No. 18/20 Football Welcomes Wagner For Big NEC Weekend
ALBANY, N.Y. -- Saturday's home game versus the Wagner College Seahawks may turn out to be the University at Albany football team's most important of the season. With three regular season games left, the Great Danes (7-1, 5-0 NEC) are a half-game ahead of the Seahawks (5-3, 5-1 NEC) in the Northeast Conference standings. A win would guarantee that UAlbany will finish with at least the same or better conference record than everyone in the league, including the second-place Seahawks, as well as Duquesne (5-3, 3-2 NEC) and Monmouth (4-4, 3-2 NEC), who currently share third. UAlbany still has a road trip to Duquesne and a home game against Central Connecticut State, but the path to UAlbany's sixth NEC championship starts this Saturday at 1:00 p.m. at University Field.
CATCH THE ACTION
Cheer from the Stands: It's CDPHP T-Shirt Day! The first 500 fans will get a FREE t-shirt. Don't miss out on the purple and gold spirit. Click here for 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 and Zach Bye will have the call.
Watch at Home: Saturday's action will be video streamed live on Dane Zone.
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.
UALBANY QUICK HITS
- UAlbany (7-1, 5-0) is the only team with an unblemished conference record this season, sitting just ahead of Wagner (5-3, 5-1).
- UAlbany has won its last five contests, coming off 23-20 win at Sacred Heart.
- The Great Danes are ranked No. 18 in the FCS Coaches Poll and No. 20 in the Sports Network Top-25.
- In their 14th and last season in the NEC, the Great Danes own a 76-23 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. A win against Wagner will give the Great Danes their best start in the program's FCS era.
- 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.
- Last season, the Great Danes received their first NCAA FCS Playoff berth and advanced to the NCAAs for the first time since 1977.
- 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 159 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. A win against Wagner will make number five.
- 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 7-1 record with three 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 262 career victories.
- Ford is in his 40th varsity season as head coach at UAlbany with a 253-158 record.
- The National Football League's New York Giants have made the UAlbany campus its summer training camp home since 1996.
UALBANY-WAGNER ALL-TIME SERIES
With the all-time series dating back to both squads' Division III days, UAlbany leads the series, 14-1. The Great Danes overcame the Seahawks in both 1985 (15-0) and 1991 (29-19) before taking 12-of-13 meetings in the FCS Division I era. Wagner's lone win came in 2000 with a 38-30 victory in Albany. Since then, the Great Danes have won 11 straight, including last year's 24-0 shutout on Staten Island (10/29/11). The game was played in front of a national television audience as the NEC Game of the Week in blizzard-like conditions.
SCOUTING THE GREAT DANES
2012 Record: 7-1, 5-0 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) (253-158-0 / 262-179-1 / 76-23 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 262 career victories and is also fourth among the FCS all-time leaders in
LAST TIME OUT: UAlbany recovered from a slow start to take a 23-20 victory over the hosting Sacred Heart Pioneers last Saturday. With 1:13 remaining in the game, Omar Osbourne rushed 40 yards into the end zone for the winning touchdown on a draw play. The duo of senior wide receiver Ryan Kirchner and sophomore quarterback Will Fiacchi led the UAlbany offense, connecting for two touchdowns in the victory. Kirchner made six catches for 86 yards, while Fiacchi completed 14-of-32 passes for 195 yards. Senior tailback Drew Smith led the Great Danes' ground game with 103 rushing yards on 27 carries, finishing with 116 all-purpose yards. In addition Kevin Chillis also broke the 100 all-purpose yard mark, totaling 106 after four receptions, two rushes, and two kickoff returns. Defensively, senior Dave Plungas had an incredible game with 16 tackles, marking a team season-high for the Great Danes, and personal career-high, while classmate Jon Morgan had two game-changing interceptions and five tackles. In addition, Leon Saddler brought down nine.
THE SEASON SO FAR: The Great Danes are off to their best start since the 2001 season, entering Week 10 with a 7-1 record and perfect 5-0 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.
Week 7: 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, Drew
Smith blasted his way into the end zone three different times, bringing his
then 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.
