Saturday, November 15, 2008

UAlbany Wins Second Consecutive Northeast Conference Football Championship in 30-11 Triumph

Courtesy: UAlbany Sports Information

Albany, N.Y. – David McCarty rushed for 104 yards and one touchdown and Tim Bush caught a pair of scoring passes, as UAlbany won its second consecutive Northeast Conference championship with a 30-11 victory over Wagner on Saturday, Nov. 15 at University Field. UAlbany (8-3, NEC 7-0) became the second team in league history to go undefeated against conference opposition in back-to-back seasons.

The Great Danes, who have earned a Gridiron Class berth against the Pioneer League champion on Dec. 6, led 9-5 in the second quarter, but then ripped off 21 unanswered points to take control. In a penalty-filled game, UAlbany executed an 11-play, 91-yard scoring drive late in the period. Quarterback Vinny Esposito hit fullback Chris Kenneally with a 30-yard pass to move across midfield, before delivering a pair throws to Bush to get into the red zone. McCarty then busted through the left side and dragged a couple of tacklers across the goal line on an 11-yard run with 1:16 left before halftime. The junior tailback set the program’s career and single-season rushing records on the touchdown blast.

The two teams traded punts in the early part of the third quarter until Wagner (3-8, NEC 1-6) advanced near midfield. But quarterback Matt Abbey was picked off in the left flat by cornerback Daniel Avery and the redshirt freshman raced up the sideline on a 56-yard touchdown return. The Great Danes pushed out to a 30-5 lead with 12:49 remaining in the final period. Esposito, who completed 15 of 25 passes for 197 yards, hooked up with Bush on a 27-yard touchdown strike. Bush hauled in a career-high 10 passes for 141 yards in the contest.

“It is hard to beat anybody,” said UAlbany coach Bob Ford, whose team won its fourth NEC title and third conference crown outright. “We have all seen favorites get upset and we have all seen good football teams lose. It is hard to beat anybody, it is hard to go undefeated, and it is hard to go undefeated two years in a row when you are picked to win the championship.”

In the second quarter, the Great Danes snapped a 3-3 deadlock with a short drive that was set up by Justin Gannon’s 32-yard kickoff return. After two runs by McCarty, Esposito connected with Bush on a 35-yard post pattern for a touchdown. But the extra point attempt was blocked by linebacker Jason Haskins and defensive back Jorel Joseph returned the loose ball 82 yards for a defensive two-point conversion.

The Seahawks, who were held to 154 total yards, scored with three minutes remaining in the final stanza when reserve quarterback Tyler Newberry tossed a 2-yard pass to tight end Morgan Mizell. Wagner’s three quarterbacks combined for 11-of-37 through the air and were intercepted three times.

“When we (the seniors) first came in we realized how much work it takes (to win a championship), said defensive tackle Tom Pandolf, who had four tackles and helped limit Wagner to 85 net yards on the ground. “You wouldn’t want to go out any other way. We just tried to treat each game like a championship.”

UAlbany’s defense kept its fifth consecutive opponent under 300 total yards in a sparkling effort. Freshman tailback Prince Young managed just 65 rushing yards on 17 carries. Linebacker Chris Simpson and defensive end Eddie Delaney each had a team-high seven tackles, as their squad tied the program’s Division I FCS record for single-season wins and extended its winning streak to seven in a row, tying another FCS mark.

McCarty shattered five school records on the day, including the single-season mark for 100-yard rushing games with 10 and the career standard with 18. ““It feels great,” he said. “This is something to be proud of, but we still have another game to play. It shows what kind of offensive line you have. I tell them every day that they do a heckuva of a job. All of the guys on the perimeter do a great job. I praise the whole offense.”

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