The Albany State Golden Rams know what it means to be left for dead.
After a 1-4 start to the 2013 season, many saw this as another lost season for Mike White's team.
That's when it all turned around.
The Rams have since won four straight, including a 19-10 victory over archrival Fort Valley State, to clinch the SIAC East title and a spot in Saturday's conference championship.
"It's really exciting because a lot of people counted us out," says senior DB Dexter Moody. "We're really happy to be where we're at right now."
Awaiting the Rams in Atlanta: SIAC West champs Miles, who beat ASU 22-15 in September.
"They punched us in the mouth first. We weren't physical coming out in that game," says Moody. "We watched the film on it. We all saw we weren't physical enough. Really that's all there was to it."
Albany State hopes to not only bring back the program's 14th SIAC title, but also earn a little revenge along the way.
"They're probably the best team we've played all year, and it's going to take a real good effort on our part offensively and defensively to pull this off Saturday," says White. "But I think we're up to the challenge."
One thing that could help is getting a game out of junior WR Jessie Atkins similar to his last performance against Miles.
In September, Atkins hauled in 13 passes for 160 yards and two touchdowns.
"I feel like Frank and I had a connection that game, just on the short game," says the Camilla native. "Miles has a defense where they like to play off, so Frank and I took advantage of that and took it and ran with it."
White says the Rams plan to go back to Atkins early and often.
"That's each and every game. We depend a lot on him," says White. "But I do believe we're going to need some of the other receivers to step up also."
Atkins sees similarities between the Rams' games this year and the season as a whole. He says those trends should both end with a conference title.
"We came out kind of slow this year, and that's kind of been that way with games too. We start slow and finish strong," Atkins says. "So I have a feeling we're going to finish out strong for our seniors and send them home feeling good with that ring on their finger."
The Golden Rams kick off against the Golden Bears Saturday at Lakewood Stadium in Atlanta at 7 p.m.
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