University at Albany’s road warriors finally get the opportunity to play at home today when the Great Danes host Central Connecticut State University in a Northeast Conference game at University Field at 1 p.m.
The 1-0, 2-3 Great Danes opened the season with five consecutive road games, and have played eight straight on the road over the last two seasons. CCSU is also 1-0 in the NEC and 4-1 overall.
Four of UAlbany’s first five games were against teams ranked among the top 25 in preseason polls.
“We played 14 great quarters in a row at one point, but all these road games against top opponents slowly squeezed all the air out of us,” said Albany head coach Bob Ford. “It will be a collective sigh of relief to know that we’re not going to be a colossal underdog this time. But there is another side to it. The kids enjoyed those challenges, and loved the opportunity to play all those good teams. There might be a collective letdown in this game. ”
Ford said finally playing a home game should make his team feel more comfortable.
“We were wearing out. There’s no question about that,” he said. “When we came back from that eight-hour bus ride from Pittsburgh, it got me thinking about just how tough these road trips can be. I didn’t sleep at all on that trip, and we pulled in at about 1:30 a.m. At my age, it’s kind of tough, especially when you have to get up and get back into the office by 8 or 9 the next morning.”
But Ford admitted that the home-field advantage isn’t that big of a deal for a program that draws only a few thousand people to its games.
“I’m kind of happy to be home, but it doesn’t really matter where we play. We could play on I-90 or a parking lot. There’s not a great difference. Unless you have a crowd like Delaware or Montana, you don’t get that much of an advantage. Where we play, the crowds are not huge.”
Albany, which will play a home game for the first time since Nov. 3,
2007, will look to junior tailback David McCarty (LaSalle) to lead the way on offense. He ran for 230 yards against Duquesne and is averaging 142.0 yards per game, sixth-best in the country.
“I was thinking about this recently. The coaches were asking me who I thought was our best running back of all time,” Ford said. “McCarty is so much like Gary Jones. Neither one was awesomely fast, but I can’t remember either kid getting caught from behind. The one difference is that David doesn’t put the ball on the ground as much as Gary did.”
The Danes are also getting solid play at quarterback. Vinny Esposito became the first UA quarterback to account for four touchdowns in a game when he threw for three scores and ran one in himself against Duquesne.
“We’re still not where we need to be in the passing department, but we’re getting better,” said Ford.
CCSU’s Blue Devils employ two quarterbacks, but their main focus is running the ball. They are ranked ninth nationally in rushing at 238 yards per game. Mallory James is fifth in the country in rushing at 147.8 yards per game and has run for at least 100 yards four times this season.
“They’re a great running team, and our first goal defensively is always to take the run away,” said Ford. “Both of their quarterbacks are decent runners and throwers. They are very dangerous on offense. Defensively, they’ve been a little undisciplined, but they have a new defensive coordinator and they are playing better recently at that end.”
Ford said the Blue Devils will be extremely motivated for this game.
“Last year, we went down there with the [NEC] championship on the line, and we won, 49-14. Their coaching staff painted the score in the locker room. They will breathe smoke, and will be ready to play this game. We need to play the same way.
“As usual, the key for us on defense will be not to give up the big play. Plus, we’ve been very good about protecting the football. We’ve only lost one fumble so far, which is amazing.”
The 0-2, 2-3 Dutchmen will try to snap a three-game losing streak when they visit the Hobart Statesmen at Boswell Field in Geneva.
After posting a 24-14 win at Springfield, the Dutchmen have lost to Muhlenberg (31-14), Rochester (29-25) and Worcester Polytechnic Institute (19-16). Union had a chance to beat both Rochester and WPI in the last minute of play, but came up short.
Union leads the all-time series with Hobart, 48-41-2. The teams have been playing each other since 1896.
Sophomore running back Chris Coney is 21st among Division III rushers with an average of 125 yards per game. He has six touchdowns.
Freshman quarterback Andrew Connolly has completed 36 of 79 passes for 511 yards. His favorite
receiver is tight end Josh McKelligan who has 17 receptions for 199 yards. Converted quarterback Jared Gourrier has turned into the team’s top big-play receiver with 15 catches for 197 yards and two scores.
Kevin Rautenstrauch, John
Peters and Joe Catalano pace the Union defense in tackles with 42, 35 and 32, respectively.
Hobart (2-0, 4-0) is once again squarely in the Liberty League title chase. The Statesmen count on tailback Anthony Hobaica (311 yards, three touchdowns) and quarterback Rich Doyle (63-for-174, 739 yards, seven TD passes) to spearhead the offense.
HVCC AT HOME
The 2-3 Vikings host 3-2 Nassau Community College in a key Northeast Conference game.
HVCC leads the conference in total offense. Quarterback Andreas Hudson has completed 76 of 135 passes for 1,258 yards and seven scores.
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