ALBANY — Ethan Stark’s name will go down in University at Albany football folklore after his final game in Purple and Gold.
The redshirt senior’s last-second, 48-yard field goal that bounced off the bottom of the crossbar and through lifted the Great Danes to a 25-23 thriller over the 10th-ranked Stony Brook Seawolves at Tom & Mary Casey Stadium in UAlbany’s season finale on Saturday.
It was just the second win against top-10 opponents for Albany in program history.
Stark’s game-winning kick snapped the Danes’ six-game losing streak.
“I told Ethan Stark he may have the single greatest senior night of any football player in the history of college football,” Great Danes head coach Greg Gattuso said. “It was an amazing kick.”
“I knew I didn’t hit it as clean as the previous one, but I thought I had enough and it bounced over,” Stark said.
Stark had previously missed an extra point and a field goal earlier in the quarter. But that did not sway Gattuso’s confidence in his senior kicker.
“He kicked a 48-yard field goal in a winter storm in Erie, Pennsylvania, in his recruiting video. I’ve always had faith in him. I had no problems trotting him out there,” Gattuso said.
Albany and Stony Brook traded points for the majority of the game. But after a cold three quarters, the game really heated up in the fourth.
Albany pulled to within 17-16 with 5:32 left in the game on an 81-yard touchdown pass from Jeff Undercuffler to Darnell McDonald. But Stark missed the extra point that would have tied the score.
Undercuffler threw two touchdowns of 40-yards or more against Stony Brook. He finished 10-for-20 with 170 yards passing and two interceptions. His 81-yard score is tied for the fourth-longest touchdown pass in UAlbany history.
“I thought he was brilliant today at times,” Gattuso said of his young quarterback. “They bounced off of him on sacks, and he’s hard to tackle. He gives us a chance to be great at quarterback in years to come.”
After a crucial fourth-down stop, the Great Danes took the lead with less than two minutes left. Karl Mofor hit a wide-open lane up the middle for a 16-yard touchdown run. Mofor broke runs of 16 and 28 yards previously on the drive before cruising into the end zone untouched.
“My motto is see the end zone, get there,” Mofor said. “As the game goes, defenses wear down and that’s what happened. They wore down, they were out of place and we took advantage.”
Stony Brook received the ball on its own 16-yard line with just 1:45 left in the game. The drive seemed to stall with 17 seconds left at the Albany 41-yard line. However, on fourth-and-10, Joe Carbone launched a 41-yard Hail Mary into the end zone, where Julius Wingate hauled it in for the score.
“Coming off [the field], I was devastated after the touchdown,” senior cornerback Kareem Brown said. “But I knew this team has been resilient all year. We’ve fought and we’ve fallen throughout the season. I’m just happy we came away with the win.”
That set up Stark’s thrilling conclusion that brought the Golden Apple Cup back to Albany.
“My heart almost exploded when I saw them score that touchdown,” Gattuso said. “But for them to come back and win after having their heart shattered after that long touchdown and then to be resilient enough to win it at the end was incredible.”
The win was most memorable to the 16 seniors who will graduate at the end of the school year. Brown was especially touched. He led the defense tonight with nine total tackles in his final game.
“I cried,” Brown said. “I love it. I couldn’t have dreamed it any better.”
Stony Brook 3 7 7 6 — 23
Albany 10 0 0 15 — 25
UA — Stark 43 FG
SB — Lucansky 29 FG
UA — Green 49 pass from Undercuffler (Stark kick)
SB — Gowins 7 run (Lucansky kick)
SB — Carbone 17 run (Lucansky kick)
UA — McDonald 81 pass from Undercuffler (kick failed)
UA — Mofor 16 run (pass failed)
SBU — Wingate 41 pass from Carbone (run failed)
UA – Stark 48 FG