ALBANY — When asked about the state of his team’s offense following Saturday night’s 16-14 loss to Rhode Island at Tom & Mary Casey Stadium, all UAlbany head football coach Greg Gattuso could do was scratch his head.
“I don’t know the answer right now,” Gattuso said, “but I will as we move forward. We’re not scoring enough points to win games.”
That much is evident.
Dating back to its injury-shortened spring season, UAlbany has failed to exceed 14 points in four consecutive games, putting up just 37 total points during that stretch.
There were signs Saturday that the Great Danes were beginning to escape those doldrums — the team’s opening drive was a sharp eight-play, 92-yard touchdown march, and running back Karl Mofor finally found some room to operate in the second half after being stonewalled through the season’s first six quarters — but ultimately, the team remained bogged down.
After that surgical opening drive, UAlbany (0-1 CAA, 0-2 overall) went three-and-out on its next six possessions, with those 18 plays resulting in a net loss of four yards.
Even when the Great Danes began to get things going in the fourth quarter, they were unable to finish drives in front of the 8,144 fans that made up the sixth-largest football crowd in Casey Stadium’s history.
A 17-play march was halted by a failed third-down conversion at the Rhode Island 29, resulting in the team’s second mishandled snap of the night on a field goal attempt. On UAlbany’s final drive, Jeff Undercuffler converted both a third-and-20 and a fourth-and-5, but the redshirt sophomore quarterback was sacked three times on the drive — and five times overall on the night — including the game-sealing fourth-down play that saw Rhode Island linebacker Andre Blackett get into the backfield cleanly on a blitz and swarm Undercuffler.
“We tried to cut [block] someone, and you shouldn’t cut a guy in the hole like that,” Gattuso said. “We tried to cut him, he jumped over him and there’s nothing Jeff could do about it. We’ve got guys wide open, but we’ve got to protect.”
Through two games this fall, UAlbany’s offense is averaging just 210 yards per outing. Mofor got going in the second half Saturday and finished with 75 yards on 26 carries, but the preseason All-American has been limited to 96 yards on 37 carries overall for an average of 2.6 yards per attempt.
“We’ve just got to fix our mistakes and tune it up for next week,” Mofor said.
As the UAlbany offense struggles, it’s put stress on a defense that has performed admirably under pressure. The Great Danes didn’t allow an offensive touchdown Saturday following Rhode Island’s opening drive — which was set up by a kickoff return to midfield — with the Rams’ only other touchdown coming on a Coby Tippett punt return.
“We gave up two touchdowns related to kick returns, and the defense played their guts out after that,” Gattuso said. “We’ve got to be better on offense.”
Special teams proved to be maddeningly inconsistent. There were positives — Sean Ralls, who struggled in the spring, averaged 41.3 yards on seven punts with two kicks downed inside the 20 — but they were offset by a few serious negatives.
In addition to the two big returns that gifted Rhode Island 13 points, the biggest disasters came from the field goal unit, where holder and backup quarterback Braeden Zenelovic twice dropped snaps from Tristan Sokach-Minnick, denying Dylan Burns the chance at a pair of 46-yard field goal attempts.
“Special teams were kind of up-and-down,” Gattuso said. “Some really good things, and some really bad things. I have no idea what’s going on with some of that. It needs to get fixed.”