Head coach Greg Gattuso earlier this week acknowledged that, for the UAlbany football season to avoid a potential downward spiral throughout October and November, a win Saturday at William & Mary is essentially a necessity.
“I think that we have to win this football game, and it’s for our own mental health,” Gattuso said Monday during the CAA’s weekly coaches’ teleconference. “No one, at the end of the day, cares about the issues you’ve dealt with or the schedule you’ve played. It’s about winning football games. These guys are competing and playing hard, but we’ve got to go out and find a way to get a win.”
It’s been a disappointing, frustrating start for a UAlbany (0-2 CAA, 0-4 overall) team that’s now lost seven consecutive games dating back to its spring season. The Great Danes’ offense has struggled to find its footing in any of the team’s four fall games, a fact made all the more disappointing by the performances authored by the UAlbany defense in its two CAA games.
In Week 2 against Rhode Island, UAlbany allowed just one offensive touchdown, but the offense sputtered following a bright start and multiple special teams calamities cost the Great Danes in a 16-14 loss.
Then, last Saturday at Delaware, UAlbany largely held the ninth-ranked Blue Hens’ offense in check, but struggles in the red zone and on third down resulted in Gattuso’s team finding the end zone just once in a 20-15 setback.
“We’re not making key plays in critical situations to get us over the hump in these games,” Gattuso said. “We’ve played three ranked teams [Delaware, Rhode Island and North Dakota State], with two of them in the top-10, and an ACC team [Syracuse], and we could easily have a lot better record right now.”
Through four games, the offensive numbers aren’t pretty.
UAlbany ranks 108th out of 123 FCS teams in scoring offense at 15.2 points per game, its 23.6% third-down conversion rate is 115th nationally, and its 226.8 yards per game is sixth-worst in the nation.
There were a few bright signs against Delaware — running back Karl Mofor had his most efficient performance of the season with 69 rushing yards on 16 carries, and wide receiver Tyler Oedekoven made his biggest play of the season with his 75-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter — but quarterback Jeff Undercuffler has been set back by both heavy pressure allowed by the offensive line and a rash of dropped passes from his receiving corps throughout the season.
“At the end of the day,” Gattuso said, “we’ve got to get off the field on third down [on defense], and we’ve got start getting some first downs on offense and quit kicking field goals so much to win games.”
UAlbany could be without a key player on its defense against William & Mary, as Gattuso listed safety Tyler Carswell as “very questionable” for the game after the veteran defensive back exited the Delaware game.
The Great Danes’ 3:30 p.m. game at Walter J. Zable Stadium in Williamsburg, Virginia, wraps up a three-game road trip for a team that’s played on home turf in Albany just once in the first month-plus of the season. William & Mary (1-0, 3-1) has won three straight games since a season-opening loss to Virginia, and is coming off a bye week after pulling out a 34-31 win over Elon in its CAA opener on Sept. 25.
For UAlbany, Saturday’s game provides an opportunity to get some momentum back before heading home next week to face a fourth-ranked opponent, Villanova, on Oct. 16.
“Our guys obviously expect to be on the other side of these scores,” Gattuso said. “It’s been a challenge, but they’ve been good. They’re playing really hard and practicing better. The last couple weeks have been the best weeks of practice we’ve had for a long time. I do think some of this takes time to get back in a groove, and we’re starting to do that.”