ALBANY — Looking back, Roy Alexander knows he shouldn’t have slowed down to soak up the moment.
“I thought I was in the clear,” Alexander said of the final strides of a 67-yard touchdown reception that represented UAlbany’s lone touchdown in Saturday’s season-opening 28-6 loss to North Dakota State. “I got to the 10-yard line, and I started jogging it in. I looked at the scoreboard, I don’t know why.”
Alexander’s brief coast to the end zone nearly cost him and the Great Danes, as NDSU’s Courtney Eubanks flew in at the last moment to poke the ball out from behind, just as the UAlbany freshman wide receiver crossed the goal line.
Luckily for Alexander, the call stood after a lengthy video review, meaning that all he suffered was a little humility rather than the ignominy of a costly, game-changing fumble.
“I could’ve just ran through the end zone, like the coaches always say,” Alexander said. “Keep the ball high and tight.”
As for the touchdown itself, and much of Alexander’s performance in his first collegiate game, UAlbany head coach Greg Gattuso could sum that up in a couple words.
“Spectacular,” Gattuso said. “Electric.”
A 5-foot-11, 175-pound native of Fort Myers, Florida, Alexander hauled in four passes for a team-high 113 yards in Saturday’s game. Operating out of the slot with Tyler Oedekoven and Mike Gray on the outside, Alexander gave NDSU’s defense fits in the middle of the field.
His 67-yard touchdown, which came in the final 15 seconds of Saturday’s first half, saw Alexander haul in a quick slant from quarterback Undercuffler and leave the Bison secondary in the dust.
Until his last-second deceleration, that is.
For a UAlbany passing offense that struggled with inconsistency during the team’s 1-3 campaign this past spring, Alexander provided an immediate jolt with his playmaking speed. The 67-yard touchdown was 25 yards longer than any play the Great Danes produced from scrimmage during the spring, and would have stood as the team’s longest passing play during its record-smashing 2019 season.
For Alexander — who nearly broke a kickoff return for a score immediately before his touchdown catch — the debut was a satisfying one after he spent the spring season on the scout team while the UAlbany receiving corps was devastated by injuries.
“It hit me pretty bad,” Alexander said. “Seeing everybody get hurt in practice, and me being on scout [team], I knew I could improve and help, because I was helping the defense get better.”
“It just felt good being back out there on the field with my brothers, coming out and playing hard, trying to get a ‘W,’” he added.
To be able to give the Great Danes a pre-halftime jolt, just moments after the team went down 14-0, was just the icing on the cake.
“We needed a spark,” he said. “I just tried to make it happen.”
As productive as Alexander was as a receiver and kick returner, it was in the little details that the freshman impressed Gattuso the most.
Specifically, Gattuso singled out Alexander’s willingness to contribute as a blocker.
“Sometimes, those slot receivers might not be the biggest guys,” Gattuso said. “We’ve had slot receivers here that wouldn’t block anybody. He goes in and battles.”
As with many of the Great Danes who saw their first extended action against North Dakota State, Gattuso sees a bright future for Alexander with a sharp upward trajectory.
“Roy,” Gattuso said, “will be better five games from now than he is now.”