Tuskegee’s running out of second chances.
But Saturday, the Golden Tigers have a golden opportunity to turn it all around.
After two consecutive non-conference losses, Tuskegee is leaping back into SIAC play at Albany State, fighting to stay unbeaten in league play and kick-start its next stretch of conference games with a big win.
Kickoff is set for 4 p.m. in Albany, Ga. Tuskegee enters 1-3 on the season, but stands 1-0 in the SIAC, and though the Golden Tigers are playing for keeps now in the conference standings, everything is still ahead of the team as far as league play goes.
“The potential is there,” Tuskegee head coach Willie Slater said, in his 14th season coaching the Golden Tigers. “We’ve just got to keep working.”
He won the conference seven times in his first 13 seasons at Tuskegee. He has topped the divisional standings in five of the eight years that the conference has been separated into halves.
He knows there’s still a long road ahead.
“We haven’t talked about ‘panic,’” Slater said this week in a press conference on campus. “No one’s panicking here. You know, we have to get better. It’s the first time we’ve been 1-3 since I’ve been here, but we’re not panicking.
“We know what’s wrong. I’ve been coaching a long time. I know what’s wrong. We’ve just got to get better, and we are getting better.”
Tuskegee lost 36-16 last Saturday against West Alabama from the vaunted Gulf South Conference. That loss marked Tuskegee’s first decisive defeat. Tuskegee dropped a close 23-20 non-conference game to Winston-Salem State on Sept. 21, two weeks after a narrow 38-31 loss to Division I’s Alabama State.
But in the SIAC, Tuskegee remains unbeaten after a 13-7 win at Kentucky State on Sept. 14 — and can keep it that way with a big win at Albany State.
“I think the key to the game is not giving up big plays and then, at some point, on offense, maybe finding a big play here or there,” Slater said. “That’s how we beat them last year. We beat them on big plays — didn’t really dominate the game.
“So we know it’s going to be a tough game for us, but I think it’s a tremendous challenge and we’re excited about it.”
Albany State is 2-2 and 1-0 in the SIAC.
“We’re looking forward to it,” Slater said. “It’s going to be a road game. It’ll be at their place, so that means it’s going to be a little bit more difficult, so we’ve got to make sure that we’re really focused and ready to play.”