Albany State only allowed two points in the second half of its 29-16 win over Miles College Oct. 3. However, that game didn’t count toward the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference standings.
The two teams are set to meet again Saturday in Montgomery, Ala., with a lot more on the line. In fact, they’re playing for conference supremacy and a spot in the Division 2 playoffs in the SIAC Championship Game.
Albany State’s Golden Rams (6-3, 5-0), making their third-straight title game appearance (and fourth in five years), are seeking to win their second SIAC crown in three years. The preseason pick to repeat as Eastern Division champion is riding a five-game winning streak en-route to clinching another title game berth.
Meanwhile, Miles bounced back from the loss to ASU, winning five in a row to win the Western Division title. The fifth of those wins was last week’s 26-23 come-from-behind road win over No. 20 Tuskegee to clinch the team’s championship game berth. The Golden Bears (6-4, 4-0), picked to finish second in the division behind TU, shook off a 1-4 start to reach the title game riding a wave of momentum.
Miles cannot afford to have a meltdown like it had in the third quarter of its earlier matchup. The Golden Rams outscored the Golden Bears 16-0 in the third, erasing Miles’ 14-0 halftime lead. However, nine of those 16 points didn’t come from offensive scores. Miles gave up two points on a safety to close, allowing ASU to close the gap to 14-9, and Nick Scott recovered a fumble and scored to give the Golden Rams a 16-14 lead.
Marquez Hodo’s 39-yard pick-six in the fourth iced the game for Albany State. In total, turnovers and miscues allowed ASU to score 16 of its 29 total points.
For Miles, the key to avoiding a repeat will be controlling the clock with the SIAC’s best rushing attack and capitalizing on opportunities against the conference’s seventh-best pass defense. The combination of running back Jamarcus Nance (74.6 ypg) and dual-threat quarterback David Whipple (70.6) rank third and fourth, respectively, in the league in rushing. However, the Golden Rams counter the Golden Bears run-heavy offense with the SIAC’s top run defense (87.7 yards allowed per game). ASU held Miles to 101 total rushing yards in their earlier matchup.
For Albany State, getting running back Jarvis Small rolling early is the key. Small, the league’s two-time rushing champion and reigning SIAC Offensive Player of the Year, rushed for 111 yards and a score against Miles. Small’s presence opens things up for quarterback Caleb Edwards, who leads the conference in passing yards per game (171.4). The Golden Rams could dominate against a Miles defense that ranks eighth in the league against the run. ASU gashed the Miles defense for 232 yards in their earlier matchup.