Saturday, October 22, 2011

University of Albany Football's Di Lella Sets School Record for TD Passes in 63-35 NEC Win at Central Conn. State - UAlbany Sports 2011

New Britain, Conn. - Senior quarterback Dan Di Lella threw a school-record five touchdown passes and ran for another score in leading UAlbany to a 63-35 Northeast Conference victory over Central Connecticut State on Saturday, Oct. 22 at Arute Field. The Great Danes, who have won five in a row, remained in sole possession of first place in the conference standings.

UAlbany (5-2, NEC 4-0) led 35-21 at the intermission, but then exploded for 21 unanswered in the second half. The Great Danes drove 80 yards in 10 plays on their first offensive series. Andrew Smith, a junior tailback, broke free on the right sideline with a 57-yard screen pass to wipe a second-and-21 situation. Di Lella wrapped up the possession with a seven-yard touchdown pass to tight end Paul Booker, his fifth of the game to break the program's all-time standard.

Di Lella, who threw for a career-high 283 yards on 14-of-22 through the air, and added 75 yards on the ground, called his own number the next time the Great Danes touched the ball. His completed a 29-yard pass to Cole King and followed with a 20-yard scamper to paydirt. Defensive tackle Andrew Smith ended the scoring spree with a 38-yard interception return for a touchdown and a 56-21 advantage.

"I just followed (offensive guard) Kyle O'Keefe on the screen," explained Smith, who had 125 all-purpose yards. "We have the talent and now it is all coming together. We have the same guys from last year; there is a chemistry. Dan (Di Lella) knows the offense and he knows the receivers."

UAlbany broke a 7-7 tie in the opening period by scoring on consecutive possessions. Di Lella hooked up with reserve tight end Brian Parker on a 57-yard touchdown reception, his first career catch, in beating a cornerback blitz. After the Blue Devils ran out of downs at the Albany 39, the Great Danes mixed the run and pass on a six-play drive. Di Lella fired a 34-yard post-pattern strike to Nick Hutcherson for a two-touchdown lead.

In an offensive shootout from the start, Central Connecticut State (2-6, NEC 1-4) answered with a 12-play, 71-yard march. Gunnar Jespersen's 36-yard completion to Deven Baker on third-and-12 kept the series alive. Jespersen finished off the sequence with a one-yard run over right guard. UAlbany retaliated with a 14-play drive for a 28-14 advantage. Di Lella's seven-yard shovel pass put Smith across the goal line.

The Blue Devils, who have dropped five straight, came up with the game's first turnover when linebacker Lawton Arnold hit Di Lella as he threw and strong safety Antwione Reese came up with the interception near midfield. The miscue led to Jespersen's 18-yard scoring pass to a high-leaping Baker. UAlbany regrouped once again with a drive that ate up most of the first-half clock. Dillon Romain's nine-yard run on fourth down was a key play. Ryan Kirchner would later haul in Di Lella's pass with two hands in the back of the end zone for an 11-yard score and a 14-point halftime margin.

"Dan Di Lella threw the ball well and ran the ball well," said UAlbany coach Bob Ford, whose team set a record for most points against an NEC opponent. "The defense struggled early on, but we figured it out at halftime and were able to get a number of three-and-outs."

CCSU's Jespersen completed 11 of 18 pass attempts for 205 yards. He threw a 47-yard scoring pass in the opening period and 30-yard TD in the final stanza, both to wide receiver Nick Bacarella. Brian Fowler and reserve quarterback Andrew Clements, a converted linebacker, added 85 and 74 rushing yards, respectively.

"It was a team effort," offered Di Lella, who broke a single-game record that was shared by Joe Savino and Brad Aldrich. "Your teammates help you out and that means a lot to me. I trust everyone to make a make a play. We just wanted to keep our foot on the gas."

Paw Prints: UAlbany has a five-game win streak for the first time in two years ... the Great Danes and Central Connecticut State met for the 16th time ... the last three games in the series were each decided by three points or less ... the Great Danes set a program record for most points against an NEC opponent, as the previous mark was 58 against Saint Francis, Pa. on Oct. 20, 2007 ... QB Dan Di Lella established career-highs in passing yards (283) and total offense (368) ... Di Lella eclipsed Michael Oliva's record of most total offensive yards against an NEC team, as Oliva had 323 against Stony Brook on Oct. 2, 1999 ... Ryan Kirchner became the 12th UAlbany receiver to surpass 1,000 career receiving yards (1,006) ... the Great Danes have won seven straight against conference opposition ... UAlbany has registered four or more league wins in all 13 seasons as an NEC member.

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