SYRACUSE — The start to the fall 2021 football season hasn’t been kind to UAlbany, but the Great Danes are getting a break at what might be the perfect time.
The start to UAlbany’s season has featured a brutal schedule, with trips to FCS powerhouse North Dakota State and ACC program Syracuse sandwiching the home opener against Rhode Island. The next three games — all CAA contests — won’t get much easier, including showdowns with top-15 programs Delaware and Villanova, but UAlbany (0-1 CAA, 0-3 overall) can at least be thankful it gets a bye this week to reset after a difficult September.
“This bye week coming up is definitely going to help us out,” UAlbany quarterback Jeff Undercuffler said following Saturday’s 62-24 loss to Syracuse at the Carrier Dome. “[It’ll help] with any kind of injuries, getting our heads right. All that kind of stuff.”
Some rest and a reset could be exactly what the doctor ordered for a UAlbany team that’s now lost six straight games heading back to its injury-plagued spring season.
Saturday against Syracuse, a UAlbany defense that had been largely solid through its first two games of the season was ripped apart for 623 yards by an Orange squad that had scored just one touchdown in its loss to Rutgers a week prior.
UAlbany was repeatedly hit for big plays by Syracuse running back Sean Tucker, who became the first Syracuse player ever to have both 100 rushing yards and 100 receiving yards in the same game, eventually totaling 253 yards of total offense and scoring five touchdowns. In total, UAlbany allowed five plays of 44 yards or longer, as well as another 69-yard touchdown that was called back by one of Syracuse’s 16 penalties.
Meanwhile, a UAlbany offense that sputtered throughout its first two games continued to struggle. The Great Danes managed just four first downs through the first three quarters, with the offense’s only major contribution until late in the game coming on a 32-yard pass from Undercuffler to Jackson Parker that set up a 37-yard Dylan Burns field goal in the first quarter.
UAlbany’s only touchdown until the latter part of the fourth quarter came on a Christian Lewis interception return, though the Great Danes did get a pair of touchdown drives engineered by backup quarterback Joey Carino in mop-up duty.
“Joey does a lot of good things,” UAlbany head coach Greg Gattuso said. “We’ve been starting to incorporate him more into what we’re doing. That was our second unit, but he did a lot of good things. We got a lot of young people a lot of snaps.”
No matter who was under center for the Great Danes, the team continues to work through problems on the offensive line. Saturday was the third straight game in which star running back Karl Mofor was extremely limited — 10 yards on just four carries, though he was given plenty of rest as he didn’t see the field once Syracuse blew the game open — and UAlbany’s quarterbacks continue to face heavy pressure.
Undercuffler and Carino were sacked a combined eight times Saturday — though Gattuso did credit a strong Syracuse defensive front — and the UAlbany offensive line has given up 17 sacks through three games.
“We just couldn’t keep up there,” Gattuso said. “It really affected us having any chance to put up a fight.”
With an extra week to prepare, there’s time to put the pieces back together and move forward heading into the meat of the Great Danes’ CAA schedule.
“At the end of the day, we’ve just got to worry about us,” Undercuffler said. “It’s not one guy in particular or one position group in particular, either. Offensively, collectively as one unit, we’ve got to play better football.”