ALBANY, N.Y. -- The University at Albany football program kicks off its 40th season Saturday evening under the direction of Head Coach Bob Ford, who has led the Great Danes in every single one of those 40 years. UAlbany will take on the Colgate University Raiders at 6:00 p.m. on University Field.
CATCH THE ACTION
Tickets: Watch the action live at University Field. Come early and enjoy a live band. Stay late and enjoy FIREWORKS presented by SEFCU. Children 12 and under are free all season long.
Watch at Home: Saturday's action will be video streamed live on Dane Zone.
Listen: The game can be heard locally on WCDB-FM (90.9 FM). Rodger Wyland and Zach Bye will have the call.
Tweet: Follow @UAlbanySports on Twitter for live updates, photos and highlights.
Live Stats: Live stats can be found here. A full recap and box score will be available at the conclusion of the game at UAlbanySports.com.
Meeting just twice in history at the NCAA Division I FCS level, Colgate leads the all-time series 2-0. The Raiders edged UAlbany, 37-34 in overtime in the season-opener last year (Sept. 3). Colgate also topped the Great Danes, 13-11, on Sept. 1, 2007. Both meetings were played in Hamilton, N.Y. The two squads also met back in 1924 as club teams. Colgate walked away with a 33-0 victory in UAlbany's last season of play before reinstating the club team in 1970 under the direction of Coach Bob Ford.
UALBANY QUICK HITS
-- Saturday's opener vs. Colgate kicks off the 40th season of varsity football at UAlbany.
-- UAlbany was chosen to repeat as Northeast Conference Champions, as announced by the NEC office.
-- Six Great Danes were placed on the All-NEC Preseason Team.
-- UAlbany finished 2011 ranked 23rd in the FCS Coaches Poll and was just off the TSN's Top-25, receiving votes.
-- The Great Danes received votes in both The Sports Network Preseason Top-25 and 2012 FCS Preseason Coaches Poll.
-- UAlbany has won or shared five Northeast Conference championships (2002, 2003, 2007, 2008 & 2011).
-- In 2011, the Great Danes reached the eight-win plateau for the fourth time as a NCAA Division I FCS program.
-- The Great Danes have registered six consecutive winning seasons for the first time in the program's history (2006-11) and look for their seventh in 2012.
-- Bob Ford recorded his 250th win as a college head coach on Oct. 8, 2011.
-- Ford enters his 40th varsity season as head coach at UAlbany in 2012 with a 246-157 record.
-- The Northeast Conference champion earned an automatic NCAA FCS playoff berth for the second consecutive season in 2011.
-- The National Football League's New York Giants have made the UAlbany campus its summer training camp home since 1996.
-- The Danes are 17-33 in non-conference action as a NCAA Division I FCS program.
-- UAlbany has an 8-14 record in FCS games decided by three points or less.
SCOUTING THE GREAT DANES
2011 Record: 8-4, 7-1 NEC
NEC Preseason Poll: 1st
Head Coach: Bob Ford (40th season at UAlbany/43rd overall) (246-157-0/255-178-1/71-23 NEC)
Bob Ford enters his 40th season at the helm, coming off his
fifth Northeast Conference title in 2011 and fourth NEC Coach of the Year
Award. He ranks first among all active NCAA Division I FCS coaches with 255
career victories and is also fourth among the FCS all-time leaders in career
Offense - Eight return from the NEC's top scoring and total offensive team in 2011, including first-team all-conference lineman Kadeem Williams and second-team running back Drew Smith who ran for 1,092 yards. Second-team selection Ryan Kirchner also returns for his senior season after being the Danes' leading receiver for the past two seasons, including 56 catches for 615 yards last fall. UAlbany will look to fill the void of the NEC's Offensive Player of the Year, quarterback Dan Di Lella, with sophomore Will Fiacchi. Fiacchi is fairly untested in game-play, making two short appearances in 2011 with one pass attempt. Despite his lack of experience, the Great Danes are confident in his abilities to lead the squad this season.
Defense - The Great Danes' defense has been among the NEC leaders in rushing yards allowed for four consecutive seasons, finishing second in scoring defense in 2011, and should be just as strong in 2012. The Danes return five starters, including first-team all-conference selection Jon Morgan, who totaled 106 tackles last fall. All-NEC selection Leon Saddler will also be back on the gridiron, leading the squad's defensive backs.
