Saturday, September 22, 2012

UAlbany FCS Football Knocks Off #23 Maine, 30-20

ORONO, Maine - The University at Albany football team continued to impress all those who have witnessed their play this season, as the Great Danes overcame the No. 23 Maine Black Bears, 30-20, Saturday night at Alfond Stadium.

The Great Danes (3-1) now own a 4-2 series advantage over Maine (1-2) and a 7-5 all-time record against Colonial Athletic Association opponents. In addition, the victory marked the first over a ranked opponent for the UAlbany program since Sept. 19, 2009 when they also beat Maine (ranked 20th), 20-16.

“We looked like two lightweight boxers trading little puffy jabs in there for about three quarters,” said head coach Bob Ford. “We just couldn’t seem to get enough offense going and they couldn’t either to deliver any kind of knockout punch. And then we finally got on track a little bit and got enough offense to hold them off in the end.”

Kicker Sean Kenny made a name for himself, tying the program record with three made field goals in the contest, representing the first nine points of the game. Tailback Drew Smith led the offense with 114 rushing yards on 18 carries, 144 all-purpose yards, and two touchdowns, while Kevin Chillis rushed twice for 88 yards total and accumulated 158 all-purpose yards. Quarterback Will Fiacchi completed 13-of-29 pass attempts for a total of 132 yards.

Totaling 25 yards on three catches, senior Ryan Kirchner moved into sole possession of second place all-time at UAlbany with 137 career receptions. He is now 10 away from tying the program record.

Defensively, Dave Plungas led the squad with nine tackles, while Olatunji Idowu and Jon Morgan each brought down eight.

While neither team scored in the first quarter of play, there was still plenty of drama to keep the fans entertained. After both squads were forced to punt in their opening drives, the Great Danes started their drive with a big carry by Smith. However, as the Guilderland native reached 17-yards, the final hit knocked the ball loose and the Black Bears took over on the visitor's 42-yard line.

In good field position, Dean Mercuris' monstrous sack for a loss of nine yards set the Black Bears back, and UAlbany's defense snuffed out Maine's run game. Maine looked as though they were going to win the race onto the scoreboard with a 31-yard field goal, but the Great Danes special teams, who have been stellar all season long, played spoilers. Jon Morgan batted the kick into the hands of Justinian Mason and the Danes took control of the ball.

UAlbany broke the stalemate with Sean Kenny's 44-yard field goal with 10:45 remaining in the first half, following a nine-play, 25-yard drive.

Kenny put one through the uprights again with 6:12 to go in the half from 39-yards out to give the Great Danes a 6-0 lead.

Making himself the story of the stanza, Kenny finished a perfect 3-for-3 in the second quarter, making a 25-yard field goal in the final seconds of the half to send the Great Danes into the locker room with a 9-0 lead.

Out of the break, Maine scored the first touchdown of the contest at the 10:40 mark in the third quarter. Black Bear quarterback Damarr Aultman connected a 19-yard pass to Marcus Wasilewski to cut the deficit to two points.

However, 18 seconds later the Great Danes responded with Kevin Chillis' 74-yard scamper into the end zone to take a 16-7 advantage after Kenny's extra point.

With 4:10 remaining in the third quarter, the Black Bears slashed into UAlbany's lead with a 31-yard field goal by Brian Harvey, making it a four-point game, 16-10.

For the fourth time in the game, Maine entered the red zone after a 45-yard pass downfield. But, the stellar UAlbany defense forced the Black Bears to settle for a field goal from 30-yards out with 11:59 remaining in the game, and the Great Danes continued to hold a double-digit lead, 23-13.

Although UAlbany was forced to punt on their next possession, a misplayed catch on the falling pigskin at the other end of the field put the ball back into the hands of the Great Danes at the 17-yard line. JoJo McClary recovered the fumble that slipped through Maurice McDonald's arms and put the Danes in great position to put the game away with 10:18 remaining.

However, it was all for naught, as Maine's James Kendall intercepted Fiacchi's pass at the three yard line less than 30 seconds later. Fortunately, UAlbany's spectacular defense did not allow a single yard in the three-and-out, making the Black Bears punt from the back of the end zone.

Drew Smith took advantage of the Great Danes' field position, powering through the defense for a 27-yard rushing touchdown, giving UAlbany a commanding 30-13 lead with 5:48 to go in the game.

In the waning minutes, Maine worked its way down the field for a short pass into the end zone, cutting the deficit to 10. However, that would be as close as the Black Bears would get, as UAlbany ran the clock out the rest of the way.

“It felt good that we went in there and played with them,” said Drew Smith. “Talent wise, we compete with the best of them and we came out here and proved it. We want to prove that we can play in the CAA and we hope we answered some questions tonight.”

The Great Danes return home next Saturday to take on Northeast Conference foe Monmouth University at 1:00 p.m.

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