Saturday, November 6, 2010

Mike Kelly's Late Interception Return Leads UAlbany FCS Football to 35-23 NEC Win Against Sacred Heart - UAlbany Sports 2010

Fairfield, Conn. - Defensive end Mike Kelly scored on a 54-yard interception return late in the fourth quarter, as UAlbany held off Sacred Heart, 35-23, in Northeast Conference play on Saturday, Nov. 6 at Campus Field. The Great Danes snapped a three-game losing streak.

Sacred Heart (3-7, NEC 1-6) attempted to rally from a 14-point deficit in the final period behind quarterback Dale Fink, who completed 36 of 61 passes for 414 yards and three scores. After a bad snap led to a blocked punt for a safety, Fink led his team on an eight-play, 70-yard march that closed the gap to 28-23. The senior drilled a 21-yard touchdown strike to Rich Rossi with 6:33 remaining. Rossi finished with 11 receptions for 150 yards.

Following a UAlbany punt, the Pioneers steadily worked their way up the field, including a pair of fourth-down conversions. Fink twice hooked up with wide receiver Tony Patterson, who had 10 catches for 138 yards, to keep the potential game-winning drive alive. But on second-and-six at the UAlbany 35, Fink's attempt was tipped into the air by defensive tackle Trevor Anderson and Kelly hauled in the football and raced to end zone by a defensive escort with 1:22 remaining.

"They converted on fourth down twice and we were dead tired as pass rushers," said Kelly, who became the first UAlbany defensive lineman to score with an interception in four years. "Trevor (Anderson) batted the pass and I just came up with it. This was the last road trip for the seniors and we wanted to set a tone for next year's team."

The Great Danes, who have started the season with seven of nine games on the road, played Sacred Heart to a 7-7 halftime tie despite two turnovers and two missed field goals. The Pioneers took a 7-0 advantage with 3:45 left in the opening period when Fink tossed an 8-yard touchdown pass to running back Marcel Archer. Fink's passing set up the first score of the contest. He hit Archer for 16 yards on underneath route and followed with an 18-yard strike to Rossi.

After UAlbany quarterback Buddy Leathley fumbled inside his own 30, the Pioneers had second-and-goal at seven-yard line. But the Great Danes came with the blitz and Fink's pass was deflected and safety Jake Ciccarello made the interception. The junior's return and a personal foul for a horse-collar tackle set the offense up at the SHU 41. Leathley marched his team six plays for the tying touchdown, including a 21-yard, third-down pass. Freshman tailback Dillon Romain later ran over right guard and cut back on a 7-yard scoring run with 1:31 left before the intermission.

UAlbany (4-5, NEC 2-4) established its rushing attack in the third quarter by scoring on its first two possessions. Andrew Smith, a sophomore tailback with ran for 97 yards on 15 attempts, slanted over the left side on a 9-yard touchdown run to cap a 10-play series. After Leathley connected with Kevin Chillis on a 23-yard completion, Romain rumbled over right guard on a 20-yard scoring run for a 21-7 lead. Romain had a career-high 101 yards on 16 carries.

The Pioneers, who were coming off back-to-back wins over Georgetown and Monmouth, closed the gap by marching 65 yards in 11 plays. Fink, the conference's all-time leader in career touchdown passes with 77, found Rock Tate with a 2-yard scoring pass. UAlbany regained its two-touchdown lead when Smith drove over the right side into the end zone on a 2-yard run. He set up the score with a dazzling 30-yard scamper on fourth down.

"I have told our team we just need to figure out a way to make plays," offered UAlbany coach Bob Ford, who recorded his 245th career win. "(Mike) Kelly and seniors did that today. We were able to establish the run in the second half and get control of the line of scrimmage. (Dale) Fink is a good thrower and gets a lot of yardage against everyone."

Paw Prints: UAlbany ended a three-game losing streak against Northeast Conference opponents, its longest in a season since joining the league in 1999 ... DE Mike Kelly's interception return for a touchdown for was the first by a UAlbany player since Nov. 15, 2008 ... ILB Dave Plungas made a career-high 12 tackles after missing his last start with an injury ... the Great Danes' defense accounted for three interceptions, including one in the first half by OLB Chris Blais ... TB Dillon Romain had a career-best 152 all-purpose yards ... TB Andrew Smith toppled the 100-mark in all-purpose yards for the seventh time as a collegian.

Courtesy: UAlbany Sports Information

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