ALBANY — University at Albany football’s prolific offense produced a pair of individual milestones for its program, but the Great Danes’ poor decision-making at key times in the game and several unforced turnovers cost them dearly.
Maine took advantage of two UAlbany fumbles, a pick-6 and an intentional grounding penalty in the end zone, leading to a safety, en route to a 47-31 victory in a Colonial Athletic Association contest Saturday afternoon before a crowd of 3,315 at Tom & Mary Casey Stadium.
The loss severely hurts the Great Danes’ chances at a FCS playoff berth, as they drop to 3-2 in the conference and 5-4 overall. Maine improves to 2-3 and 4-5.
UAlbany redshirt freshman quarterback Jeff Undercuffler was outstanding at times, completing 25 of 49 passes for 387 yards and four TDs. He became UAlbany’s single-season leader in touchdown strikes with 28, but was harassed all afternoon and was sacked five times. Senior wideout Juwan Green, who caught a 64-yard TD pass, became the Great Danes’ single-season leader in that department with 11.
Meanwhile, senior defensive lineman Eli Mercer became the team’s single-season record holder in sacks with 9.5.
But the Great Danes made too many huge mistakes, leading to plenty of points for the Black Bears, who outscored UAlbany 23-3 in the third quarter to surge ahead.
“We dropped the ball on the 4-yard line, and we gave up a pick-6 that should have gone the other way. And then we had that safety. We gave up 16 points on unforced errors,” UAlbany head coach Greg Gattuso said. “You can’t play like that in our league. It’s a disappointing loss, obviously. We’ll get back up on the horse and try to beat Delaware next week.”
UAlbany rallied back from a 10-0 deficit to take a 14-10 lead on Undercuffler’s 64-yard scoring pass to Green and a 10-yard TD pass to tight end Thomas Greaney.
But Maine grabbed a 24-14 edge on a 2-yard TD pass from Joe Fagnano to Shawn Bowman and a 1-yard run by Emmanuel Reed. The second Black Bears’ TD was set up by a UAlbany fumble on its own 4-yard line.
UAlbany pulled within 24-21 right before the half on Undercuffler’s 16-yard TD toss to Tyler Oedekoven.
The Great Danes knotted the score at 24-24 on their first drive of the second half, when Dylan Burns booted a 27-yard field goal. Maine was called for running into the kicker on the play, and Gattuso opted not to accept the penalty.
“It wasn’t going to be a first down, because it wasn’t roughing the kicker. It was running into the kicker,” Gattuso explained. “If it was going to be fourth-and-1 or fourth-and-2, I wasn’t willing to take the points off the board. Up to that point, we were battling, and moving the ball well at times. I felt good at 24-24, but then we immediately gave up nine points on unforced errors. That’s just the kiss of death, and we didn’t come back from it.”
On a third-and-9 from his own 7-yard line, Undercuffler faced a strong pass rush, and he flipped the ball toward the middle of the field to avoid being sacked. He was called for intentional grounding in the end zone, a safety.
“They switched their defensive line and went to a 3-4 on that play. They sent the house,” Undercuffler said. “I had pressure in my face. I just tried to get out of a bad situation.”
“I take the blame for that call,” Gattuso interjected. “It was third-and-long out of your end zone. Truly, that’s on me.”
After getting the free kick, Maine extended its advantage to 33-24 on Faganon’s TD pass to Earnest Edwards.
But Maine quickly piled on more points when Ori Jean-Charles returned a pick-6 47 yards and then caught a 1-yard TD pass from Fagnano to stretch the lead to 47-24.
“I think any time you lose a game like that you kind of regroup and recover,” Gattuso said. “Every athlete has rough days. When you give points away, and they’re not forced, that’s a big problem. We just handed them points. It’s a tough loss, but we’ve got to go forward. It’s a crazy world in the CAA.”
Maine 10 14 23 0 — 47
UAlbany 7 14 3 7 — 31
M — Doak 19 FG
M — Miller 90 pass from Fagnano (Doak kick)
UA — Green 64 pass from Undercuffler (Burns kick)
UA — Greaney 10 pass from Undercuffler (Burns kick)
M — Bowman 2 pass from Fagnano (Doak kick)
M — Reed 1 run (Doak kick)
UA — Oedekoven 16 pass from Undercuffler (Burns kick)
UA — Burns 27 FG
M — Safety
M — Edwards 43 pass from Fagnano (Doak kick)
M — Jean-Charles 47 interception return (Doak kick)
M — Jean-Charles 2 pass from Fagnano (Doak kick)
UA — Greaney 5 pass from Undercuffler (Burns kick).