UAlbany Football Seeks NEC Championship Saturday Vs. Central Connecticut
ALBANY, N.Y. -- Heading into the last game of the 2012 regular season tied for first-place in the Northeast Conference standings, the University at Albany football team will no doubt leave it all on the line as they play at University Field one last time and compete for an NEC championship. Kickoff versus Central Connecticut State will be at 1:00 p.m. with a pregame ceremony honoring the Great Danes' 21 seniors.
CATCH THE ACTION
Cheer from the Stands: Don't miss out on the purple and gold spirit. Click here for ticket information. (Promotions: Pop Warner, Military Appreciation Day, Wounded Warriors).
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.
THE CHAMPIONSHIP SCENARIOS
The Great Danes (6-1) have one NEC game left on the schedule, facing Central Connecticut State (2-4). First-place Wagner (6-1) also has one game left against Duquesne. Here are UAlbany's championship scenarios...
• If UAlbany wins and Wagner loses, the Great Danes will capture their sixth NEC title and make their second consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament.
• If UAlbany wins and Wagner wins, the Great Danes will share the NEC title with Wagner, but Wagner will earn the postseason berth after winning the head-to-head battle on Nov. 3rd (30-0).
• If UAlbany loses and Wagner loses, the Great Danes will share the NEC title with Wagner, but the Seahawks will earn the postseason bid.
• If UAlbany loses and Wagner wins, Wagner will be the NEC champion.
THE UALBANY-CENTRAL CONNECTICUT SERIES
UAlbany leads the all-time series, 11-5, dating back to 1995. Seven games have been decided by five points or less with UAlbany owning a 3-4 record in those contests. The Great Danes' 11 victories have been by an average margin of 17.5 points, while the five losses have only been by an average of 3.6 points. Last season, UAlbany had its best offensive game of the season, as quarterback Dan Di Lella threw for a school record five touchdowns to five different receivers, leading the Danes to a 63-35 win at CCSU. The last time these teams met at University Field, the Blue Devils edged UAlbany, 30-27, in overtime. CCSU scored 15 points in the fourth quarter, including a touchdown with successful two-point conversion with 36 seconds left in regulation to tie the ballgame. In overtime, the Great Danes fumbled and Central Connecticut won the contest with a 32-yard field goal.
UALBANY QUICK HITS
• UAlbany (8-2, 6-1) is tied with Wagner (7-3, 6-1) in the NEC standings.
• The Great Danes were ranked as high as No. 18 in the FCS Coaches Poll and No. 20 in the Sports Network Top-25 before falling out of both polls after losing to Wagner.
• In their 14th and last season in the NEC, the Great Danes own a 77-24 cumulative record in league play.
• Moving to a brand new stadium next season, UAlbany plays its last game on University Field Saturday. The Danes own a 134-67-1 mark on their home gridiron.
• The Great Danes have reached the 8-win plateau for the fifth time in the FCS era. A win against CCSU will tie the program record for wins in a season, and also mark the first time UAlbany has won nine games in a Division I regular season.
• UAlbany was chosen to repeat as Northeast Conference Champions.
• 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 168 career catches.
• Tailback Drew Smith is tied for first in program history with 42 career touchdowns scored.
• 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.
• The Great Danes have registered seven consecutive winning seasons for the first time in the program's history (2006-11).
• Bob Ford is fourth among the FCS all-time leaders in career victories and is first among active NCAA Division I FCS coaches with 263 career victories.
• Ford is in his 40th varsity season as head coach at UAlbany with a 254-159 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: 8-2, 6-1 NEC (T-1st)
2011 Record: 8-4, 7-1 NEC (T-1st)
NEC Preseason Poll: 1st
Head Coach: Bob Ford (40th season at UAlbany/44th overall) (254-159-0 / 263-180-1 / 77-24 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 263 career victories and is also fourth among the FCS all-time leaders in career victories.
LAST TIME OUT: In a game divided, UAlbany overcame the hosting Duquesne University Dukes, 38-31, last Saturday afternoon at Rooney Field. The Great Danes came out with a vengeance in the opening half, taking a 35-7 lead at the break, but the Dukes came storming back, scoring the first 17 points of the second stanza. By halftime, the Great Danes had five touchdowns to their name, credited to five different players. UAlbany finished the game with 439 yards of total offense and 24 first downs. Drew Smith led the Great Danes' running game with 143 yards on 25 carries, and totaled 164 all-purpose yards, including two catches. Omar Osbourne also crossed the goal line and rushed 80 yards, while finishing with 102 all-purpose yards. Likewise, Kevin Chillis was credited a touchdown, accumulating 64 rushing yards in the win. Will Fiachhi completed 14-of-22 passes for 130 yards and a touchdown. Cole King was his top receiver with three catches, including one for a score, and 54 receiving yards. Defensively, Chris Wilk led the squad with seven unassisted tackles and a sack, while Jon Morgan dropped five, snagged an interception, and blocked a punt. Senior Dean Mercuris also had a solid game with five tackles, a sack, a pass break up, and two quarterback hurries.
