Football Takes Down Buffalo, 22-16, For Programís First FBS Win
“I think it’s a lesson for our team that if we do things the right way, we can be a pretty good team,” said Head Coach Greg Gattuso. “Buffalo is a good team, they’ve had a lot of changeover, but there was a big difference from last year and this year. I’m proud of the kids and the way they played. They went out and hustled and did what we asked them to do and they stayed with it.”
Offensively, Neven Sussman led UAlbany, completing 14-of-21 passes, totaling 113 yards and two touchdowns. Sophomore wide receiver caught a team-high five passes for 33 yards, while redshirt junior Brad Harris and tight end Anthony Manzo-Lewis accounted for the Danes’ two touchdowns.
“Our defense, I know they gave up some yards today, but they were lights-out, turning the ball over and I thought we tackled really well, which is really important,” said Gattuso.
Defensively, Malachi Hoskins, Abner Logan, and Michael Nicastro each recorded 11 tackles, while the squad totaled three interceptions and a fumble. In addition, UAlbany only allowed the Bulls to convert on 5-of-17 third-down attempts.
Just 2:03 minutes into the contest, the Great Danes took the lead sparked by redshirt junior Michael Nicastro’s heroics. Almost exactly at the same location where his season ended almost exactly a year ago on a devastating knee injury, Nicastro immediately made a statement, picking off Buffalo starter Grant Rohach’s pass at the UB-45 yard line and returned it 38 yards to the seven. The Danes’ offense made quick work, using two plays to get in the end zone, capped by Sussman’s five-yard pass to Manzo-Lewis.
In the defensive battle, the Great Danes held Buffalo off the board through the first quarter. The Bulls attempted a 43-yard field goal at the 6:14 mark, but Adam Micheson’s kick sailed wide right.
Junior cornerback Jamal Robinson gave UAlbany’s offense an added opportunity with 2:19 on the clock in the opening stanza, recording an interception on Buffalo’s 21-yard line.
However, the Bulls’ defense stepped up and forced the Danes to attempt a 35-yard field goal. The kick missed to the left, leaving the score 7-0 at the end of the first quarter.
To start the second, Buffalo pieced together a 12-play, 65-yard drive, capped by Mitcheson’s 32-yard field goal at the 10:53 mark.
With 2:32 remaining in the half, Mitcheson cut the margin to one, 7-6, on his 37-yard field goal. The Bulls used nine plays to travel 31 yards and set up the boot.
However, the Great Danes quickly responded, as Kareem Brown opened the drive with a 43-yard kickoff return to the UAlbany-47. After a personal foul call against the Bulls, Ibitokun-Hanks broke free down the UAlbany sideline and scampered 33-yards into the end zone. The touchdown, with Ethan Stark’s point-after, gave the Danes a 14-6 advantage with 1:42 left in the second quarter.
Utilizing a hurry-up offense, Buffalo quickly moved the ball down the field in the waning seconds. Quarterback Tyree Jackson led the Bulls, completing six passes in the 75-yard drive, capped with a 17-yard fading pass to tight end Mason Schreck. The touchdown and extra point cut the margin to one, 14-13, at the half.
Out of the break, UAlbany steadily made progress down the field, as Sussman hit Roberson with an 11-yard completion, and Ibitokun-Hanks carried the ball five times for gains. However, the Danes were held to a 35-yard field goal attempt that again missed left of the uprights.
With a small swing in the momentum, Buffalo drove 52 yards on 11 plays, setting up a 45-yard field goal attempt. Mitcheson’s boot was good, giving Buffalo its first lead of the game, 16-14, with 6:12 remaining in the third quarter.
Forcing Buffalo to punt in it first drive of the fourth quarter, UAlbany’s offense used seven plays to work 81 yards down the gridiron. Sussman launched a 24-yard pass to Crockett and immediately followed with a 35-yard touchdown pass to Brad Harris. Going for two with a 20-16 lead, the Great Danes converted, as Sussman connected with Harris again, giving UAlbany a 22-16 lead.
Down the wire, the Danes’ defense held tough despite Buffalo’s threatening advances. Working their way down to the 7-yard line on fourth down, Jackson darted to the pylon, but UAlbany’s Mason Gray knocked the ball loose for a game-saving fumble. With the touchback, UAlbany regained control of the ball with 3:52 remaining.
“I think Mason Gray was outstanding,” said Gattuso. “Our coaches teach it every single day of the week -- in practice we are stripping and attacking the ball at all times.”
Buffalo earned another opportunity after forcing the Danes to punt with 2:44 remaining. But again, UAlbany’s stealthy defense made the stop, as Kyle Sakowski picked off the first pass of the drive. From there, the Great Danes ran out the clock, clinching the historic first win.
Up next, UAlbany (1-0) opens CAA play, traveling to take on Rhode Island on Sept. 10 at 1 p.m.
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