Saturday, September 1, 2012

UAlbany FCS Football Romps Colgate, 40-23, In 2012 Season-Opener

ALBANY, N.Y. - The University at Albany football team literally kicked off the 2012 season with a bang Saturday night at University Field, as they stood beneath a postgame fireworks display with a 40-23 victory over Colgate gleaming on the scoreboard. In front of 6,194 fans, the Great Danes improved to 1-0 on the season, marking their first victory over the Raiders in program history.

It was a good ballgame, and a great win," said Bob Ford who is in his 44th season as a head coach and leads all active coaches with a 256-178-1 career record.

The Danes' defensive line was the story of the night, blocking two punts for eight consecutive points on a safety and touchdown, in addition to breaking up four passes as the airborne ball crossed the line of scrimmage. The Great Danes' defense also forced the Raiders into two fumbles and an interception. Senior Jon Morgan led the squad with nine tackles, including eight solo, while senior linebacker Dean Mercuris broke up a game-high three passes.

"People don't understand how important the tipped pass is," said Ford. "Any time that you can't get to the quarterback, you need to move into the passing lane and get your hands up. It can alter the game."

Offensively, senior Drew Smith and sophomore Omar Osbourne both rushed for career highs, as Smith led UAlbany with 174 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries. Osbourne also broke his career best in two categories, rushing 113 yards while logging 146 all-purpose yards. Making his debut as starting quarterback, redshirt sophomore Will Fiacchi completed 16-of-25 pass attempts for 143 yards.

After Colgate narrowly edged the Great Danes last season in overtime, the momentum appeared to still be in the Raiders' favor as Colgate took a 10-0 head start. After a 12-play, 76-yard drive down the field, Colgate's Andrew Burgess gave the visitors a 3-0 lead with a 21-yard field goal with 4:02 minutes remaining in the first quarter. In their next possession, the Raiders crossed the goal line on Kevin O'Connell's 20-yard reception for a 10-point lead.

However, that would be the last time Colgate controlled the game, as the Danes came storming back. Osbourne rushed 30 yards on four carries in the 4:20 minute drive, putting junior Kevin Chillis in position to score. Chillis' 21-yard end zone run through the Raiders' defense, followed by Sean Kenny's point after kick, cut the deficit to three.

In Colgate's next possession, UAlbany's defense forced a three-and-out and capped the stifled drive with Ocieka Bakou's punt block that ricocheted into the end zone, forcing Colgate to push the ball out the back to settle for a safety.

Trailing 10-9 with the ball back in their hands, the Danes looked in great position for another quick score with a second-and-goal on the five yard line, but the Raiders' Mike Armiento picked off Fiacchi's pass in end zone and took a knee for a touchback.

However, UAlbany's defense suffocated Colgate again, forcing a punt from the Raiders' 35-yard line. Like déjà vu, Bakou got a mitt on the ball, sophomore Kyle Jordan picked it up and ran it back to give the Danes' a 16-10 advantage after the extra point, as well as the lead for good with 3:01 minutes left in the first half.

“On the sideline you could just sense it. We were with whipping them," said Ford. "You have to break a team’s spirit. You have to break them down. And I think we did that early in the game.”

UAlbany struck first after intermission, as Tramaine Wilson intercepted Gavin McCarney pass on Albany's three yard-line and ran it 33 yards before coming down. The Danes used eight plays to march down the field and Osbourne finished the drive with a 22-yard and a four-yard rush, consecutively, into the end zone at the 6:31 mark in the third quarter.

However, the Raiders got the seven points back on their next possession, using five plays to cross the goal line on Jordan McCord's 15-yard rush, making the score 23-17.

From there, the Great Danes hit the accelerator, scoring 10 straight points after Sean Kenny's 41-yard field goal with 3:23 to go in the third, and Drew Smith's two-yard push after a run-heavy 66-yard, six-play march down the field for a 33-17 lead.

Colgate made one last stride in the final quarter, as McCarney connected with CJ Stempeck for a 26-yard touchdown pass.

Albany dotted the exclamation point with 1:50 minutes to go, running the ball nine times for 48 yards, capped by Smith's 1-yard run and his second touchdown of the night.

“It’s great,” said Smith. “We did very well. We finished. We executed. We put our foot on the gas and took it until it was over.”

The Great Danes hit the road for three consecutive road games, starting next Saturday at Robert Morris. Kickoff will be at noon at Joe Walton Stadium.

Quick Hits: Tonight's win kicks off the 40th varsity season in program history as well as Coach Bob Ford's 40th season as head coach of the Danes ... The win over Colgate is UAlbany's first in history ... The Danes are now 2-1 in home season openers and 5-9 in season openers ... The last time the Great Danes won the season-opener was in 2010 when they topped Maine, 3-0 ... UAlbany's 40 points marks the most since they beat Monmouth, 41-24, on Nov. 12, 2011 ... Drew Smith recorded his 19th 100-plus yard rushing game ... Drew Smith moved up two spots in the career rushing ladder, now ranking 6th in program history with 2,369 yards ... The 6,194 fans in attendance marks the ninth highest home crowd in program history and the 10th time since 1973 that there were more than 6,000 fans ... Coach Ford now owns a 247-157 record at UAlbany and 256-178-1 overall record ...The Danes have now blocked punts that were returned for a touchdown in two consecutive games (the last was vs. Stony Brook by Brian Parker on 11/26/11).

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