With the release of his team’s 2022 schedule, and with spring practice a little more than a week away, UAlbany football coach Greg Gattuso is more than ready to finally put 2021 in the rear-view mirror.
Gattuso’s Great Danes played two different seasons during 2021, and neither one worked out well. There was an abbreviated spring campaign following the postponement of the fall 2020 season due to the coronavirus pandemic that saw UAlbany go 1-3 before opting out of its final two games due to injuries, then a fall season where the Great Danes lost their first eight games and finished a disappointing 2-9
“You know, 2021 was a tough year, in many ways obviously, for people and for our football program,” Gattuso said Tuesday during a teleconference with reporters. “The schedule was just not great. Even in the spring, we had to open with two away games, a night game. It was just all of 2021. I’m glad it’s over.”
The Great Danes’ 2022 schedule, announced in full Tuesday when the Colonial Athletic Association released its full slate for the upcoming season, seems on the surface to be much more amenable for UAlbany than its unforgiving 2021.
While it opens with what should be the toughest test a Gattuso-led UAlbany team has ever faced — a Sept. 3 game at Baylor in Waco, Texas that should mark UAlbany’s first-ever game against a ranked Football Bowl Subdivision opponent — things settle in from there.
UAlbany’s 11-game schedule alternates from week-to-week between road and home games — six away games, five home dates at Tom & Mary Casey Stadium — without ever having back-to-back home or road games.
That’s a drastic contrast from 2021, in which UAlbany played just one home game before mid-October.
“This schedule is definitely a better schedule,” Gattuso said. “It’s what you expect a football season is. There’s tough games, obviously, but there’s nothing that’s going to stretch us physically by traveling too much, or back-to-back road games.”
After starting the season with an intimidating opponent in Baylor — “Watching the tape is like watching a horror movie for a football coach,” Gattuso said of scouting the Bears — UAlbany returns home Sept. 10 for a crucial early-season game against perennial CAA rival New Hampshire.
“It’s tough when you’re coming back from Baylor in Waco, Texas to get ready for an in-conference rivalry game,” Gattuso said. “The message to the kids hasn’t changed. We’re really pushing them that we’ve got to be our best selves to win each week.”
After New Hampshire, UAlbany closes out September with non-conference games at Fordham and home against Central Connecticut State, the latter a rematch of UAlbany’s first-ever NCAA FCS playoff win from 2019.
Then comes a bye in Week 5, which Gattuso said is an ideal time to get set for a seven-game run of CAA games to close the season.
“That early off week is really good for us,” he said. “I think that was the one thing that really jumped out to me. Sometimes [the bye] is too late in the year to help you, sometimes it’s too early in the year and you don’t need them. That one’s just about right for us.”
Coming off the bye, UAlbany faces the two newest CAA members, Hampton and Monmouth, in back-to-back weeks before the second half of the schedule sees the Great Danes visit Villanova, host Stony Brook, visit Elon, host Maine and visit Rhode Island.
UAlbany won’t face three of the CAA teams it lost to last season with Delaware, Towson and William & Mary all off the Great Danes’ schedule in 2022.
With the schedule released, focus now turns to spring practice, which is set to open April 1. It will be the program’s first normal offseason training schedule since before the 2019 season, something that should be extremely helpful for a team that’s seen massive turnover since the end of the 2021 season.
A number of key Great Danes — quarterback Jeff Undercuffler, star defensive end Jared Verse, linebacker Danny Damico and defensive tackle Mazon Walker chief among them — exited the program via the NCAA’s transfer portal, while workhorse running back Karl Mofor graduated and opted to begin a pro football career.
The Great Danes added several transfers of their own, with quarterback Matt Valecce (Colorado State) expected to push Joey Carino for the starting job and running back Todd Sibley Jr. (Pittsburgh) as a potential Mofor replacement.
“There’s a lot of real energy on the field,” Gattuso said. “I think this new leadership group is filled with young guys who are just kind of chomping at the bit to get out there and be the face of the program. I think they’re holding each other accountable, which is one of the biggest signs of a great football team to me.
“This next week-and-a-half’s going to be torture waiting to get on the field, but we’re excited about it.”
UALBANY 2022 SCHEDULE
Sept. 3: at Baylor
Sept. 10: vs. New Hampshire
Sept. 17: at Fordham
Sept. 24: vs. Central Connecticut State
Oct. 8: at Monmouth
Oct. 15: vs. Hampton
Oct. 22: at Villanova
Oct. 29: vs. Stony Brook
Nov. 5: at Elon
Nov. 12: vs. Maine
Nov. 19: at Rhode Island