Week 8: BYE
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 SEAHAWKS
2012 Record: 5-3, 5-1 NEC (2nd)
2011 Record: 4-7, 4-4 NEC (T-4th)
NEC Preseason Poll: 7th
Head Coach: Walt Hameline (32nd season at Wagner, 209-126-2)
THE COACH: Walt Hameline is in his 32nd year as head coach of the Seahawks, owning a 209-126-2 record all-time. Hameline is just the 66th coach in NCAA history to record 200 career wins and just the 35th coach to do so with one team. While at Wagner he has led the Seahawks to five ECAC Championships, three NCAA Tournament appearances and the 1987 NCAA Division III National Championship. The Wagner College football stadium was renamed "Hameline Field" in honor of the longtime coach and athletic director on Sept. 15, 2012. Hameline is a 1975 graduate of Brockport State and earned his master's degree at UAlbany in 1977. He started his coaching career as an assistant to Coach Bob Ford from 1977-79.
THE SEASON SO FAR: Wagner lost its first NEC game of the season to Monmouth, 38-17, but since then has been on a roll, making program history with five straight conference wins. The Seahawks overcame Central Connecticut State (31-13) on the road and Bryant (31-21) at home before beating Sacred Heart (12-3) and Saint Francis (Pa.) (31-24) on business trips. Most recently, Wagner topped Robert Morris, 23-13, in front of its Homecoming crowd last Saturday. Just a half game behind UAlbany in the standings, Wagner leads the nation in kickoff returns, piloted by the reigning NEC Special Teams Player of the Week, Otis Wright. Wright currently ranks third among all kick returners in Division I FCS, averaging 35.5 yards per kickoff return while Wagner is ranked No. 1 in Division I FCS with a team average of 30.35 yards per return. Against RMU, Wright returned a kick 90 yards for a touchdown.
OSBOURNE FOR THE WIN
Sophomore tailback Omar Osbourne scored the winning touchdown at Sacred Heart, giving UAlbany a 23-20 win, while preserving a perfect record in NEC play. Trailing 20-17 and facing third-and-seven, Osbourne scampered 40-yards into the end zone with just over a minute to go in the game, giving the Great Danes the lead for good, 23-20. While Osbourne ran the ball just three times in the victory, he made the most of his opportunities, finishing with 47 rushing yards and the game-winning touchdown.
MORGAN GARNERS NEC DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK HONOR
Linebacker Jon Morgan was named the Northeast Conference Defensive Player of the Week, announced by the league office Monday. Morgan's two second-half interceptions allowed UAlbany to squeak by Sacred Heart, 23-20, and remain unbeaten in NEC play. The first pick denied Sacred Heart on a third-quarter red zone opportunity and the second interception sealed the victory with 00:57 remaining in regulation. Morgan also made five tackles, including four solo, all of which stopped the ball carrier short of a first down. With Sacred Heart looking to add to a 13-10 lead on the opening drive of the second half, Morgan had other plans. The Pioneers attempted a pass play on 3rd-and-goal from the 6-yard line, only to watch Morgan come up with an interception at the two. Morgan struck again with the Pioneers operating at their own 45-yard line and looking to erase a 23-20 deficit. The 6-foot-2 senior linebacker came up with his second interception of the game on a 3rd-and-4 play with 57 seconds left, ending any hopes of a Pioneer victory. The honor marks the seventh NEC Player of the Week award for UAlbany this season, and first in Morgan's career.
LAYTON AT SACRED HEART
Paul Layton punted five times in UAlbany's 23-20 win at Sacred Heart, totaling 225 yards with an average of 45 yards per punt. His longest was 56 yards and also pinned the Pioneers inside the 20 twice. His last punt of the afternoon came to a stop at the six-yard line with 30 seconds remaining in the game, giving the UAlbany defense room to work in preserving the three-point win.
Including Saturday's 23-20 winning nail biter at Sacred Heart, UAlbany has played in 10 games decided by three points or less since the start of the 2009 season. The victory at SHU marked the first close call for the Great Danes this season, and first game decided by three or less points since UAlbany's heart breaking NCAA Tournament loss to Stony Brook (31-28, 11/26/11). The Great Danes were in four games decided by three points or less in the 2009 season, three in 2010, two in 2011, and now one in 2012. Prior to the close win over the Pioneers, the Great Danes' last three or less point win was a 23-20 victory over Yale on Oct. 2, 2010. UAlbany has a 9-15 record in FCS games decided by three points or less.
