ALBANY — For the first time this season, the University at Albany football team gets to play in front of its home crowd.
“I’m ready to go,” UAlbany redshirt senior quarterback Vincent Testaverde said earlier this week of Saturday’s 7 p.m. matchup vs. Morgan State. “I’m ready to bounce back from 0-2. We need to get a win.”
That is the urgent scenario the Great Danes face when they hit the turf at Tom & Mary Casey Stadium. While the 2018 season is still young, it can get old in a hurry for UAlbany if it does not emerge from its home opener with a victory against a 0-2 Morgan State squad.
“We have to come out and play a much better football game,” said UAlbany head coach Greg Gattuso, whose Great Danes lost 45-26 last weekend against a Rhode Island team they trailed 45-7 after three quarters. “That’s what we have to do. I know this stuff gets redundant, but it’s the truth. It’s not hard. You can’t turn the ball over, you can’t give up touchdowns in the kicking game and you’ve got to get off the field on third down. It’s not hard.”
What is difficult, though, is for the Great Danes to potentially bounce back after the 0-3 start they face if they lose to Morgan State. At the FCS level that UAlbany competes, teams with worse records than 7-4 generally don’t stand a chance of earning a postseason bid.
So, with a loss against Morgan State, the Great Danes would put themselves in need of winning seven of their final eight games just to land on the bubble for a playoff spot. That is a position UAlbany wants to avoid.
“Every win is pretty important from here on out,” Testaverde said.
Luckily for the Great Danes, they face an opponent they’ve had success against in a game that they have had a run of success in playing. UAlbany defeated Morgan State 26-0 last year, and the Great Danes have won their last three home openers.
“I’m excited to get out here in front of the home crowd,” Testaverde said. “I think it’s going to be a fun one.”
UAlbany didn’t have much fun during its blowout loss last week. Redshirt senior defensive lineman Antoine White, though, said the Great Danes didn’t let the emotion from that game carry over into their preparation for their next one.
“I think it’s really good,” White said of the team’s attitude. “This week, we definitely have a sense of urgency in practice.”
Through UAlbany’s 0-2 start, the Great Danes have looked tentative in key moments. After two games, Gattuso — whose program experienced significant overhaul on the defensive side of the ball from last year to this season — said that should start to change.
“I expect us to play faster and better this week,” Gattuso said.
They have to do that to avoid a dreaded 0-3 start — and that is the only thing on the minds of the Great Danes as they get set for the first of six home games this season.
“We’re 0-2 and right now we’re just focused on Morgan State,” Gattuso said. “That’s the only thing that matters to us. It really is.”