No. 20/24 Football Journeys To Meet Pioneers Saturday
ALBANY, N.Y. - Coming off a bye week, the No. 20/24 University at Albany football program looks to pick up where it left off two weeks ago when the Great Danes travel to Fairfield, Conn. to take on the Sacred Heart University Pioneers Saturday. UAlbany enters the clash on a four-game win-streak and has won six consecutive games in Northeast Conference play, dating back to last season. Kickoff is set for 1:00 p.m. on Campus Field.
CATCH THE ACTION
Cheer from the Stands: Click here for Sacred Heart ticket information.
Listen: The game can be heard in the Capital Region on FOX Sports 980AM or anywhere online here. To listen on your mobile device, download the iHeartRadio app and search for FOX Sports 980. Rodger Wyland 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.
Game Notes: An in-depth look at the weekend's matchup.
THE UALBANY-SACRED HEART ALL-TIME SERIES
The Great Danes and Pioneers meet for the 15th time in history Saturday with UAlbany owning a 12-2 lead in the series. Besides Sacred Heart taking wins in 2000 and 2001, UAlbany has won every other meeting, including the last 10 consecutively. In those last 10 games, the Danes have won by an average of 16.9 points. Last year, the Great Danes captured a 31-21 win at University Field in the last regular season game on Nov. 19th. Ryan Kirchner made seven catches, including three for touchdowns to lead the Danes. From there, UAlbany received their first NCAA FCS Playoff berth and took on Stony Brook in the first round.
UALBANY QUICK HITS
• UAlbany (6-1, 4-0) is the only team with an unblemished conference record this season, sitting just ahead of Wagner (4-3, 4-1) and Duquesne (5-2, 3-1).
• UAlbany has won its last four contests, coming off a bye week after topping Saint Francis, 36-13.
• Senior tailback Drew Smith leads the entire FCS in scoring averaging 12.86 points per game.
• The Great Danes are ranked No. 20 in the FCS Coaches Poll and No. 24 in the Sports Network Top-25.
• In their 14th and last season in the NEC, the Great Danes own a 75-23 cumulative record in league play.
• The Great Danes are off to their best start since the 2001 season when UAlbany began 7-1 and 5-1 in NEC play. The only other time UAlbany has had six wins heading into game eight in the FCS era was in 1999 (6-1).
• 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.
• Senior Ryan Kirchner is UAlbany's all-time leading receiver with 153 career catches.
• UAlbany has won or shared five Northeast Conference championships (2002, 2003, 2007, 2008 & 2011).
• UAlbany kicked off its 40th season of varsity football vs. Colgate on Sept 1. The 40-23 win, improved the Great Danes' record to 5-9 in season-openers in the Division I FCS era.
• 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 have already secured their seventh in 2012 with a 6-1 record with four games remaining in the regular season.
• Bob Ford is fourth among the FCS all-time leaders in career victories and is first among active NCAA Division I FCS coaches with 261 career victories.
• Ford is in his 40th varsity season as head coach at UAlbany with a 252-158 record.
• The National Football League's New York Giants have made the UAlbany campus its summer training camp home since 1996.
SCOUTING THE GREAT DANES
2012 Record: 6-1, 4-0 NEC (1st)
2011 Record: 8-4, 7-1 NEC (T-1st)
NEC Preseason Poll: 1st
Head Coach: Bob Ford (40th season at UAlbany/44th overall) (252-158-0 / 261-179-1 / 75-23 NEC)
THE COACH: Bob Ford is in 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 261 career victories and is also fourth among the FCS all-time leaders in career victories.
LAST TIME OUT: In front of 6,852 fans, marking the third-largest home crowd in program history and largest since 1978, UAlbany overcame the visiting Saint Francis Red Flash on Homecoming, 36-13. The Great Danes battled back from a 10-0 deficit to outscore the Red Flash, 36-3, the rest of the way. For the third straight game, senior tailback Drew Smith blasted his way into the end zone three different times, bringing his nation-leading total up to 15 touchdowns this season. Ryan Kirchner made four catches for 58 receiving yard and also returned three punts for 46 yards. Sophomore Cole King matched his career-high of seven receptions, recording an even 100 yards on the afternoon. Sophomore Jake Meek had a break-out game, rushing 48 yards from the quarterback position and tallied two touchdowns, including a 38-yard scoring scamper. Sophomore quarterback Will Fiacchi had another sound game in the pocket, completing 21-of-31 attempts for 255 passing yards. Defensively, senior Chris Wilk led the squad with eight tackles, including five solo, as the defense shut out Saint Francis in the second half.
THE SEASON SO FAR: The Great Danes are off to their best start since the 2001 season, entering Week 9 with a 6-1 record and perfect 4-0 NEC mark.
