Ibitokun-Hanks Breaks Program Rushing Record, Leading Danes To 36-25 Comeback Win Over No. 21 New Hampshire
DURHAM, N.H. – With 298 rushing yards and three touchdown scampers, sophomore running back Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks shattered UAlbany’s all-time single-game rushing record and led the University at Albany football team from a 22-point deficit to a 36-25 victory over No. 21 New Hampshire Saturday afternoon at Wildcat Stadium. With the win, UAlbany improved to 6-4 overall and 3-4 in the CAA, while UNH fell to 6-4 on the season and 5-2 in conference play.
• Ibitokun-Hanks’ 298 rushing yards broke UAlbany’s record that stood since 1975 – 286 yards by UAlbany Hall of Famer Tom Deblois. Ibitokun-Hanks also tied the all-time single-game carries record with 39, while upping his single-season total to 1,383 rushing yards which ranks fifth all-time.
• In his first career start, redshirt freshman quarterback Will Brunson piloted the Great Danes to a second-half comeback after trailing 22-0 in the second quarter. Brunson threw his first career touchdown to Jordan Crockett in the waning seconds of the first half, and also ran for a touchdown in the fourth quarter, giving UAlbany the lead for good. Brunson finished the afternoon with 146 passing yards, completing 12-of-20 attempts.
• Crockett recorded three receptions, including a touchdown, accruing 44 receiving yards, while redshirt freshman Austin Ellis totaled a career-best four receptions and 30 yards, and freshman Jerah Reeves also logged a career-high 37 yards on two catches.
• Defensively, redshirt senior Michael Nicastro led the Great Danes will 11 tackles (7 solo), while Neil Morrison and DaeSean Timmons each finished with seven tackles. Malachi Hoskins accrued six tackles (5 solo), including a key 10-yard sack on fourth down in the fourth quarter that helped secure the triumph for UAlbany.
• UNH struck first on Trevor Knight’s 18-yard pass to Dalton Crossan with 12:15 remaining in the first quarter. With a two-point conversion on Knight’s rush across the goal line, the Wildcats took an 8-0 head start.
• New Hampshire then took a 15-0 advantage, capping a nine-play 76-yard drive with Knight’s 8-yard touchdown pass to Rory Donovan with 8:12 to go in the second quarter.
• With 2:56 remaining in the second, the Wildcats stretched its lead to 22-0 on Trevon Bryant’s three-yard rush up the middle.
• With 34 seconds left in the first half, the Great Danes broke onto the board when Brunson connected an 11-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Crockett, making the score 22-7 at the break.
• In UAlbany’s first drive of the second half, Ibitokun-Hanks led the Danes down the gridiron with a 44-yard scamper down to the one-yard line. Ibitokun-Hanks finished the 4-play, 59-yard drive with a 1-yard push across the goal line. With Ethan Stark’s point-after, the Great Danes cut the margin to eight, 22-14, with 13:18 remaining in the third.
• New Hampshire answered on its next possession, driving down to the one-yard line. However, UAlbany’s defense made a 3rd-and-1 goal line stand, forcing the Wildcats to settle for Morgan Ellman’s 20-yard kick. With the field goal, UNH took a 25-14 lead with 8:38 to go in the third.
• With 1:14 remaining in the third quarter, UAlbany worked its way 92-yards down the field on seven plays, including Ibitokun-Hanks’ gritty 33-yard dash. Ibitokun-Hanks’s two-yard dive into the end zone capped the drive. On the two-point conversion attempt, Brunson found Anthony Manzo-Lewis in the back of the end zone, cutting the margin to three, 25-22.
• Turning the ball over on downs, UAlbany turned good defense into good offense, driving 75-yards on nine plays, ending with Brunson’s 4-yard run and dive across the corner of the end zone with 8:32 left in the game. With the touchdown and Stark’s point-after kick, UAlbany took the lead for good, 29-25.
• The Danes’ defense again made a fourth-down stop on Hoskins’ sack and UAlbany’s offense again took advantage. Brunson handed the ball off to Ibitokun-Hanks five straight times, and on 4th-and-1 on the 13, the sophomore phenom broke free once again and gave the Great Danes an 11-point cushion, 36-25, with 3:19 remaining.
Coach Gattuso on the game: “It’s a huge win for us. To beat a ranked team and to come in here into “the dungeon” and beat New Hampshire, it’s a big deal. They’re a good football team; they’re very well coached. I thought we didn’t play the first half the way I’d like to have seen us play, but the drive before the half got us going. We got the ball back and then in two plays scored and all of a sudden it’s a real close game. We know what that’s like – it happened to us last week. The kids never quit. I think EB is a great back, he ran the heck out of the ball. He just kept going and going and going, and they’re good on defense. Will Brunson played a great football game. He’s been pushing to get out there and he battled this week. We decided to give him his first start and he played a great football game and I’ve got to give credit to our offensive line. I think they sacked Will maybe one time, but they protected the heck out of him and obviously opened up the hole for 300 yards rushing. All and all it was a great game. Shows you that you can beat a lot of adversity. First half had a lot of adversity, but we were able to come back and get a win.”
Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks on the ground game: “I think it was the day in and the day out. Those guys up front are mentally tough. No matter what, they make sure that they have my back and I just wanted to let them know that their hard work isn’t going to go undone. And I made sure I had to do what I had to do to let the other 10 guys on the field know that I’m going to do whatever it takes.”
Will Brunson on the second half comeback: “We know teams that score right before the end of the half usually have some momentum, especially when they have the ball coming back in the second half. We knew if we got some rhythm we could keep that for the second half.”
Coach Gattuso on the defense: “Credit our guys -- we weren’t letting them catch the ball and that was the main thing. I thought we were very physical in the second half. We eliminated all the big plays, so they played a really good game. It was a great team win.”
UALBANY’S WIN …
- Marked UAlbany’s sixth win over a nationally ranked opponent.
- Marked UAlbany’s first win over a ranked opponent since 2012.
- Improved UAlbany’s record to 6-4 overall.
- Improved UAlbany’s CAA record to 3-4.
- Improved UAlbany’s series record to 1-4 against UNH.
- Improved UAlbany’s all-time varsity record to 272-187.
- Improved Coach Gattuso’s career record to 113-49.
- Improved Coach Gattuso’s record at UAlbany to 16-17.
UAlbany closes out the regular season with the "Empire Clash" and the battle for the Golden Apple Trophy versus Stony Brook on Nov. 19 at 1 p.m.. The game will also mark Senior Day in which the Great Danes will honor its senior class prior to kickoff. Click here to buy tickets.