UAlbany's Close Decisions (since 2009)
Sept. 5, 2009: Georgia Southern 29, Albany 26
Oct. 17, 2009: Albany 20, Bryant 17
Oct. 31, 2009: Central Conn. State 31, Albany 29
Nov. 7, 2009: Robert Morris 13, Albany 10
Sept. 2, 2010: Albany 3, Maine 0
Oct. 2, 2010: Albany 23, Yale 20
Oct. 22, 2010: Central Conn. State 30, Albany 27 (OT)
Sept. 3, 2011: Colgate 37, Albany 34 (OT)
Nov. 26, 2011: #22 Stony Brook 31, Albany 28
Oct. 27, 2012: Albany 23, Sacred Heart 20
PLUNGAS' BIG DAY
Senior Dave Plungas had an incredible game with 16 tackles at Sacred Heart, marking a team season-high for the Great Danes, and personal career-high. He was also just two tackles short of tying UAlbany's FCS record of 18, held by Josh Bazan (2002) and Colin Disch (2005). Plungas ranks second among active players with 227 career tackles and has a shot at finishing in the top-10 all-time at UAlbany.
For the fourth time in the FCS era and for the second straight year, the Great Danes went undefeated in the month of October. UAlbany won all three contests against Bryant (31-14), Saint Francis (36-13) and Sacred Heart (23-20). The other three times the Danes won every game in October were also the last three times UAlbany won the NEC title - 2007, 2008, and 2011.
Jon Morgan - Currently with 247 career tackles, Morgan is four tackles away from entering UAlbany's career top-10 and tying Brian Becker (2002-05)
This week, UAlbany jumped four slots in The Sports Network Top-25 to No. 20 and two spots in the FCS Coaches Poll to No. 18, representing the highest the Great Danes have ever been ranked in both polls in Division I history. Last week, UAlbany appeared in the pair of Top-25 lists for the second time in program history and first time since Sept. 25, 2006. It also marked a first for an NEC team since Robert Morris was ranked 25th in the Nov. 8, 2010 poll. However, this week represents the first time the Great Danes have stayed in both polls for consecutive weeks.
UAlbany has reached the seven-win mark in 10 of 14 seasons at the Division I FCS level and 20 times in program history. The Great Danes set the program's single-season FCS record with nine wins in 2008. UAlbany owns a 95-57 record as a NCAA FCS program in 14 years.
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 three games remaining in the regular season, Kirchner has 159 career catches. Through eight games, he has made 37 catches for a total of 480 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.
SECOND HALF DEFENSIVE DOMINANCE
In the last three games, the Great Danes have outscored the opposition (Bryant, Saint Francis, Sacred Heart) in the second half by a combined score of 56-7.
SLOW AND STEADY WINS THE RACE
Even though the Great Danes have fallen behind early in each of their last three games, UAlbany, in the end, earned the victories. 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 turnaround allowed UAlbany to continue its streak of double digit triumphs with all six of the Danes’ wins at that point having come by no fewer than 10 points and by as much as 31. However, at Sacred Heart, while the win-streak continued the 10+ margin streak snapped, as the Danes edged the Pioneers by three, 23-20.
The UAlbany defense has recorded 11 interceptions this season for 210 yards led by Justinian Mason and Tramaine Wilson’s three apiece. The Great Danes have logged at least one interception in 6-of-8 games this fall, including picking off three at Sacred Heart. The only two contests UAlbany didn’t were in the lone loss of the season at Youngstown State and the squad’s win against Saint Francis.
The Great Danes’ top-ranked offense in the NEC has scored 24 or more points in 20 of the last 23 games, owning a 18-5 record in that span. UAlbany has also won 15 of their last 18 games and 15 of their last 17 regular season contests.
The Great Danes travel to NEC foe Duquesne for a noon kickoff next Saturday before closing the regular season at home versus Central Connecticut State.
UPCOMING UALBANY PROMOTIONS
Nov 17 vs. Central Connecticut - Pop Warner, Military Appreciation Day, Wounded Warriors.