THE SEASON SO FAR: The Great Danes enter Week 12 with an 8-2
record and 6-1 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
Week 9: UAlbany recovered from a slow start to take a 23-20 victory over the hosting Sacred Heart Pioneers on Oct. 29th. 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.
Week 10: After silencing Wagner, 24-0, in Staten Island last season, the Seahawks turned the tables and shut out the Great Danes, 30-0. Wagner came off a chaotic week of no power, cold showers, and the devastation of Hurricane Sandy in their Staten Island campus community to overcome the then No. 18/20 ranked Danes in a key NEC contest at University Field. The loss marked UAlbany's first in the league this year and just the second time the Great Danes have fallen to Wagner in their 16-game all-time series. Coming into the game averaging a conference-best 34.25 points per game, the Great Danes struggled against the Seahawks, managing just 188 yards of offense, compared to Wagner's 413 offensive yards. Playing without the second-leading scorer in the nation, senior tailback Drew Smith, for a game due to a violation of team rules, sophomore Omar Osbourne took on the starting role and led the Great Danes with 51 rushing yards on 12 carries. Will Fiacchi threw for 103 yards, completing 18-of-33 passes, including six each to Jameel Gay and Ryan Kirchner. Defensively, senior Dave Plungas recorded double-digit tackles for the second straight game, bringing down a team-high 11, including 10 solo.
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 BLUE DEVILS
2012 Record: 2-7, 2-4 NEC (8th)
2011 Record: 4-7, 3-5 NEC (T-6th)
NEC Preseason Poll: 4th
Head Coach: Jeff McInerney (7th season at CCSU) (44-32 / Same)
THE COACH: Jeff McInerney is in his seventh season as
Central Connecticut State's head coach. He has led the Blue Devils to a pair of
Northeast Conference titles and his 44 wins are the second-highest total in
school history. In 2009, McInerney was named the NEC Coach of the Year, as
the Blue Devils won the first outright NEC title in school history and advanced
to their first-ever Division I postseason game. McInerney has seen plenty of
success in his coaching career, three times being a part of a staff that won a
National Championship (1984 and 1987 at Troy State; 1990 at Georgia Southern).
THE SEASON SO FAR: The Blue Devils started the season facing some of the top FCS teams in the country, including Stony Brook (49-17, L), Lehigh (35-14, L), and New Hampshire (43-10, L); all three of those teams are currently ranked in the top-15. To start the NEC schedule, CCSU tripped to Wagner (31-13) and Sacred Heart (34-21) before winning their first game of the year against Duquesne (38-31) in front of their Homecoming crowd on Oct. 13. From there, CCSU fell to Robert Morris (37-31) on the road, but rebounded to edge Saint Francis (Pa.), 32-30 on their home field. As a result of Hurricane Sandy, the Blue Devils' contest at Monmouth was cancelled. Central Connecticut will come into their last game of the season off a 28-25 loss to Bryant. The Bulldogs trailed 17-14 at the half, but came back to score 14 unanswered points in the third quarter. The Blue Devils made a mad scramble with a touchdown and two-point conversion with 52 seconds remaining in the game to cut the deficit to three, but Bryant secured the onside kick and took a knee.
LAST GAME AT UNIVERSITY FIELD
University Field has been the home of the Great Danes since Bob Ford started a club football team in 1970. In 43 seasons, UAlbany owns a 134-67-1 record on the gridiron. With the move to the CAA, the Great Danes will move to Bob Ford Field, a brand new 8,000 seat stadium, next season. Saturday's game vs. CCSU will mark the football program's last on University Field.
DREW AT DUQUESNE
Senior Drew Smith led the Great Danes' running game with 143 yards on 25 carries, and totaled 164 all-purpose yards, including two catches. In addition, Smith scored his 42nd career touchdown, tying UAlbany's program record, while also moving into second-place all-time with 3,131 career rushing yards. Smith also ranks first in the NEC and fifth in the nation for scoring (10.67). Back in the lineup after a game suspension, Smith quickly made a statement, putting UAlbany on the board with a one-yard rush, capping a 14-play, 76-yard drive, at the 7:44 mark in the first quarter. Smith averaged 5.7 yards per carry, including a long of 22-yards.
Senior inside linebacker Jon Morgan recorded five tackles, snagged an interception, and blocked a punt in UAlbany's win at Duquesne. He also helped the Danes' defense hold the Dukes to just 68 rushing yards. Morgan's blocked punt was one of the key plays of the game, leading to an extra seven points before the half. With 59 seconds remaining in the first half, UAlbany's defensive pressure forced the Dukes to punt and Morgan got a hand on it, giving the Great Danes the ball on their own 41. UAlbany capitalized. With six seconds on the clock, Will Fiacchi found Cole King in the back of the end zone, 23 yards out, sending the Danes into the break leading 35-7. With 260 career tackles, Morgan is one tackle away from moving into eighth place all-time at UAlbany.