Specialists - Punter Paul Layton, who averaged an unprecedented and league-leading 42.6 yards returns for his junior season. The Danes will need to fill the shoes of All-NEC kicker Herb Glass, who made 37-of-42 field goals in his career.
UAlbany begins its 40th varsity season vs. Colgate on Sept. 1. UAlbany football started at the club level in 1970, before moving to Division III and varsity status three years later. The Great Danes competed at the Division II level from 1995-98, and won two Eastern Football Conference titles in that period. Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) play arrived in 1999 with membership in the Northeast Conference. UAlbany has won five NEC titles.
SCOUTING THE RAIDERS
2011 Record: 5-6, 1-4 Patriot League
Patriot League Preseason Poll: 3rd
Preseason All-Patriot League: Gavin McCarney (Jr., QB); Ryan Risch (Sr., OL); Andrew Scarmado (Jr., OL)
Head Coach: Dick Biddle (17th Season at Colgate/Overall) (125-61/ 72-24 PL)
Dick Biddle heads into his 17th season at the helm, and
comes off just the second instance in those previous 16 years where his Raiders
finished with a losing record. Colgate went 5-6 overall and just 1-4 in the
Patriot League in 2011, and five of the losses were by 17 points or more. The
Raiders will try to rebound from that fifth-place finish by bringing back a
total of 15 starters on offense and defense.
Offense - The Colgate offense has long been known for its running attack, and that should be no different in 2012. But the most accomplished player in the mix to start the season is junior quarterback Gavin McCarney, who was named a preseason All-Patriot League pick after a 2011 season where he threw for 1,649 yards and 11 touchdowns and ran for 750 yards and nine scores. While Nate Eachus has departed as one of the top running backs in Patriot League history, Jordan McCord (348 yards, 4 TD) should be able to focus exclusively on the position after splitting time at running back and linebacker last season. When the Raiders go to the air, they have a solid group of wide receivers including Daniel Cason (36 rec., 485 yards, 4 TD) and Chris Looney (31 rec., 309 yards, 2 TD), as well as tight end CJ Stempeck. Returnees on the offensive line including preseason All-Patriot League picks senior Ryan Risch and junior Andrew Scarmado.
Defense - Colgate has struggled defensively in recent seasons, but does bring back the majority of its starting unit to try and get back on track in 2012. Chris Horner (28 TT, 2 sacks), Andrew Nairin (33 TT, 6 TFL) and Shane Wilson (20 TT, 2.5 sacks) all return on the defensive line. The linebacking corps takes the biggest hit, with Chris DiMassa and Adam Lock both gone and McCord likely devoting his time to offense. Patrick Friel (55 TT, 5 TFL) and Austin Dier (39 TT) have the most experience among the returnees. The secondary has the chance to be the deepest unit, with Chad Frey (37 TT, 2 INT), Wendell Lewis (20 TT) and Mike Armiento (46 TT) returning as starters and 2009 Patriot League Rookie of the Year Demitri Diamond also getting back on the field.
Specialists - Evan Goldszak (35.6 avg) is back at the punting position, while Andrew Burgess and Andy Heagle will join Goldszak in the competition to replace the departed Joe Uglietto (7-10 FG) as the placekicker.
OPENING DAY FACTS (FCS ERA)
-- This marks UAlbany's third time opening at home in the program's NCAA DI FCS history.
-- 11-of-14 seasons have started on the road for UAlbany.
-- The only other time the Danes opened at home was against Towson in 2001. UAlbany won, 14-10.
-- The Great Danes are 1-1 in home season openers.
-- UAlbany is 4-9 in season openers.
-- UAlbany Is 14-25 in season openers in the varsity era (since 1973).
-- The only two times UAlbany opened the season with Colgate (2011 and 2007), the Great Danes lost by a margin of three or less. However, UAlbany went on to win the NEC title in both of those seasons.
-- The last time UAlbany played into overtime was last year in the season-opener at Colgate.
