UAlbany football’s first two games back after its 15-month hiatus from the field both necessitated long road trips to the northernmost reaches of the CAA.
Saturday’s 1 p.m. game against Rhode Island not only represents UAlbany’s first home game at Tom & Mary Casey Stadium, but also a refreshing return to normalcy.
“Being able to just wake up in your bed and come to the stadium,” Great Danes senior running back Karl Mofor said Wednesday during a teleconference with reporters, “that’s definitely more comfortable for us.”
During its first two road trips to open the six-game spring season, UAlbany (1-1 CAA, 1-1 overall) was met with long bus rides — about four hours to New Hampshire, seven hours to Maine — and improvised changing facilities due to coronavirus pandemic-related regulations.
UAlbany’s two-game homestand offers a refreshing chance for the team to get back to a routine.
“We’re happy to be back here for a couple weeks,” UAlbany head coach Greg Gattuso said. “It’s always hard, in our conference, traveling, and these conditions have been difficult. The kids have been great; they’ve been resilient. They’ve done everything we’ve asked them to do. That’s made it a little easier, to be sure.”
“Playing at home’s going to feel good,” redshirt senior offensive guard Kassy Desir said. “It’s been a while — 16 months, actually — so it’s going to be a good one, playing at home and not having to go on a bus and have a long bus ride, finally.”
The last time the Great Danes played a game on their home turf at Casey Stadium provided one of the high-water marks in program history, a 47-21 win over Central Connecticut State in the first-round of the FCS playoffs that gave the Great Danes their first postseason win since moving up to that level in 1999.
For redshirt junior defensive lineman Mazon Walker, being back at Bob Ford Field is a chance to make some new memories.
“A day hasn’t passed where I really haven’t thought about one of our more important games at ‘The Bob,’” Walker said. “It’s definitely nice to know we’re about to play there this weekend. It just adds fuel to the fire.”
Fans will not be permitted to attend the game, but Mofor said the energy of being on home turf is noticeably different than heading on the road.
“A home game, whether it’s with fans or no fans, is always good,” said the senior, who is coming off a 155-yard rushing performance in last Saturday’s 38-34 loss to Maine.
The clash with Rhode Island (1-0, 1-0) will prove crucial to how UAlbany heads into the second half of its schedule. After a bye during Week 1 of CAA play, Rhode Island debuted with a 40-37 overtime win against then-No. 6 Villanova with an offense led by a pair of transfers — quarterback Kasim Hill (Maryland) and running back Kevin Brown (UMass) — rolling up 494 total yards.
“The CAA’s tough,” Desir said. “We know, week in and week out, it’s going to be a battle and anything can happen. We’re going in knowing that our opponent is a good opponent. It’s a normal situation for us.”