ALBANY, N.Y. - The University at Albany football team proved once again its readiness to play at the next level Saturday afternoon at University Field, as the Great Danes earned a commanding, 55-24, victory over the visiting Monmouth University Hawks. With the varsity program's 250th win, UAlbany improved to 4-1 on the season and 2-0 in the Northeast Conference. Monmouth dropped to 3-2 and was handed its first league loss of the fall (2-1).
"I think we played, at times, absolutely lights out. As good as we could play," said Head Coach Bob Ford.
Combining for 263 rushing yards, senior Drew Smith piloted the ground game with 109 rushing yards on 18 carries and three touchdowns in the victory. Kevin Chillis averaged 28.7 yards per carry, as he totaled 86 yards and a touchdown on three carries. Likewise, Presley Beauvais handled the ball three times, contributing a 67-yard touchdown run. All three Great Dane players single-handedly out-rushed the Monmouth team as a whole, as the Hawks managed just 53 rushing yards against the UAlbany defense.
Quarterback Will Fiacchi recorded his third 200-plus yard passing game this season, as he completed 16-of-30 attempts for 248 yards and two touchdowns. Senior wide receiver Ryan Kirchner was the go-to man of the afternoon, hauling in five passes for 121 yards and a score. With 142 receptions, he is now just five catches away from tying the program career receptions record. Chillis was also key in the passing game, with twocatches and a touchdown for a 52receiving yards. The junior from Buffalo, N.Y. totaled a career-high 196 all-purpose yards in the victory.
As a whole, the UAlbany offense was outstanding, going 11-for-18 on third-down conversions and 1-for-1 on fourth-downs. "That's phenomenal," Coach Ford commented. "Against that defense, that's phenomenal. I give Ryan McCarthy and our offensive staff and Mike Simpson and our defensive staff a lot of credit. I think we're well prepared going into ball games and it shows."
Defensively, the Great Danes stepped up to the challenge of facing the NEC's top offensive team on paper. Not only did the UAlbany defense hold the Hawks to 53 yards on the ground, they disrupted the passing game with three interceptions. Senior Jon Morgan led the team with seven tackles, including six solo, while also breaking up two passes. Chris Wilk brought down five, as Dean Mercuris, Jake Dwyer, and Tramaine Wilson recorded picks and ran for over 10 yards each.
On their first drive of the afternoon, the bus ride up from Jersey seemed to have no effect, as the Hawks took a quick 7-0 lead, following a 12-play, 82-yard drive down the gridiron. However, that would be the last lead for Monmouth the rest of the way.
What looked like a quick three-and-out turned out to be the turning point of the game. With fourth-and-10 on the 23-yard line, Coach Ford called for a fake punt, resulting in Chillis running for 77 yards into the end zone.
“I thought we could (convert)," said Ford when questioned on the spectacular and surprising play call. "And because I’m 75-years-old and I can call anything I want to call.”
With the game tied, 7-7, after Sean Kenny's kick, the Danes' defense forced the Hawks to punt. On the very first play of the drive, Fiacchi passed to Kirchner down the left sideline, and the Rumson, N.J. native legged out an 81-yard touchdown to give UAlbany the lead for good.
With 1:27 to go in the first quarter, Smith gave the Great Danes a 21-7 advantage, following a 61-yard rushing touchdown past the Hawk's secondary.
The pace slowed slightly in the second quarter, as both squads traded field goals, starting with Kenny's 18-yarder at the 8:47 mark. On their next drive, Monmouth's kicker, Eric Spillane, responded with one of his own from 38 yards out, making the score 24-10.
Out of the halftime break, UAlbany struck first, with Smith's four-yard rush across the goal line with 11:08 on the clock. After Wilson's interception put the ball back into the hands of the host team, the Great Danes widened the gap with Kenny's 49-yard field goal. Not only was it a career-best for the reigning NEC Special Teams Player of the Week, but it also tied for the second-longest made field goal all-time at UAlbany.
Despite trailing by 24 points mid-way through the third quarter, the Hawks did not go silently. Monmouth quarterback Kyle Frazier completed a 38-yard touchdown pass to Neal Sterling and on the kickoff following the score, the Hawks forced and recovered the Great Danes' fumble, putting the ball right back into their hands. The Hawks capitalized and made it a 10-point game, 34-24, heading into the fourth quarter.
However, mirroring the first period, UAlbany put 21 points up on the board in the final stanza, while the defense shut out the visitors. It only took one play for the Great Danes to end the drought, as Fiacchi connected a 44-yard pass to Chillis who accelerated out of the Hawks' reach.
Defensive end Dean Mercuris quickly gave the Danes possession once again, snagging the ball off the line and ran 17 yards before being brought down at midfield. Smith entered the end zone for the third time, capping the 11-play, 53-yard drive with a seven yard explosive run up the middle, doubling up the Hawks, 48-24, with 7:20 on the clock.
With just under a minute and a half to go in the game, Beauvais, a redshirt freshman, recorded his first career touchdown, breaking away with a 67-yard scamper to give UAlbany their last points of the day.