UAlbany football comes up short in OT against Rhode Island in home opener

UAlbany football's Mike Gray is wrapped up by Rhode Island's Henry Yianakopolos and Coby Tippett during Saturday's game at Tom & Mary Casey Stadium in Albany.

UAlbany football's Mike Gray is wrapped up by Rhode Island's Henry Yianakopolos and Coby Tippett during Saturday's game at Tom & Mary Casey Stadium in Albany.

ALBANY — For 60 minutes Saturday afternoon at Tom & Mary Casey Stadium, the UAlbany football defense played a nearly flawless game, shutting down Rhode Island’s offense at almost every turn.

But the UAlbany offense was unable to convert any of those stops into a decisive score in regulation, and once the game headed into overtime, it took just one snap for the Great Danes to finally crack.

Rhode Island quarterback Kasim Hill raced 25 yards to the end zone on the first play of the extra session, and a UAlbany offense that struggled all afternoon was unable to answer on its possession, sending the Great Danes to a 17-10 CAA loss in the team’s first home game since Nov. 30, 2019.

UAlbany bottled up Hill throughout the day, but the Maryland transfer caught the Great Danes’ defense off-balance on his touchdown run and wasn’t touched until he was deep into the secondary.

“People were trying to do too much, I guess,” UAlbany redshirt junior defensive lineman Mazon Walker said during a post-game teleconference. “It’s not like somebody wanted to miss the play. It was just something that somebody didn’t fill.”

UAlbany’s four-play overtime possession was a microcosm of the team’s day on offense overall. 

UAlbany (1-2 CAA, 1-2 overall) head coach Greg Gattuso said he’d already decided to go for a two-point conversion and the win if his team scored in overtime, but the drive fizzled as Karl Mofor was stuffed for a 1-yard loss on first down, then short passes to Mohamed Jabbie and Mofor put UAlbany into a fourth-and-5, where quarterback Jeff Undercuffler’s pass in the direction of wide receiver Mike Gray fell incomplete and sealed the Great Danes’ second straight one-possession loss.

“I just felt we were the better team,” Gattuso said. “We couldn’t execute and get ourselves a chance.”

It was a rough day all around for Undercuffler and the UAlbany offense. The redshirt sophomore quarterback finished the day 25 of 42 for 217 yards and a touchdown, but threw three interceptions — all of which came in Rhode Island territory.

Undercuffler was picked off on back-to-back possessions late in the second quarter — first on a deflected pass, then on a shot to the end zone in the closing seconds of the half when UAlbany was driving for a potential field goal to tie the game at 10-10 — then threw another interception late in regulation when trying to get the Great Danes in range for a field goal attempt after Danny Damico’s interception got UAlbany the ball with 35 seconds left.

“I think he really struggled,” Gattuso said of Undercuffler’s performance. “We had guys open in critical situations, we didn’t get them the ball. . . . This certainly isn’t just on Jeff’s shoulders. That’s a tough loss.”

Reporters were initially told that Undercuffler would be made available during the post-game teleconference, but were later informed that the quarterback would not be made available to speak.

The passing game struggled as UAlbany was severely hampered by injuries in the receiving corps. The team’s leading receiver, redshirt sophomore Tyler Oedekoven, missed the game with what Gattuso called an injury he picked up midweek, while graduate student Mekhi Stevenson missed his second straight game. 

Only three wide receivers — Gray, Jabbie and freshman Jackson Parker — saw the field for UAlbany on Saturday.

“The receiving corps is really, really banged up and missing people,” Gattuso said. “If we can get healthy at that position, it’ll certainly help us.”

Just as in UAlbany’s 38-34 loss to Maine a week prior, Gattuso left the Rhode Island game frustrated at the points the Great Danes gifted to their opponent. Late in the first quarter, Undercuffler was sacked in the end zone for a safety that pulled Rhode Island within 7-2, and after the Rams scored the go-ahead touchdown in the second quarter, the Great Danes allowed a two-point conversion on a reverse to Matt Pires despite UAlbany having, in Gattuso’s words, “a perfect defense called for what they ran.”

Throw in the turnovers in Rhode Island territory, and it was a perfect recipe for defeat.

“Two points, four points, a field goal, it’s a seven-point difference,” Gattuso said. “That game probably would have never even went to overtime if we’d played better overall on both sides of the aisle.”

Down 10-7 at the half, UAlbany tied the game on Dylan Burns’ 35-yard field goal with 2:20 left in the third quarter, but the game was a stalemate through the remainder of regulation.

In overtime, one crack finally appeared in a UAlbany defense that limited Rhode Island to 241 yards and piled up six sacks.

That was enough for another frustrating loss that dropped UAlbany below .500 and sends the team reeling into the back half of its schedule, which starts this coming Saturday at home against archrival Stony Brook.

“Even though we lost games that we shouldn’t have,” Walker said, “there’s still another one. There’s still more next week.

“All we can do is put our best foot forward.”

Categories: College Sports, Sports

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