NEC No. 1
With six first-place votes, UAlbany was chosen to repeat as Northeast Conference Champions, as announced by the NEC office during the 2012 Preseason Teleconference on Thursday, August 2. The Great Danes, who made their first-ever appearance in the NCAA FCS Playoffs last season, earned their first preseason number one ranking since 2009. In addition to the preseason team rankings, UAlbany placed six players on the All-NEC Preseason Team, led by wide receiver Ryan Kirchner and punter Paul Layton.
The University at Albany's Vice President Athletic Administration and Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Dr. Lee McElroy and the commissioner of the Colonial Athletic Association Tom Yeager formally announced that the Great Dane football program will be joining the CAA for the 2013 season on Wednesday, August 8. UAlbany and New York state rival Stony Brook will join current CAA members Maine, New Hampshire, James Madison, Delaware, Richmond, William & Mary, Villanova, Rhode Island and Towson beginning next season.
UAlbany has had good success over CAA members, having tallied a 6-5 all-time record. The Great Danes have previously faced Delaware (1-1 record), Maine (3-2), Towson (2-1) and New Hampshire (0-1). The Great Danes will look to expand on its rivalry against Stony Brook, having played the Seawolves 15 times and tallying a record of 10-5 all-time.
Junior offensive tackle Kadeem Williams was named to the 2012 FCS Preseason All-America Third Team by College Sporting News. Williams was one of 100 student-athletes at the Football College Subdivision level to earn Preseason All-America honors.
Williams is a 6-foot-7, 310-pound offensive lineman for the Great Danes. A native of Jersey City, N.J., Williams played in all 12 games for UAlbany as a redshirt freshman and was named to the Northeast Conference First Teamn after blocking for one of the top offensive teams at the FCS level.
BUILT FORD TOUGH
UAlbany's Bob Ford is first among active NCAA Division I FCS coaches with 255 career victories. He is also fourth on the all-time FCS chart. Ford, the architect of the UAlbany program, has a 246-157 career record through 39 varsity season as head coach at the school. Under his direction, the Great Danes have moved from the club level in 1970 to its present NCAA Division I FCS status. Ford, who has a 255-178-1 career record at the collegiate level, earned his 200th UAlbany win in a 20-17 victory against Robert Morris in 2005. More than 100 of Bob Ford's assistant coaches are currently working in the professional, college and high school ranks. Dave Campo, a former UAlbany graduate assistant in 1973, is the defensive backs coach of the NFL's Dallas Cowboys. Dave Clawson (Bowling Green), Pete Lembo (Ball State) and Kevin Morris (Massachusetts) are in the Mid-American Conference. Ford assistants who are Division I FCS head coaches include Al Bagnoli (Pennsylvania), Kevin Callahan (Monmouth), Walt Hameline (Wagner) and Chuck Priore (Stony Brook).
The Great Danes captured their fifth Northeast Conference championship with a 31-21 win over Sacred Heart on Nov. 19, 2011. QB Dan Di Lella threw four touchdown passes, including two in each half, as the Great Danes shared the crown with Duquesne. UAlbany defeated Wagner, 30-11, in the 2008 regular-season finale to win its fourth NEC crown. WR Tim Bush caught 10 passes for 141 yards and two touchdowns. UAlbany became the first NEC champion to win the Gridiron Classic in a 28-0 blanking of Pioneer Football League winner Jacksonville. In 2007, UAlbany upended Central Connecticut State, 49-14, for its third title. TB David McCarty piled up 247 rushing yards and two TDs. UAlbany won the title outright in 2002 with a 19-7 victory over Monmouth. TB Gary Jones rushed for 103 yards and QB Ryan Roeder scored on a 59-yard run in the second quarter. The Great Danes went on to defeat No. 21 Duquesne, 24-0, in the ECAC Football Classic. UAlbany shared the NEC crown with Monmouth in 2003. TB Gary Jones ran for 195 yards and three touchdowns in a 27-7 win against Robert Morris in his team's final conference game of the season.
UAlbany has reached the seven-win mark in nine of 13 seasons at the Division I FCS level. The Great Danes own an 88-56 record as a NCAA FCS program during that period. UAlbany has registered seven-plus victories 19 times in its history. The Great Danes set the program's single-season FCS record with nine wins in 2008.