Week 1: UAlbany overcame Colgate handily, 40-23, as Drew Smith (174) and Omar Osbourne (113) both rushed for over 100 yards, and the Ocieka Bakou blocked two punts that resulted in a safety and a touchdown.
Week 2: After opening the season at home for the first time since 2005, UAlbany hit the road for three consecutive away games, traveling over 400 miles for each of them. First, the Great Danes overcame Robert Morris, 35-10, capturing their first Northeast Conference victory of the season. Sophomore quarterback Will Fiacchi had a breakout game along with wide receiver Cole King. Fiacchi finished 17-for-21, throwing 208 yards, rushing 35, and tallied four touchdowns (three passing, one rushing) in the win. All three passing touchdowns were to King who totaled 124 receiving yards on five catches.
Week 3: The Great Danes headed west again to Youngstown, Ohio, taking on the No. 5 Penguins. Despite a hard fought battle, the hosts held off UAlbany, 31-24, handing the Great Danes their only loss of the season. The Great Danes were neck-and-neck with Youngstown State until the Guins opened up a two-score lead with 2:48 remaining in the fourth quarter. UAlbany held an early 7-0 lead over Youngstown in a game that was tied on three separate occasions, but a YSU field goal with 2:15 left in the third quarter gave the Penguins the lead for good. Fiacchi and King both had spectacular games again, as Fiacchi accumulated 228 passing yards (23-35-0), and King hauled in a touchdown and seven catches for 115 receiving yards.
Week 4: On the road for the third consecutive weekend, UAlbany overcame No. 23 Maine, 30-20, marking the Great Danes' first victory over a ranked opponent since Sept. 19, 2009 when they also beat Maine (ranked 20th), 20-16. Kicker Sean Kenny made a name for himself, tying the program record with three made field goals in the contest, representing the first nine points of the game. Senior tailback Drew Smith led the offense with 114 rushing yards on 18 carries, 144 all-purpose yards, and two touchdowns, while Kevin Chillis rushed twice for 88 yards total and accumulated 158 all-purpose yards.
Week 5: The Great Danes had a dominating performance against NEC foe Monmouth, overcoming the Hawks, 55-24, at University Field. After trailing 7-0 to start the game, a fake punt reverse resulting in Kevin Chillis' 77-yard TD dash turned the tides and UAlbany never looked back. Combining for 263 rushing yards, senior Drew Smith piloted the ground game with 109 rushing yards on 18 carries and three touchdowns in the victory. Chillis added two touchdowns and 196 all-purpose yards. Three Great Dane players (Smith, Chillis, Beauvais) single-handedly out-rushed the Monmouth team as a whole, as the Hawks managed just 53 rushing yards against the UAlbany defense. Quarterback Will Fiacchi completed 16-of-30 attempts for 248 yards and two touchdowns. Senior wide receiver Ryan Kirchner was the go-to man of the afternoon, hauling in five passes for 121 yards and a score. Senior Jon Morgan led the team with seven tackles, including six solo, while also breaking up two passes. Chris Wilk brought down five, as Dean Mercuris, Jake Dwyer, and Tramaine Wilson recorded interceptions and ran for over 10 yards each.
Week 6: UAlbany captured a 31-14 win at Bryant University on Oct. 6th. Trailing 14-7 at halftime, the Great Danes rallied to score the final 21 points of the contest. Senior wide receiver Ryan Kirchner became the all-time receptions leader at UAlbany, breaking Tim Bush's record of 147 as he recorded seven receptions for 103 yards in the win. Fellow senior Drew Smith finished the day with 104 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns. Smith currently ranks first in the nation with 12 touchdowns this fall. Sophomore Will Fiacchi continued to impress in his first year as starting quarterback, as he totaled a career-high 262 passing yards, completing 23-of-34 pass attempts to keep the Great Danes perfect in league play. UAlbany's defense was outstanding as they held Bryant to the lowest single-game rushing output (27 yards) in a NEC contest thus far this season. The Bulldogs' 11 first downs also marked a NEC season low. Defensively, Jon Morgan and Kyle Jordan led the squad with five tackles apiece, while Tim Kologrivov added three, including two for a loss. Justinian Mason had the key play of the game; picking off a pass and running the interception back 75 yards for a touchdown.
PROGRAM HISTORY: 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 PIONEERS
2012 Record: 2-5, 1-3 NEC (T-7th)
2011 Record: 5-6, 3-5 NEC (T-6th)
NEC Preseason Poll: 8th
Interim Head Coach: Mark Nofri (1st season at Sacred Heart, 2-5 / 1-3 NEC)
THE COACH: Beginning his 19th season as a member of the Pioneers coaching staff, Nofri is the longest tenured coach in Sacred Heart program history. He will lead the team with Head Coach Paul Gorham on medical leave. Nofri is also the long time linebackers coach for the Pioneers, turning out several All-Conference and All-American linebackers including Jayson Jarrett '01, Kayode Mayowa '02, Craig Capurso '02, Jon Corto '06 and Chris Mandas '11.
