Saturday, November 12, 2011

University of Albany FCS Football Rallies in 41-24 NEC Win at Monmouth; Smith Accounts for Three Touchdowns - UAlbany Sports 2011

West Long Branch, N.J. - Andrew Smith ran for two touchdowns and passed for another, as UAlbany came from behind in the second half for a 41-24 Northeast Conference victory over Monmouth on Saturday, Nov. 12 at Kessler Field. The Great Danes remained in a tie for first place in the conference standings.

Monmouth (5-5, NEC 4-3) cashed in on a Jameson Zacharias' interception during the first series of the second half to take a 17-14 lead. The Hawks moved seven plays for the go-ahead touchdown. Craig Peterson, who completed 32 of 49 passes for 296 yards and two scores, guided his team into position. Freshman Julian Hayes drove five yards over the left side and into the end zone.

UAlbany (7-3, NEC 6-1) responded with 27 unanswered points in regaining the lead. Herb Glass booted the first of two field goals to draw his team even. After the Great Danes' defense forced a punt, Smith broke loose on a 62-yard touchdown scamper for a 24-17 margin with 1:36 remaining in the third period. Smith, who rushed for 131 yards on 14 carries, busted out on the right and raced up the sideline.

The Great Danes, who have won seven of their last eight contests, extended the lead to 31-17 early in the final stanza. Dan Di Lella, a senior quarterback, hit tailback Dillon Romain in the left flat with a screen pass and the sophomore advanced up the sideline to finish off a 53-yard scoring play. The drive started when cornerback Leon Saddler picked off a Peterson pass.

UAlbany used special teams play to end its scoring outburst. With the Great Danes lined up for a punt at the Monmouth 44, Smith took a short snap and threw a jump-pass to Justinian Mason. The sophomore free safety caught the ball in the middle of the field and worked his way to paydirt. Glass added a 39-yard field goal with 3:08 left.

"We had big plays in all three phases of the game," said UAlbany coach Bob Ford, whose team will play for the NEC championship and NCAA automatic berth next Saturday. "We couldn't seem to get off the field (on defense) in the first half, but we went to a nickel package and that helped. I told our coaches we are in a ten-round fight and we just need to keep punching."

In the first quarter, Monmouth scored with the opening kickoff on a 12-play drive that resulted in Eric Spillane's 37-yard field goal. Peterson, a senior signal-caller, made the key plays with a third-down completion and a 27-yard throw to Mitchell Pollard. Following a short punt, the Great Danes went ahead on Smith's one-yard run. The touchdown was set up by Di Lella's 32-yard pass to wide receiver Cole King.

The Hawks came back with a 16-play, 78-yard scoring drive for a 10-7 advantage. Peterson kept the sequence alive with four third-down passes, including a six-yard touchdown completion to tight end Mike McLafferty. UAlbany struck quickly again to go back in front. Di Lella found tight end Brian Parker wide open in the middle of the Monmouth zone and the redshirt freshman rumbled 55 yards to the end zone for a 14-10 lead. The Great Danes had an opportunity to increase its lead, but Di Lella was held short of the goal line on a fourth-down sneak with 1:30 remaining in the period.

"It was an inside zone play," explained Smith on the 62-yard touchdown run. "I bumped it out and felt them (the defense) at my feet, but I just kept going. This is a big championship game coming up. This is what we came here for; it's playoff time."

UAlbany's Di Lella passed for a career-high 306 yards and two touchdowns. He became the first UAlbany quarterback to throw for 300-plus since 1997. Hayes rushed for 78 yards on 18 carries for the Hawks, who came into the contest tied for third in the conference standings.

"We had a much better attitude and were determined to win," said Di Lella about his team coming off a last week's league loss. "They were in my face and my rib cage on that screen pass, but I knew we had a great play. We want to be explosive."

Paw Prints: UAlbany is tied for first in the NEC standings with Duquesne, a 29-15 winner over Sacred Heart ... the Great Danes have reached the seven-win mark in nine of 13 seasons as an NCAA FCS program ... UAlbany now has six or more wins in conference play for the sixth time since joining the league in 1999 ... TB Andrew Smith became the ninth Great Dane to rush for 2,000 or more yards in a career (2,020) ... Ryan Kirchner is the fourth UAlbany to receiver to surpass 100-career receptions (103) ... ILB Jon Morgan made 10 tackles, his fourth double-figure effort of the season, and registered a career-high 2.0 sacks.

UAlbany 41, Monmouth 24 (Nov. 12, 2011, West Long Branch, N.J.)

ALBANY (7-3,6-1) vs. Monmouth (5-5,4-3)

Date: Nov 12, 2011 • Site: West Long Branch, NJ • Stadium: Kessler Field • Attendance: 3768

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