Saturday, November 26, 2011

Seawolves Holds Off Great Danes, 31-28, in First Round of NCAA Division I FCS Playoffs

Stony Brook, N.Y. - Safety Dominick Reyes intercepted a tipped pass in the back of the end zone with 47.4 seconds remaining, as Stony Brook held off UAlbany, 31-28, in the first round of the NCAA Division I FCS Playoffs on Saturday, Nov. 26 at LaValle Stadium.

UAlbany (8-4) drove 15 plays from its own 45-yard line in the late stages of the fourth quarter. Dan Di Lella, a senior quarterback, found Nick Hutcherson on fourth-and-11 to keep the march moving. He later threw third-down completions to tailback Andrew Smith and fullback Justin Peterson. But on second-and-goal from the Stony Brook three-yard line, Di Lella rolled to his right and threw for tight end Brian Parker in the back of the end zone. Cornerback Donald Porter tipped the high pass and Reyes came down with the ball inside the end line.

"This something that I will have to live with the rest of my life," said Di Lella, who went 24-of-43 through the air for 223 yards. "I should have thrown the ball into the stands and let (Drew) Smith run in for a touchdown on the next play. We used the pass to set up the run the entire day."

Stony Brook (9-3) rallied from a 28-10 deficit in the third quarter to go ahead. Brock Jackolski, a first-team all-league running back who ran for 103 yards and two scores, reached paydirt on a six-yard dash over the right side. After Di Lella threw the first of two interceptions, the Seawolves struck quickly. Quarterback Kyle Essington, using a pump fake, found Jackolski all alone on the right sideline to connect on a 55-yard scoring play.

The Seawolves, who won the Big South Conference championship to earn their NCAA berth and are No. 22 nationally, started quickly on their next series. Essington, who completed 12 of 24 attempts for 258 yards, found Kevin Norrell for 38 yards to start the sequence. After Essington threw a 17-yard completion to Jordan Gush, Jackolski rumbled over right tackle on an 11-yard touchdown runn for a 31-28 lead with 12:40 remaining.

"The momentum swung back and forth throughout the game," said UAlbany coach Bob Ford, who suffered a knee injury late in the second quarter when he took a hit on the sideline. "We had great difficulty in pounding the ball and give Stony Brook credit for stopping the run. In these type of situations, you have to things correct all the time and we failed to cash in."

In the first half, UAlbany's defense stiffened to thwart a pair of Stony Brook scoring threats. The Great Danes stopped running back Miguel Maysonet on fourth-and-one inside the Great Danes' 10-yard line. The Seawolves had another series end when Wesley Skiffington's 48-yard field goal attempt hit the left upright.

The Great Danes came back with two scores, one by the offense and one on special teams, to take a 14-0 lead. A flea-flicker for 25 yards jump-started a 10-play march. Di Lella kept the drive alive with a third-down completion and Smith jumped over right guard on a one-yard touchdown run. Defensive end Dean Mercuris blocked Luke Allen's punt attempt with his left hand and Parker raced 21 yards for a touchdown with the loose ball on second play of the second quarter.

The Seawolves regrouped with 10 straight points. Skiffington ended an 11-play drive with a 39-yard field goal. Stony Brook then worked its way from midfield for a touchdown. Jackolski's 11-yard run and a facemask penalty aided the sequence. Essington rolled right and hit Matt Brevi with an 11-yard scoring pass. The Great Danes took a 21-10 lead to the intermission by moving the length of the field in 39.4 seconds. Di Lella fired a 44-yard strike to wide receiver Cole King, who carried two defenders across the goal line for the touchdown.

UAlbany went 75 yards in four plays with the second-half kickoff to build a 28-10 advantage. The Northeast Conference co-champions started the drive with a 20-yard run by tailback Dillon Romain. Following a first-down catch by Ryan Kirchner to the SBU 43, Smith, a junior tailback, took a pitch off a reverse and hooked up with Kirchner on a 43-yard touchdown pass. Kirchner caught 12 passes for 143 yards.

"I thought we had them," offered defensive end Eddie Delaney, who had four tackles in a return to his native of Long Island. "Everyone has to take some blame (for the loss). They have a helluva team. It was a tough way to go out, but I wouldn't have wanted go through this season with any other group of guys."

Paw Prints: UAlbany made its first NCAA appearance since 1997 when the Great Danes competed as an NCAA Division III program ... Stony Brook advanced to play Sam Houston State, the nation's top-ranked team, in the second round ... UAlbany is the second Northeast Conference champion to receive an automatic berth ... QB Dan Di Lella eclipsed Joe Savino's 1997 single-season passing record by throwing for 2 548 yards, plus also owns another mark with 25 TD passes ... Ryan Kirchner's 12 receptions were one off the school's single-game record that was established in 1994 ... Andrew Smith had 123 all-purpose yards, his 10th straight game topping the century mark ... Smith's four pass attempts this season went for touchdowns ... Smith rushed for 1,092 yards, the fifth-best single-season mark ... DE Marc Wargo matched a career-high with 1.5 sacks ... Herb Glass moved into second place on the career scoring chart with 248 points ... UAlbany coach Bob Ford, who has 255 career victories, wrapped up his 39th varsity season with his fifth NEC championship.

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