All the struggles the University at Albany football team has endured in its first season in the Colonial Athletic Association haven’t stripped veteran head coach Bob Ford of his sense of humor.
Ford, who will retire at the end of this season — his 44th — will be honored with a bobblehead promotion when the Great Danes host nationally ranked Maine today at 3:30 p.m. at Bob Ford Field.
The first 500 fans will receive a novelty of the legendary coach.
“There are some sick puppies out there,” said Ford with a chuckle. “I don’t know who came up with this idea. They asked me to pose for a picture earlier this year, and originally, they didn’t tell me what it was for. When I found out, my reaction was, ‘Are you kidding? Mariano Rivera with a bobblehead, OK. David Ortiz with a bobblehead, OK. A jockey up at Saratoga with a bobblehead, OK. But Bob Ford with a bobblehead? I don’t know about that one.’ ”
At least Ford can laugh about his likeness on a bobblehead because what has become an unexpected fall from grace for his team is not very funny. He knew the proud Great Danes’ program would have trouble in the new conference, but he had no idea just how much — 1-8 overall and 0-5 in the CAA.
“Forget about Bob Ford bobblehead day. It’s more about Bob Ford full of humility this year,” he said. “It was so unexpected. I don’t know if I could have anticipated exactly what it would be like.”
Ford put the move to the CAA in context when he talked to his team last Sunday.
“I asked them how many were offered full CAA scholarships, and only two kids were, before Hofstra dropped their program,” he said. “We also had a freshman guard that was offered a full scholarship. When I asked how many had even been offered an official visit by a CAA school, there were probably another eight. That’s not many people recruited to play on this level.”
Ford said the biggest difference between the players in the CAA and the old Northeast Conference is physicality.
“We were concerned about the physical aspect of it, but it all came through in the Towson game,” he said. “They had just beaten UConn, and that game was so physical that it probably led to Paul Pasqualoni losing his job. Then they played us. They were so physical that we couldn’t believe it. We had never played a team that physical, not even when we went to Montana and Stephen Austin. We went into the following week down four offensive linemen, including two starters.”
Ford said the Danes haven’t given up, even though they expect another struggle against the Black Bears.
“The schedule has taken its toll on us, but our kids have gotten better,” said Ford, who ranks first among all active NCAA Division I FCS coaches with 265 career victories, and is also fourth on the all-time FCS chart. His record at UAlbany is 256-166 in 41 years.
“I look at the films, and we are definitely improving,” said Ford. “I don’t think the kids have quit, and the coaches definitely haven’t. I just told our guys not to panic. I said don’t reach for the wishbone or Wing-T. Just stay the course. We’ve played some great periods of time. We even had a shot of winning the Delaware game. We should have nailed that one.”
Three of UAlbany’s losses were decided by three or fewer points at the end of regulation.
Junior quarterback Will Fiacchi has completed 161 of 283 passes for an average of 203.6 passing yards per game. He has connected for seven touchdown strikes. Senior Kevin Chillis has been Fiacchi’s favorite target with 40 catches for 459 yards and four TDs.
On the ground, junior tailback Omar Osbourne leads the way with 906 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Maine (5-0, 8-1) is spearheaded by quarterback Marcus Wasilewski (186-for-269, 2,251 yards, 17 touchdown passes).
UNION AT USMMA
The Dutchmen attempt to snap a three-game losing streak when they visit the United States Merchant Marine Academy’s Brooks Stadium in Kings Point at noon.
Union is 2-3 in the Liberty League and 2-6 overall. The Dutchmen will finish under .500 for only the second time in the last 28 years. USMMA is 1-2 and 4-2.
The Dutchmen’s offense is paced by tailbacks Darnel Thomas (482 yards) and T.J. Franzese (453 yards). If quarterback Connor Eck (95-for-175, 1,196 yards, four TD passes) is still hobbled by an ankle injury, senior backup Nick Becker (42-for-80, 343 yards, two TD passes) will make his third straight start.
Sophomore linebacker Thomas Hayes (67 tackles, one interception) and junior defensive tackle Casey Muse (51 tackles, three sacks) are the leaders of the Dutchmen’s defense, which is ranked 19th in red-zone defense and 32nd in total defense.
For Merchant Marine Academy, quarterback Matthew McDaniels has rushed for 770 yards and eight touchdowns to go along with 19 completions in 36 attempts for 324 yards and three TDs.
SENIOR DAY FOR RPI
The Engineers (1-4, 4-4) will recognize 11 seniors on Senior Day against Springfield today at noon at East Campus Stadium.
Playing their final home game will be Ted Abriel, Andrew Armato, Joe Cozzolino, Matt Brown, Mike Burke, Joe Dobbins, Scott Egglinger, Arthur Kuyan, Joe Luks, Jessie Maynard and Brendan McGlynn.
Springfield (1-3, 4-3) averages 30 points per game and 297 yards rushing. Quarterback Jonathan Marrero (598 total rushing yards and 40.4 passing yards per game), is the Pride’s key player.