SMITH ON THE RUN
UAlbany's Drew Smith has worked his way into the top 10 on the school's career rushing chart. Smith, a senior, is the ninth UAlbany player to rush for more than 2,000 yards in a career. He currently ranks eighth (2,195) and needs just 50 more yards to move into 7th, 56 to move into 6th, and 417 to move into 5th.
In his junior year, wide receiver Ryan Kirchner became the fourth player in school history to surpass 100 career receptions on Nov. 12, 2011. He set the program's FCS single-game record with three touchdown catches vs. Sacred Heart on Nov. 19, and also caught 12 passes against Stony Brook (11/26) to set UAlbany's Division I single-game record. With 56 receptions, he had the fourth-highest single-season total in program history.
UAlbany's defense has recorded 11 shutouts as a Division I FCS program with the last being a 24-0 victory against Wagner on Oct. 29, 2011. UAlbany held the Seahawks to 204 total yards, including 25 passing. The Great Danes have blanked six NEC opponents at the FCS level.
Senior offensive tackle Jordan Migliore was named to the 2011 Capital One District I Academic All-America Football Team. Migliore, a 6-foot-6, 295-pound senior, has a 3.84 cumulative GPA in a dual major of criminal justice and sociology.
Instead of having three or four captains this season, the Great Danes will have a captain represent every position. Each was voted captain by those players at his position and will be responsible for his position group and for communicating with the coaching staff regarding any concerns among the team. For games, the captains will rotate, with those being decided on game week.
Captains by position
QB - Will Fiacchi
TB - Drew Smith
WR - Ryan Kirchner, Nick Hutcherson
OL - Anthony Bazzoffi
TE - Paul Booker
DL - Ocieka Bakou, Dean Mercuris
ILB - Jon Morgan
OLB - Kyle Jordan
S - Justinian Mason
CB - Leon Saddler
P - Paul Layton
McCARTHY PROMOTED TO ASSOCIATE HEAD COACH
Announced Tuesday, University at Albany offensive coordinator Ryan McCarthy has been promoted to associate head coach. McCarthy is in his 11th season with the UAlbany football program and fifth as offensive coordinator. Last season, McCarthy put together the best offense in the Northeast Conference, as the Danes finished first for both total and scoring offense. In addition, quarterback Dan Di Lella broke the program's season record with 2,859 total offensive yards and 2,804 passing yards gained en route to the NEC championship title. In the past four seasons under McCarthy, tailback David McCarty became the school's all-time rushing leader with 4,287 yards, quarterback Vinny Esposito finished his career as the program's No. 2 passer with 5,692 yards, and wide receiver Tim Bush recorded a Great Danes-best 147 career receptions.
LAST TIME OUT
After winning a share of the NEC title with a 31-21 win over Sacred Heart, UAlbany made its first NCAA appearance since 1997 (when the Great Danes competed as an NCAA Division III program) and became the second Northeast Conference champion to receive an automatic berth. The Great Danes took on No. 22 Stony Brook in the first round of the NCAA Division I FCS Playoffs where the Seawolves ended Albany's 2011 season with a heartbreaking 31-28 loss. Stony Brook rallied from a 28-10 deficit in the third quarter to go ahead for good with 12:45 remaining in the fourth 11-yard touchdown run. However, UAlbany fought back and drove 15 plays down the field from its own 45-yard line in the last stages of the fourth quarter. Dan Di Lella, a senior quarterback, found Nick Hutcherson on fourth-and-11 to keep the march moving. He later threw third-down completions to tailback Drew Smith and fullback Justin Peterson. But on second-and-goal from the Stony Brook three-yard line, Di Lella rolled to his right and threw for tight end Brian Parker in the back of the end zone. Cornerback Donald Porter tipped the high pass and Stony Brook's Dominick Reyes came down with the ball inside the end line with 47.4 seconds to go.
UAlbany hits the road to Robert Morris for the first of three consecutive away games, as well as the first Northeast Conference contest of the season. The Great Danes will take on RMU at noon at Joe Walton Stadium in Moon Township, Pa. It will mark the 14th meeting between the squads with UAlbany owning a 7-6 advantage in the all-time series. Last year, the Danes overcame Robert Morris in Albany by a score of 28-17 on Oct. 15, 2011.