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.
The University was established in 1844 and designated a University Center of the State University of New York in 1962. With it's broad mission of excellence in undergraduate and graduate education, research and public service, the University engages 17,000 diverse students across three campuses within Albany.
With 10 schools & colleges within the University, including the Honors College, the University has long been recognized for its selective programs. The University holds a research profile near $400 million, and ranks among the nation's top public universities.
College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering
UAlbany's College of Nanoscale Science and Technology is the first in the world dedicated to research, development, education, and deployment in nanoscience, nanoengineering, nanobioscience, and nanoeconomics. The NanoTech Complex - a $3.5 billion, 450,000-square-foot facility that has attracted over 250 global corporate partners - is the most advanced research complex of its kind at any university in the world.
School of Business
The School of Business has maintained its AACSB (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business) accreditation since it was first granted in 1974, and was the first school in the world to be recognized by AACSB at both the graduate and undergraduate levels.
School of Criminal Justice
Founded in 1968, UAlbany's School of Criminal Justice became the first Ph.D.-granting criminal justice program in the nation. SCJ is concerned with all aspects of crime and societal reactions. They examine political, economic and cultural patterns that shape definitions of crime and influence public response. They also study social forces that lead to criminal conduct, and crime control systems. Ranked #2 in the nation
School of Education
UAlbany's School of Education: Educational Administration Doctoral program ranked seventh in the nation.
National Rankings of UAlbany's Rockefeller College Programs: Information Management & Technology 4th, Public Administration & Management 6th, Public Finance 9th, and Public Policy 25th. Ranked #10 in nation overall.
The Gen*NY*Sis Center for Excellence in Cancer Genomics is committed to research that will discover the genetic origins of cancer and lead to finding a cure for the disease. Located on the University at Albany's East Campus, the center combines UAlbany research expertise in genomics and biomedical sciences with state-of-the-art technology in a new 117,000 square foot facility.
Northeast Regional Forensics Institute
UAlbany's Northeast Regional Forensic Institute (NERFI) is an innovative organization that addresses the current high demand for trained professionals in forensic laboratories while simultaneously fostering the research required to improve the speed, accuracy, and effectiveness of future forensic analyses.
Atmospheric Sciences Research Center
New York State Writers Institute
The University Libraries provide over two million volumes and rank among the nation's top one hundred research libraries.
Since its inaugural exhibition, Paintings and Sculpture from the Nelson A. Rockefeller Collection in 1967, the University Art Museum maintains its commitment to presenting contemporary art exhibitions that connect community and worldviews with the vast resources of the University.