LAYTON VS. THE DUKES
Paul Layton punted six times in UAlbany's win at Duquesne, totaling 267 yards, and averaged 44.5 yards per punt. His longest was 54 yards, and he pinned the Dukes within the 20 twice, including one at the five-yard line. Layton is averaging a program-best 40.9 yards per punt in his career (156 punts, 6,384 yards).
After totaling just 188 yards of total offense last week against Wagner, the Great Danes made up for that in just one quarter versus Duquesne. In the second quarter alone, UAlbany totaled 217 yards of offense. By halftime, the Great Danes had five touchdowns to their name, credited to five different players. UAlbany finished the game with 439 yards of total offense and 24 first downs.
UAlbany has now hit the eight-win mark in five seasons at the FCS level. The Great Danes set the program's single-season FCS record with nine wins in 2008. UAlbany looks to tie that record with a win over Central Connecticut. It would also mark the first time UAlbany has won nine games in a Division I regular season .
FIACCHI'S FANTASTIC SEASON
First-year starting quarterback Will Fiacchi has surpassed all expectations this season, as he has completed more passes than any other quarterback in program history in a single regular season. Completing 175-of-292 passes with just four interceptions, Fiacchi ranks second all-time behind Dan Di Lella who set the record last year with 196 completions (327 attempts). However, Di Lella had an extra game in the NCAA Tournament to set that record. In the regular season, Di Lella had 172 pass completion, a sum Fiacchi has already bested. Yardage wise, Fiacchi has passed for 1,914 yards, ranking him fifth for a single season, and ninth for a career.
Drew Smith - With 42 career touchdowns (37 rushing, 5 receiving), Smith needs to score one more touchdown to own UAlbany's all-time career record, currently held by Gary Jones (2002-03).
- Rushing for 37 touchdowns in his career, Smith is three rushing touchdowns away from tying UAlbany's all-time leader Gary Jones (2002-03) with 40.
- Drew Smith has totaled 3,131 career rushing yards, ranking him second all-time at UAlbany. David McCarty holds the record with 4,287 career-rushing yards.
Will Fiacchi - Redshirt sophomore quarterback Will Fiacchi has completed 175 (292 attempts) passes this season, ranking second all-time behind Dan Di Lella's 196 (327 attempts). With one game in the regular season left, Fiacchi is 22 completed passes away from breaking the record. He has shown it is doable, completing 21 or more in a single game three times this fall.
Jon Morgan - With 260 career tackles, Morgan is one away from moving into eighth place all-time and 11 away from tying his linebacker coach, Don Mion (1973-74), with 271.
LAPORTA NAMED COSIDA ACADEMIC ALL-DISTRICT
Eric LaPorta has been named to the 2012 Capital One Academic All-District Football Team, selected by the College Sports Information Directors of America. LaPorta is now eligible for the Academic All-America ballot. A native of Yorktown Heights, N.Y., LaPorta maintains a 3.59 GPA in criminal justice and history, and has been UAlbany's starting center for the past two seasons. This fall, LaPorta's play has helped UAlbany to the league's top-ranked scoring offense (31.20), and has limited opponent sacks to just 1.80 per game. The junior has played a key role in leading the Great Danes to Top-25 rankings in both the FCS Coaches Poll and The Sports Network Top-25 for multiple weeks. In addition, LaPorta started every game in the Great Danes' 2011 Northeast Conference Championship run and trip to the NCAA Tournament.
UAlbany's 21 seniors will be honored in a pregame ceremony Saturday, as they will be playing in the last home game of their careers. The senior class includes...
Ocieka Bakou (55, DL), Anthony Bazzoffi (79, OL), Matt Berwager (82, TE), Paul Booker (32, TE), Chris Bouchard (18, ILB), Mike Brown (29, S), John Cunningham (73, DL), Matt Goss (84, TE), Joe Hoback (75, OL), Nick Hutcherson (2, WR), Sean Kenny (13, K), Ryan Kirchner (8, WR), Dean Mercuris (35, DL), Jordan Migliore (77, OL), Ben Miseikis (1, TB), Jon Morgan (11, ILB), Nate Papso (88, WR), Dave Plungas (45, ILB), Leon Saddler (21, CB), Drew Smith (10, TB), Chris Wilk (22, ILB).
If everything falls into place, meaning the Great Danes win and Wagner loses, UAlbany will find out who they play in the NCAA Tournament during the NCAA selection show that airs Sunday at 1:30 p.m. on ESPNU.