Saturday, August 30, 2014

University of Albany CAA Football Captures First Win In Gattuso Era With, 14-13, Thriller Over Holy Cross - UAlbany Sports 2014

Courtesy: UA Sports ALBANY, N.Y. -- With 44 seconds remaining in the 2014 season-opener Saturday, sophomore Neil Morrison returned a 79-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown and junior kicker Patrick Toole's point-after gave the University at Albany football program a 14-13 victory over the visiting Holy Cross Crusaders. The win marked the first in the Greg Gattuso era, as well as the program's first at Bob Ford Field. “We’ve been preaching fourth quarter and it’s never over ‘til it’s over,” Gattuso said. “I don’t think anyone expected a 79-yard fumble recovery. Next thing you know Neil’s running down the field with the football in his hand and all I can think is just ‘Run, baby, run.” Redshirt senior Will Fiacchi totaled 182 passing yards on the night, completing19-of-31 passes, including a 12-yard touchdown toss to senior tight end Brian Parker. Parker finished with six receptions and 87 yards. Making his Great Danes debut, true freshman Josh Gontarek led the squad with nine catches for 67 yards. Senior running back Omar Osbourne was the go-to in the ground game, carrying the ball 20 times for a total of 85 rushing yards. He also connected with Fiacchi for three receptions and 22 yards in the air. Defensively, senior linebacker Kyle Jordan served as a spark and game-changer, forcing two fumbles, including the game-winner, and finished with nine tackles, including five solo. Safety Rayshan Clark led UAlbany with 10 tackles (three solo), while redshirt sophomore inside linebacker Michael Nicastro brought down nine. Morrison totaled eight tackles on the night, including four unassisted. Battling back from a 13-0 deficit in thrilling fashion in front of a crowd of 6,748, the Great Danes did not get on the board until 11:05 remaining in the fourth quarter. Holy Cross made the first mark with Connor Fitzgerald's 26-yard field goal with 2:06 on the clock in the opening stanza. Using nine plays to travel 76 yards, Fitzgerald connected again with a 23-yard kick through the uprights, giving the Crusaders a 6-0 advantage with 9:53 left in the second quarter. Forcing UAlbany to punt, Holy Cross took over with 2:23 to go in the first half. With time dwindling, the Crusaders took a 13-0 lead into the break, as quarterback Peter Pujals – the reigning Patriot League Rookie of the Year -- connected a 1-yard pass to Jake Wieczorek with eight seconds remaining. However, those would be Holy Cross' final points of the game, as the Great Dane defense stifled the Crusaders the rest of the way. While neither team could get anything going offensively in the third quarter, including a missed field goal on both sides, UAlbany broke its silence early in the fourth. Using eight plays to cover 62 yards, including three consecutive rushes by Osbourne, UAlbany moved into the red-zone at the 12-yard line. Rolling to his right on third-and-two, Parker swallowed Fiacchi's pass in the front of the end zone, making the score, 13-7, after the extra point. With the opportunity to take a two-score lead with 6:12 remaining, Fitzgerald's 27-yard field goal attempt sailed wide left for Holy Cross, opening a window for the Great Danes. While the Danes had to punt with 4:34 to go, the UAlbany defense kept its composure in the waning minutes. "The only thing that was going through my head after the (first) touchdown was we've got one more to go, we've got one more to go," Parker said. "The defense has got to make a stop." They did. Looking to run out the clock, Holy Cross forced the Great Danes to burn three timeouts, as the Crusaders slowly made their way down the gridiron. However, the tide shifted violently with third-and-seven on UAlbany's 21-yardline, when Jordan sent running back Gabe Guild's helmet flying and Morrison scampered 79-yards with the fumble recovery. “My teammates came out of nowhere, made a big play when we needed it and the ball presented itself,” said Morrison. “I just took it and ran with it. We needed a big play, it just happened.” The UAlbany defense held on to the victory, breaking up Holy Cross' desperation laterals in the final seconds of the contest. For the Crusaders, Pujals threw for 323 yards, completing 23-of-42 passes. Wieczorek served as his top target, recording seven receptions for 149 yards, while Guild totaled 75 rushing yards on 23 carries. On paper, Holy Cross stood out, converting 12-of-24 third-down conversions, and racking up 440 yards of total offense compared to UAlbany’s 263. However, it came down to big plays, and that’s where UAlbany stood out. Up next, the Great Danes (1-0) travel to Central Connecticut State Saturday for a 6:00 p.m. non-conference contest.

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