Saturday, November 17, 2012

Champs! UAlbany FCS Football Wins Sixth NEC Title With, 63-34, Victory Over Central Connecticut - UAlbany Sports 2012

ALBANY, N.Y. – In an afternoon of lasts – the last game of University Field’s 43 seasons, the last played in the Northeast Conference, the last at home for the squad’s 21 seniors, and the last of the 2012 regular season – the University at Albany football team made it memorable with a 63-34 win over Central Connecticut State. The victory earned the Great Danes their sixth NEC title in their 14 years in the league, sharing the championship with Wagner who overcame Duquesne, 23-17, earlier in the day. In a pregame ceremony, the team’s seniors were honored one-by-one in front of a crowd of 1,876. In the last five years, the class as a whole amassed a 39-18 overall record, 31-8 mark in the NEC, three NEC titles, while leading the squad to the program’s first appearance in the NCAA Tournament since 1977 – done in 2011 – and to the program’s highest rank in the national polls earlier this season. A member of that impressive class, senior tailback Drew Smith, capped a historic career with three rushing touchdowns, making him the all-time leader for touchdowns scored (45) and co-leader for all-time rushing touchdowns (40). In four active seasons, Smith accrued 3,196 career rushing yards and 4,721 all-purpose yards, both good for second all-time. Against CCSU, Smith finished the day with 65 rushing yards on 18 carries with 110 all-purpose yards. “You only hope to have a career that I’ve had,” said Smith. “I’m proud of it. No regrets. I’m just blessed.” Senior kicker Sean Kenny tied the program’s single-game record with nine successful point-after kicks. He also kicked off 10 times, totaling 588 yards. Redshirt sophomore quarterback Will Fiacchi completed 13-of-17 passes with one interception and one touchdown, totaling 242 passing yards. With a well-balanced offensive output, senior Ryan Kirchner led the team with four receptions for 45 yards, bringing his program record total to 172 career catches. Smith hauled in three, also for 45 yards, while Cole King grabbed two for 63 yards. Omar Osbourne scored two touchdowns for the Danes, catching a 58-yard pass for the score, while also rushing for one as well. Junior Kevin Chillis led the squad with 118 all-purpose yards, including a 79-yard kickoff return for a touchdown – the program’s first since 2006. While UAlbany’s offense had a spectacular game, the defense shone as well, forcing five fumbles, recovering four, including two recovered for touchdowns. Redshirt freshman Cory Connell had the first, giving the Great Danes a 42-0 head start on his 40-yard run. Senior Ocieka Bakou had the second, a 45-yard jaunt, capping the Danes at 63 points in the third quarter. Classmates Dean Mercuris and Chris Wilk led the squad with six tackles apiece. Mercuris also recovered one of the loose balls and made five solo tackles, including one for a loss. UAlbany put up 42 unanswered points in the first half, a Division I FCS era record for the program. With 9:13 left in the first, Smith rushed one yard into the end zone to get the scoring going. It was done one play after junior Andrew Smith sacked CCSU quarterback Andrew Clements and forced a fumble that was recovered by redshirt freshman Zach Troutman on UA’s one-yard line. "We played great, executed great," said Drew Smith. "There were no doubts about it from kickoff." Osbourne followed with a 16-yard run, capping an eight-play, 86-yard drive with 4:12 remaining in the opening quarter to give the Great Danes a 14-0 lead. With everything still flowing in UAlbany’s favor, Smith crossed the goal line again with a four-yard rush with 12:58 to go in the half. On the Great Danes’ next possession, Fiacchi connected with Osbourne for a 58-yard passing touchdown, a one-play, 12 second possession, at the 6:00 minute mark in the second. Forcing the Blue Devils to punt away at the end of their next drive, the Great Danes capitalized once again, as Smith rushed for his third touchdown of the day with a three-yard run at the 2:53 mark. UAlbany stretched the lead to 42-0 after Jake Dwyer hacked the ball loose from Clements at CCSU’s 40. From there, Connell picked it up and ran it to the end zone with 2:05 remaining. The Blue Devils broke their scoring drought with four seconds on the clock before halftime, as Clements rushed one yard, capping an eight-play, 63-yard drive. UAlbany led 42-7 at the half. Not letting up, Chillis started the second stanza in style for the Danes, slicing through the special teams unit 79-yards for a touchdown. CCSU’s Clements had another one-yard rush across the goal line to cut the deficit to 35 points, 49-14, with 8:06 on the clock in the third. However, the Great Danes followed with the two most exciting touchdowns of the game. With second-and-goal Fiacchi connected a 21-yard pass to Smith. With a clear path into the end zone, instead of running for it, Smith ran out of bounds purposely at the one, so senior offensive lineman Anthony Bazzoffi could have a chance for his first career touchdown. On third-and-goal, Bazzoffi powered through into the end zone and the sideline erupted. “It’s a great feeling,” said Bazzoffi. “I never thought this day would come.” Just 18 seconds later, a fumble by Clements was picked up by Bakou. The senior ran 45-yards for his first career touchdown, as well, with 1:08 left in the third quarter, giving UAlbany a 49-point lead, 63-14. From there, the Blue Devils scored the final points of the afternoon, as Deven Baker caught a 57-yard touchdown pass to start the fourth quarter. With 8:16 remaining, Chuck Watson intercepted Jake Meek’s pass and ran it back 70 yards, cutting the margin to 36, 63-27. With 2:36 on the clock, Deven Baker capped the game’s high-scoring affair with a 15-yard reception, after an eight-play, 92-yard drive. With the sound of the final whistle, UAlbany wrapped up its final clash on University Field – the home of the Great Danes since Bob Ford started a club football team in 1970. With the transition to the Colonial Athletic Association, the Great Danes will move to Bob Ford Field, a brand new 8,000 seat stadium, next year. The Great Danes close the 2012 regular season and possibly the 40th year of varsity football at UAlbany with a 7-1 conference record and 9-2 overall mark, signifying a record number of regular season wins in the Division I FCS era. While Wagner won the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, the Great Danes will be on the bubble for an at-large bid. The selection show airs at 1:30 p.m. Sunday on ESPNU.

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