Relax and let it fly.
That was sophomore wide receiver Zee Roberson’s message to University at Albany sophomore quarterback Neven Sussman in the days prior to last Saturday’s 45-28 win against Holy Cross.
“Throw it,” Roberson said he told Sussman, “and I’ll go get it.”
Roberson did just that, as the classmates connected twice for long touchdowns a week after the Great Danes’ passing attack fell flat in a win against Rhode Island. Sussman passed for a total of seven yards on 2-for-9 accuracy in that game before rebounding with an 8-for-12 passing performance for 183 yards and two touchdowns against Holy Cross as the Great Danes improved to 3-0 on the season in their home opener.
UAlbany head coach Greg Gattuso said he never lost confidence in Sussman, but the coach gained more in Roberson after his performance against Holy Cross. Roberson turned five receptions into 142 yards, and talked his coaches into sending him deep after seeing how the Holy Cross secondary was playing him.
“I like when a kid comes to the sideline and says, ‘Coach, I want the ball,’ ” Gattuso said at Tuesday’s practice.
Roberson’s first touchdown came on a 41-yard reception, his first score of the season. The sophomore celebrated a little too wildly after that play, and was hit with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for excessive celebration — and the temporary ire of the Great Danes’ coaching staff.
“You can’t show up the other team,” Gattuso said. “We’re not gonna have it.”
But Roberson quickly earned his way back into the good graces of the coaching staff with a 49-yard touchdown reception later in the second quarter. After that one, Roberson calmly flipped the ball to an official and ran off field with his teammates.
His coaches liked that celebration.
The fans? Well, Roberson said he heard from a few of them who were displeased he didn’t break out some more dance moves. But once you’ve been there before, Roberson argued, you have to act like it.
“Don’t worry about it,” Roberson said he told those fans. “We’ll be back there a couple more times soon.”
While sophomore running back Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks picked up a Colonial Athletic Association Offensive Player of the Week nod, Gattuso was quick Tuesday to praise the work of the UAlbany offensive line.
“They’ve been the one constant here,” said Gattuso, singling out redshirt senior Kevin Malloy for playing “maybe the best game I’ve seen by an offensive lineman since I’ve been here.”
Ibitokun-Hanks, who rushed for 183 yards and four touchdowns against Holy Cross, had also praised the group of linemen, who Gattuso said don’t expect accolades to come its way.
“They’re used to it,” Gattuso said. “They’re offensive linemen and they have their own little world they live in.”
HEALTH & HYDRATION
Redshirt senior safety Kyle Sakowski is expected to miss Saturday’s game against Saint Francis with a right arm injury he sustained against Holy Cross. Sakowski, who has made 15 tackles and recorded one interception this season, also missed several games last season with injuries to his right arm and shoulder.
“He wants back,” Gattuso said of Sakowski, who wore a sling at Tuesday’s practice. “He wants to play this week . . . but I don’t think he’ll be able to.”
Gattuso said it is possible Sakowski could return to the team’s lineup after its bye week following the contest against Saint Francis. The coach said there are no expectations Sakowski will miss the rest of the season.
Health-wise, the peculiar occurrence for the Great Danes this past weekend was the number of players downed with leg cramps. Redshirt senior defensive back Rayshan Clark, junior defensive lineman Malachi Hoskins and junior defensive back
Jamal Robinson were among the UAlbany players to be temporarily felled during the second half against Holy Cross.
Long Holy Cross offensive drives played a role in that, as the Crusaders ran 29 plays to UAlbany’s six during the third quarter, but Gattuso said there also would be more of an emphasis put on making sure players were hydrating properly during this weekend’s game.
“It was just kind of a weird situation,” Gattuso said.