FARGO, N.D. — Roy Alexander sent UAlbany into halftime with a jolt, an electric 67-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown that — after standing up to a lengthy video review — pulled the Great Danes within one score of North Dakota State.
One play into the second half, any momentum in the opener of UAlbany’s football season was gone.
On the first play of scrimmage in the third quarter, NDSU’s Dominic Gonnella shrugged off a tackle in the backfield from UAlbany’s Jackson Ambush, bounced off the right side and raced down the sideline for a 75-yard touchdown.
All of a sudden, it was a two-score game again, and the Great Danes never got back on track, falling 28-6 to the No. 4 Bison on Saturday at the Fargodome.
“It was their only big play in the run game, but it came at a really critical time,” UAlbany coach Greg Gattuso said during a postgame teleconference with reporters. “I think it took the wind out of us a little bit.”
“It changed the tone of the game a lot,” UAlbany defensive end Jared Verse said.
Gonnella ran for 135 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries, spearheading a Bison rushing attack that piled up 259 yards while averaging 6 yards per attempt.
Meanwhile, UAlbany’s rushing attack was completely stifled, with preseason All-American running back Karl Mofor limited to 21 yards on 11 carries. The Great Danes finished with just 22 rushing yards on 19 carries, were 0 for 11 on third down and turned the ball over three times — which led directly to 21 NDSU points.
“Even if the offense may have made some mistakes here or there, 28 points is way too much [for the defense] to let up,” Verse said.
Despite the mistakes, UAlbany stayed within striking distance for most of the game. Alexander, a freshman from Fort Myers, Florida, provided a spark at the end of the first half when he took a pass up the seam from Jeff Undercuffler and raced 67 yards for the score.
The ball was knocked loose by NDSU’s Courtney Eubanks as Alexander crossed the goal line, but the play stood after a video review.
“It was nerve-wracking,” Alexander said. “I honestly felt like I got it in, but looking at the review it was really, really close.”
Undercuffler completed 16 of 27 passes for 183 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. After an efficient first half, the redshirt sophomore signal caller was under heavy pressure in the second half as the Bison dialed up their pass rush.
“We’ve got to handle our business,” Undercuffler said, “and limit as many mistakes as possible. . . . As a team, we’ve just got to be better. It’s as simple as that.”
UAlbany is set to play its first home game in front of fans at Tom & Mary Casey in nearly two years next Saturday night when the Great Danes open their CAA slate against Rhode Island.
UAlbany 0 6 0 0 — 6
NDSU 7 7 7 7 — 28
NDSU — Gonnella 3 run (Reinholz kick)
NDSU — Babicz 18 pass from Patterson (Reinholz kick)
UA — Alexander 67 pass from Undercuffler (pass failed)
NDSU — Gonnella 75 run (Reinholz kick)
NDSU — Luepke 7 run (Reinholz kick)