LAST TIME OUT: The Sacred Heart Pioneers were dealt a 35-3 Northeast Conference loss at Duquesne University on Oct. 20th in Pittsburgh, Pa. The Pioneers struggled offensively and a few special teams mistakes proved costly. Sacred Heart generated just 215 yards of total offense, tallying only 13 total first downs. Junior quarterback Tim Little was 15 of 27 for 111 yards with two interceptions. Sophomore running back Keshaudas Spence ran for 72 yards on 17 carries. Junior running back Greg Moore led the Pioneers in receiving with five receptions for 36 yards. Defensively, Troy Moore led the way with nine tackles while Tyler Foehr had eight total tackles.
THE SEASON SO FAR: After starting the season 0-3 with road losses at Morgan State (30-27 OT), Colgate (35-14), and Monmouth (27-14), the Pioneers overcame NEC foe Central Connecticut State (34-21). From there, Sacred Heart sandwiched a win at Dartmouth (27-10) between NEC losses to Wagner (12-3) and most recently Duquesne (35-3). Junior quarterback Tim Little has completed 88-of-175 passes with eight interceptions and five touchdowns. Senior Rock Tate (18 receptions, 214 yards) and sophomore Robert Dim (17 receptions, 206 yards) have been Little's primary targets, while Keshaudas Spencer has led the ground game with four touchdowns and 451 rushing yards. Linebacker Justine Sexton leads the NEC with 73 tackles.
For the second time in program history and first time since 2006, UAlbany is ranked in both the FCS Coaches Poll and The Sports Network Top-25 this week. The Great Danes moved up two spots in the Coaches Poll to No. 20, staying ranked for the third straight week, while breaking into the TSN Poll for the first time in six years at No. 24. Ironically, UAlbany moved into the TSN poll off its bye week. All of the Great Danes' wins have been by double figures, including against high-scoring Colgate from the Patriot League and Maine of CAA Football. Their lone loss was by a touchdown to Youngstown State from the Missouri Valley Football Conference. UAlbany's ranking in the TSN Poll is its first since Sept. 25, 2006 and the first for an NEC team since Robert Morris was ranked 25th in the Nov. 8, 2010 poll.
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's next win will mark the 10th seven-plus victory season at the FCS level and the 20th time in history. The Great Danes set the program's single-season FCS record with nine wins in 2008.
SMITH IS NATION'S LEADER
Entering Week 9, Drew Smith ranks first in the nation in scoring with 12.86 points per game and totaling 15 touchdowns (14 rushing) this fall. Smith has crossed the goal line at least once in every game this season, including rushing for three touchdowns in each of the last three contests against Monmouth, Bryant, and Saint Francis. He has totaled 680 rushing yards, averaging 97.1 yards per game and 5.4 yards per carry, and ranks fourth all-time at UAlbany with 2,875 career rushing yards. He is 83 yards from third and 158 rushing yards from second.
RYAN KIRCHNER RECORD HOLDER
Recording seven receptions for 103 yards in the win at Bryant, senior wide receiver Ryan Kirchner became the all-time receptions leader at UAlbany, breaking Tim Bush's record of 147. Still with four games remaining in the regular season, Kirchner has 153 career catches. Through seven games, he has made 31 catches for a total of 394 yards. In his junior year, 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.
SMITH OFF AND RUNNING
UAlbany tailback Drew Smith currently ranks fourth all-time at UAlbany with 2,875 career rushing yards. He is 83 yards from third, 158 rushing yards from second, and 1,412 yards off of David McCarty's record (4,287). Smith is also climbing the all-purpose yards ladder. Totaling 880 all-purpose yards through the first seven games, Smith ranks second all-time with 4,321 yards in his career. He is 655 yards away from David McCarty's record (4,976).
SECOND HALF DEFENSIVE DOMINANCE
In the last two games, the Great Danes have outscored the opposition (Bryant and Saint Francis) in the second half by a combined score of 44-0. The UAlbany defense has not allowed a point in the fourth quarter for three straight games.
MORGAN MOVES UP WHILE BRINGING 'EM DOWN
Senior Jon Morgan leads the team with 49 tackles this season and is tied for 12th place all-time with 242 in his career. The Copiague, N.Y. native is on pace to easily finish his career in the top-10 at UAlbany, currently nine tackles away from tying Brian Becker (2002-05) in 10th place.
