were some issues.”
The frustration, White said, was evident on Saturday, but he added that the 2013 season isn’t a lost cause.
“If we were to win the next five games, we could get back to the conference championship game,” he said. “But before we can talk about that, we have to get some things straight within the team and get ready for Lane. That’s what these next few days of practice are going to be. We are going to get it straightened out what we want to do and want to accomplish.”
ASU’s goal of returning to the Division II playoffs after an eight-year streak of postseason appearances was snapped last season will be nearly impossible.
“That’s going to be tough,” White said about making the playoffs after starting 1-3. “After losing Saturday, that means a lot of other teams will have to have some pretty desperate records for us to get in with three losses.”
ASU LOSING THE NUMBERS GAME: Three Rams starters went down with injuries on Saturday, forcing an already thin Albany State roster to become even more depleted.
Both starting cornerbacks — Quintory Braswell and Armageddon Draughn — were knocked out of the game in the first half with concussions, and starting receiver Tevin Isom suffered a rib injury that landed him in the hospital. White is unsure if any of them will be ready for Lane, calling their injuries day-to-day.
The Rams haven’t been ravaged by injuries this season, but every bump and bruise becomes magnified with the lack of scholarship players and resources available to White.
“This is a numbers game,” he said. “You can tell the way Miles played that they have a lot of players and practice full-speed tackling. The way their backs run, they played extremely tough and hard. Our guys played just like the way we practice when we can’t go live because you worry about somebody getting injured. To me, that was the obvious thing.”
The program’s lack of resources and personnel are issues White said will be addressed during the offseason.
“That’s going to be one of the things we will have to really concentrate on is getting our numbers up,” he said. “It’s always tough with the lack of what we have here. Right now one injury has a ripple effect on our squad. We have to get away from that and be able to go at it a little tougher at practice.”
For now, the ASU coaching staff, with no deep bench to pull from, will likely have to stick with the regular starters who are healthy.
“We don’t have a lot of leeway with our personnel,” White said. “You would like to go out on the free agent market and pick somebody else up, but it doesn’t work like that on this level.”
LEANING ON ATKINS: Camilla native Jessie Atkins has emerged as the go-to receiver for Rams QB Frank Rivers this season, and that was evident again on Saturday when Atkins caught 13 passes for 160 yards and two touchdowns.
No other Ram caught more than three passes from Rivers, who had his most productive game of the season (25-for-36, 260 yards).
Atkins leads the SIAC in every major receiving category and is tied for 15th in the country with eight receptions per game. Through four games he has caught 32 passes for 401 yards and four touchdowns.
Atkins caught 32 passes all of last season when he led the team in receiving with 553 yards and two TDs. He is on pace this season to finish with 72 catches for 902 yards and nine TDs.