Tuskegee preps for Albany State & Whitewater Classic

TUSKEGEE, Ala. (goldentigersports.com) — Just two weeks into the season and already a game with postseason implications has popped up on the schedule for the 15th-ranked Tuskegee University Golden Tigers.

Tuskegee (1-0) travels to Phenix City (Ala.) to face rival Albany State University (0-1) in the Whitewater Classic at Garrett-Harrison Stadium Saturday evening.

The two teams have played four times in the last three years, including twice in 2014, with Tuskegee winning the last four match-ups. However, the series is almost even with Tuskegee holding a slim 22-19-1 advantage. The two teams combined for

“We are playing a very good football team,” Tuskegee head coach Willie Slater of Albany State. “It is going to be a measuring stick for us, it always is. Albany State is Albany State, they have the best team in our league since we have been here. And nothing has changed, they are a very good football team.”

Last week, Albany State kept Valdosta State off balance for much of the first 35 minutes, outscoring the nationally-ranked Blazers 7-0 until Valdosta State was able to rattle off 16 unanswered points.

Quarterback Caleb Edmonds led the Golden Rams with 171 yards rushing, while SIAC Offensive Player of the Year Jarvis Small was held to just 19 yards on seven carries. However, the senior rushed for 108 yards on 29 carries last season against Tuskegee thanks in part to the Albany State offensive line.

“The battle is always going to be up front,” Tuskegee defensive coordinator Joseph Carter said. “They are always tough up front, and have a lot experience. They have a lot of guys who are battle tested.”

Tuskegee will look to shake off the memories of last year’s performance, albeit a 13-point victory. In that contest, the Golden Tigers were held to just 232 yards of total offense and used two big plays – a blocked field goal and interception return – from the defense to secure the victory.

In the season opener, Tuskegee was able to rack up 347 yards of total offense and use a lot of players to gain experience. The team finished with 133 yards rushing and 214 yards passing in the victory.

Senior quarterback Kevin Lacey will look to continue his streak from last week, connecting on all eight of his pass attempts for 179 yards and a touchdown. The senior played just six drives, and did not play a down in the fourth quarter of the 23-point victory over Clark Atlanta.

“You can’t beat what he (Lacey) did in the first game,” Slater said. “I thought it was a really good game by him for the opener. He looks like he is focusing better than he has in the past, I just hope we can keep it going.”

The senior’s two favorite targets, Desmond Reece and Leo Gilbert, each recorded a pair of receptions in the opener and will need to find some room this week to get in the reception column. Last season, the Golden Tigers completed just four passes, with one of those going to Gilbert for 14 yards.

“They (Lacey and Gilbert) seem to be fond of each other,” Slater said. “He likes when Leo is in there, and he has become a weapon for us over the last couple of years.”

Javarrius Cheatham also had a pair of catches and a touchdown, while Jayjerien Craig and Kenny Gant combined to rush for 114 yards on 18 carries for Tuskegee.

Although Albany State was able to hold Tuskegee down offensively, so did the Golden Tigers to Albany State. They held Albany State to just 293 yards of total offense with most of that picked up the fourth quarter.

The Golden Tigers will once again look to the defense to keep Albany State off balance this week, as they held Clark Atlanta to just 287 total yards including just 136 on the ground. After a 35-yard gain to open the game, the defense allowed just 101 yards on the next 30 carries and intercepted four passes.

“After some problems to start the game the defense settled down,” Slater said. “They were able to make some adjustments in the second half. We had some problems getting the quarterback down, but we have always felt we are a bend but don’t break defense. We gave them great field position last week with the penalties, but other than that, I thought the defense played good.”

Although the two teams are in opposite divisions, this game will set the tone as it does for the entire conference and expect a big crowd to witness the contest.

“Our fans travel with us,” Carter said. “We had a great crowd in Atlanta, and we are looking forward to everyone being there this weekend.”

The game kicks off at 5 pm (est) and can be seen on the Tuskegee Digital Network. It will also be carried by HSRN this weekend.