ALBANY — A pair of field goal attempts had already gone badly wrong for the UAlbany football team Saturday night against Rhode Island, but as the clock ticked into the final minute, the 8,144 fans on hand at Tom & Mary Casey Stadium were begging for the third time to be the charm.
The Great Danes never even got the chance.
Facing a fourth-and-3 from the 50-yard line to keep the game alive, UAlbany quarterback Jeff Undercuffler was sacked by Rhode Island linebacker Andre Blackett with 27 seconds remaining, giving the ball back to the Rams and sending UAlbany to a 16-14 loss in the program’s first game in front of home fans since Nov. 30, 2019.
“It’s definitely frustrating,” UAlbany linebacker Danny Damico said. “There’s nobody to blame here. They scored more points than we did, so we obviously didn’t do a good enough job. Both sides of the ball have a lot of sharpening up to do.”
The loss dropped UAlbany to 0-2 overall and 0-1 in CAA play, and the schedule continues to look brutal moving forward. The Great Danes are now faced with three-straight road games, including next Saturday’s trip to Syracuse, before finally coming back home Oct. 16 against Villanova.
For a UAlbany team that botched two field goal snaps, surrendered five sacks and at one point went six straight possessions in the first half without gaining a first down, there’s plenty to fix.
“You can’t win in this league playing the type of football we played,” UAlbany head coach Greg Gattuso said. “It’s a lack of discipline. We’ve got to be better. It was a real shame tonight, not getting it.”
In a game decided by two points, the field goal issues pack a particular wallop.
Twice — once in the final seconds of the first half, once with 5:24 left in the fourth — UAlbany sent kicker Dylan Burns onto the field for 46-yard attempts. He never got a chance to attempt either kick, as holder Braeden Zenelovic mishandled both snaps from Tristan Sokach-Minnick.
“Nothing wrong [with the snaps],” Gattuso said. “The holder dropped both of them.”
UAlbany’s defense only allowed one touchdown — a 1-yard run by Justice Antrum on Rhode Island’s first possession of the game, which was set up by a kickoff return to midfield — but the Rams (1-0 CAA, 2-0 overall) added a 50-yard punt return for a score by Coby Tippett in the second quarter, and scored the deciding points on a 22-yard field goal by C.J. Carrick with 13:25 left in the fourth quarter.
UAlbany’s offense turned in a surgical drive on its opening series, moving 92 yards in eight plays — including a 51-yard hookup from Undercuffler to Mike Gray on the second play from scrimmage — and scoring on a 7-yard strike from Undercuffler to Gray.
Following that, the Great Danes went into an offensive slumber, going 3-and-out on six straight possessions before finally getting a first down via penalty in the final 30 seconds of the first half, which eventually led to the first botched field goal attempt of the evening.
“We kind of got unfocused and off track of what our game plan was trying to do,” UAlbany running back Karl Mofor said. “We just weren’t executing like we wanted to. All 11 weren’t playing together.”
Mofor, a preseason All-American held to 44 rushing yards over the season’s first six quarters, finally got untracked in the second half, scoring from two yards out in the third quarter to give UAlbany a 14-13 lead.
Mofor ended the night with 75 rushing yards on 26 carries, while Undercuffler finished 19 of 36 passing for 166 yards and a touchdown.
Undercuffler did lead the Great Danes on a last-ditch drive, converting a third-and-20 to Roy Alexander and a fourth-and-5 to Tyler Oedekoven, but after a targeting penalty on Rhode Island’s Coby Tippett that would’ve moved the ball to the Rams’ 34 was overturned after video review, Mofor was stuffed for a loss on third-and-2 before Blackett’s blitz netted the game-sealing sack and ended a fourth-straight effort, dating back to the spring season, where UAlbany has failed to exceed 14 points.
“We have the pieces to be better than we are right now,” Gattuso said. “We’ve got to change something to get back to who we used to be on offense. Because we’re struggling, obviously, on offense.”
URI 6 7 0 3 — 16
UAlbany 7 0 7 0 — 14
UA — Gray 7 pass from Undercuffler (Burns kick)
URI — Antrum 1 run (kick failed)
URI — Tippett 50 punt return (Carrick kick)
UA — Mofor 2 run (Burns kick)
URI — Carrick 22 field goal