SLOW AND STEADY WINS THE RACE
Even though the Great Danes have fallen behind early in each of their last two games, UAlbany, in the end, cruised to victory. At Bryant, UAlbany faced a 14-7 halftime deficit, but still posted a 17-point victory (31-14). Against Saint Francis, the Danes fell behind, 10-0, to start but turned up the intensity to take a 23-point win (36-13). That second-half turnarounds allowed UAlbany to continue its streak of double digit triumphs with all six of the Danes’ wins having come by no fewer than 10 points and by as much as 31. In addition to a 30-20 win over then-No. 23 Maine, UAlbany proved 17 points better than Patriot League member Colgate. The Danes’ lone loss came by a mere touchdown on Sept. 15 at then-No. 5 Youngstown State in a game that was tied three times. Albany has won its four NEC contests thus far – having beaten Saint Francis, Bryant, Monmouth, and Robert Morris – by an average of 24.0 points per victory.
The UAlbany defense has recorded eight interceptions this season for 177 yards led by Justinian Mason's three. The Great Danes have logged at least one interception in 5-of-7 games this fall. The only two contests UAlbany didn't were in the lone loss of the season at Youngstown State and the squad’s most recent win against Saint Francis.
The Great Danes' top-ranked offense in the NEC has scored 24 or more points in 20 of the last 22 games, owning a 17-5 record in that span. UAlbany has also won 14 of their last 17 games and 14 of their last 16 regular season contests.
WILK’S SOLID WEEK
Senior inside linebacker Chris Wilk led UAlbany with eight tackles, including five solo in the Great Danes’ 36-13 win over Saint Francis. Wilk and the rest of the defense held the league’s leading rushing game to just 159 yards on the ground and allowed only 68 total offensive yards to the Red Flash in the second half. For the second consecutive game, the Great Dane defense did not allow the opponent a single score in the second half.
HARRIS HARD TO TAKE DOWN
Sophomore Clay Harris returned three kickoffs for a total of 83 yards in UAlbany’s 36-13 win over Saint Francis. Harris had a career-best 50-yard return to open the third quarter for the Great Danes.
Albany marched to a share of the 2011 Northeast Conference crown thanks to a record season by fifth-year senior quarterback Dan Di Lella. Now that the first team all-NEC passer has exhausted his eligibility, the starting quarterback responsibilities have been given to sophomore Will Fiacchi. So far, so good for the 6-foot-3 Fiacchi. The first-year starter has had an impressive start to the season, leading the Great Danes to a 6-1 mark. Against Bryant, Fiacchi passed for a career-high 262 yards, completing 23-of-34 attempts. With a 131.7 pass efficiency, Fiacchi ranks third in the NEC. The Marcellus, N.Y. native also owns a 7-to-3 touchdown to interception ratio, completing 129-of-205 passes.
MEEK NOT SO MEEK
Sophomore Jake Meek had a break-out game against Saint Francis, rushing 48 yards from the quarterback position and tallied the first two touchdowns of his career, including a 38-yard scoring scamper. Meek has been key in protecting starting QB Will Fiacchi from wear and tear, taking snaps especially in the red zone.
With third-down this fall, the Great Danes have converted in 56-of-105 (53%) tries, while their opponents have been stopped 66% of the time by the UAlbany defense (36-for-103).
In front of 6,852 fans, marking the third-largest home crowd in program history and largest since 1978, the No. 24 University at Albany football team boosted the energy of the already spirited Homecoming crowd with a 36-13 win over the visiting Saint Francis Red Flash. The only other larger home crowds UAlbany has played in front of came in 1975 and 1978, both against Ithaca with an attendance of 7,500.
FORD INDUCTED INTO SPRINGFIELD COLLEGE HALL OF FAME
Shortly after leading the Great Danes to a Homecoming win over Saint Francis, Coach Bob Ford made the drive to Springfield, Mass. for his induction ceremony Saturday night into the Springfield College Hall of Fame. Ford served as a starting quarterback in 1959 at Springfield College, where he earned his undergraduate degree in physical education. That same year, SC’s athletic department bestowed upon Ford “The Greatest Desire to Improve Award.” Ford would twice return to Springfield College as an assistant coach – in 1964 as the secondary coach, and in 1969 as its defensive coordinator. He later earned his doctorate from Springfield in physical education in 1970.
The Great Danes host Wagner Nov. 3rd at 1:00 p.m. at University Field. It will be CDPHP T-Shirt Day in which the first 500 fans will get a FREE t-shirt.
UPCOMING UALBANY PROMOTIONS
Nov. 3 vs. Wagner - CDPHP T-Shirt Day
Nov 17 vs. Central Connecticut - Pop Warner, Military Appreciation Day, Wounded Warriors