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'Rough season' closes Saturday for UAlbany football

'Rough season' closes Saturday for UAlbany football

Great Danes play Stony Brook this weekend
'Rough season' closes Saturday for UAlbany football
UAlbany is 2-8 heading into its season finale.
Photographer: Gazette file photo

ALBANY — When you’re losing, University at Albany football head coach Greg Gattuso said earlier this week, it can be easy to overanalyze what has gone wrong.

But when you’re losing, that’s what you have to do.

In earnest, the process of figuring out what went wrong this season for the Great Danes started about a month ago. That’s when Gattuso, whose 2-8 squad wraps up its 2018 season with a 3:30 p.m. game Saturday at Tom & Mary Casey Stadium against No. 10 Stony Brook, began to review his team’s season as a whole in order to make changes.

“I’m analyzing everything from our training to how we practice and the amount of contact we do,” Gattuso said. “I’m looking at practice schedules. I’m looking at a lot of things to try to figure out are we just having bad luck or is there something we’ve done that we can fix. So that’s kind of where we’re at, and that will go on for a few more months until we get to spring ball.”

Gattuso, who signed an extension earlier this year that takes his contract through the 2022 season, has gone 23-32 at UAlbany with one game to go in his fifth season. The Great Danes are 3-14 in their last 17 games, have lost seven games by seven points or fewer during that stretch, and are 0-7 in CAA play this season. UAlbany was picked to finish ninth in this year’s preseason CAA coaches poll, and is going to finish worse than that regardless of how its season finale goes.

Injuries have played a major role in UAlbany’s lack of success since its 7-4 campaign in 2016. Bad luck, too, has often found the Great Danes. Gattuso, though, said his program could have done more to overcome some of the hardships that have come its way.

“The bottom line is you’ve got to win close games if you’re going to have a good season, and we haven’t. We need to get a lot better at that,” Gattuso said. “We’re just really desperate and trying hard to get a win [against Stony Brook]. We’ve had a rough year.”

Within their ranks, enthusiasm hasn’t waned for the Great Danes. They practiced in their final week with energy despite bringing a six-game losing streak into their last game. That rivalry matchup with Stony Brook, they said, provided them a chance to head into their offseason with some much-needed momentum.

“It’s definitely been a rough season, but at the end of the day, we want to get a ‘W’ with the team. We want to get a win for our seniors,“ said freshman quarterback Jeff Undercuffler, who will start again against Stony Brook with quarterbacks Will Brunson and Vincent Testaverde still out with injuries. “They’ve worked hard to teach us about our traditions here, so going out with a win for them would be special.”

“We’ve just got to finally click in this last game and bring it home for our seniors,” redshirt freshman linebacker Danny Damico said.

The way his team has kept fighting in what’s long been a lost season has encouraged Gattuso in regards to his program’s culture. That his seniors experienced back-to-back losing seasons to end their college careers, though, bothered him.

“I’d just love to see them go out and get rewarded because I feel bad because they’ve done everything we’ve asked them to do,” Gattuso said, “and the rewards have been few this year.”

Win or lose, the thorough evaluation of this season will continue well beyond this weekend’s game for the Great Danes. The program looked ready after the 2016 season to break through into the upper half of the CAA, and the 2019 season will be dedicated to pushing the Great Danes back toward that direction.

“We’ve got to find that little extra that can close the gap,” Gattuso said, “and that’s my job to do.”

Reach Michael Kelly at [email protected] or @ByMichaelKelly on Twitter.

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