Many, including us here at HBCU Gameday, played up the Albany State vs Savannah State football game as possibly the game of the year in the SIAC. Both teams were perfect in conference play, both had just one similar loss – to national power Valdosta State, and both were rolling coming into the head-to-head meeting at the Albany State Coliseum.
But nearly as soon as the coin flip came to rest, ASU dominated the game in every aspect. Here are the four key reasons ASU defeated SSU.
First, Energy – Albany State head coach Coach Gabe Giardina in post-game comments said his team was so hyped up for the game that he feared they would literally break the locker room door. It was evident from the jump that the Golden Rams were on a mission for supremacy. Along with sending their seniors out on top for “Senior Day,” the players seemed focused on making short work of Savannah State.
Golden Rams have one of the best weapons in NCAA D-II in punter/kicker Gabriel Ballinas. He scored the first six points of the game nailing field goals of 37 and 40 yards to set the tone until the ASU offense began to score touchdowns. Ballinas was also accurate on kickoffs and punts, keeping the ball away from SSU’s dangerous return specialists and nailed a third field goal in the second half.
ASU ran a methodic offense that took what it was given on the ground and took advantage on opportunities to pass for big plays. Giardina had the discipline to go back to running the ball and controlling the clock until an opportunity presented itself again to again attack from the air.
The Golden Rams, especially at the defensive front, are deep. ASU rotates during drives and special situations, keeping guys fresh and their motors tuned to perform their specific tasks throughout the game. In the second half, SSU looked spent. Meanwhile, the defensive carousel was churning on ASU’s sideline.
Next week, Albany State will travel to Atlanta to take on the Maroon Tigers of Morehouse College as the season winds down and the SIAC Championship game comes into focus.