Albany State running back Kareem Hess breaks off a big run last week against Tuskegee. Hess and the ASU offense could be in for a big game tonight against an Elizabeth City State defense that has been torched in its first two games. (Staff photo: John Millikan)
ALBANY — Larry Whitfield saw the heads drop and the shoulders slump.
And the Albany State junior linebacker and former Monroe star immediately snapped his teammates back into focus. His message was simple: The Rams’ season isn’t over yet.
Albany State’s 19-13 loss to Tuskegee last week was a game the Rams felt they let slip away, and as a result ASU is 0-2 heading into tonight’s game against Elizabeth City State (N.C.) University. But instead of sulking about the team’s worst start to a season since 2006, the Rams are ready to use tonight’s game to turn around a season that still has plenty of potential.
“We are only looking at the positives right now, because once you start looking at the negatives you can’t progress from there,” Whitfield said. “We had a couple of people dropping their heads (after last week’s loss), but our leaders stepped up and told them that there is always another chance. That game was over and you can’t dwell in the past.”
ASU coach Mike White, who will be trying for his 100th career victory for a fourth time tonight, was one who had a hard time getting over last week’s loss.
“They probably needed to work on getting me back up. They were fine and bounced back (from the loss), but even Sunday I was still fuming,” White said. “I apologized to the team on Sunday because I was still fuming, and I usually let it go pretty quickly and move on. But to just to be there and let it slip away …”
The Rams are in danger of letting their season slip away, too. An 0-3 start would make it extremely difficult — if not impossible — for ASU to make the Division II playoffs.
“We have to take all of these games we have left and really, really be serious,” said White, whose Rams haven’t started a season 0-3 since his first year as head coach in 2000.
Elizabeth City, however, gives the Rams a real opportunity to finally get into the win column and give White his elusive 100th win. The Vikings are also 0-2 and have given up an average of 44.5 points per game, presenting the ASU offense with a chance to get off to a good start for the first time this season.
Starting quarterback Frank Rivers has been brilliant at times, but he has also struggled on crucial third downs and has completed just 45 percent of his passes. The Rams’ best offensive weapon last week was running back Kareem Hess, who rushed for a game-high 94 yards and also caught four passes for 49 yards.
“We are just a couple of mistakes away from being 2-0,” Hess said. “So we are just staying positive and trying to correct those mistakes in practice, pushing each other every day.”