Bill Ziskin

Great Danes set to host No. 7/8 Villanova

UAlbany Sports Information   09-21-2017

ALBANY, N.Y. – The University at Albany football team opens its Colonial Athletic Association schedule at 7 Saturday night when it hosts No. 7/8 Villanova at Tom & Mary Casey Stadium.

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The Great Danes will be beginning play in one of the most challenging Football Championship Subdivision conferences in the nation. Four CAA teams are ranked in the STATS FCS Top 25 poll this week, including No. 1 James Madison, the defending national champions; 11 CAA teams, including UAlbany, are receiving votes in at least one of the Top 25 polls.

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Digital broadcast: ESPN3

Radio: 105.7 FM

Twitter: @UAlbanySports, @UAlbanyFootball, @UAlbanyGameDay

Live stats: Stat Broadcast

PROMOTIONS

Pink Game: Some UAlbany student-athletes will be wearing the names of men and women impacted by cancer. READ MORE HERE

Fireworks: Enjoy a fireworks show to begin immediately following the game.

NEWS AND NOTES

Hatalsky steps up at LB: Senior linebacker Nate Hatalsky, from Mechanicville, N.Y., about half an hour outside Albany, leads the CAA with 36 tackles. He was named CAA Defensive Player of the Week this past week after tying for a game-high with 15 tackles against Monmouth. Hatalsky, a former standout basketball and football player at Mechanicville High School, was a walk-on with the program when he enrolled in 2013; he was awarded a full scholarship this past summer. He won the starting linebacker job during the preseason

McDonald shines on punt returns: Sophomore wide receiver Donovan McDonald has been a special-teams standout since taking over the punt-return duties in Week 2 against Morgan State. The transfer from Nebraska, where he both played football and ran middle-distances for the track team, is third in the CAA with an average of 15.6 yards per return. Against Monmouth, McDonald returned a fourth-quarter punt 34 yards, setting up the Great Danes’ final touchdown by starting the offense at the Monmouth 16-yard line. 

Diggs breaks out at WR: Senior wide receiver Jerod Diggs, a transfer from Lackawanna College, caught five passes for 112 yards against Monmouth. His best of the day was a 41-yard catch in the first quarter that led to quarterback Neven Sussman’s TD run and a 7-0 UAlbany lead. Diggs is sixth in the CAA with 73.3 yards per game. Diggs also is second in the CAA with an average of 22 yards per kickoff return. 

Doing it with defense: UAlbany’s defense is giving up just 245.3 yards per game, second best in the CAA. The Great Danes are No. 2 in pass defense (170.3) and No. 5 in rushing defense (75.0). UAlbany has given up only 37 first downs, the fewest in the CAA, and its plus-3 turnover margin is third-best in the league.

Scouting Villanova: Villanova is led by first-year coach Mark Ferrante — a former assistant to his predecessor, the now retired Andy Talley. The Wildcats are ranked No. 7 in the STATS FCS poll and No. 8 in the Coaches Poll. The offense is spearheaded by junior quarterback Zach Bednarczyk, who is second in the CAA with 276 passing yards per game. He already has thrown for 828 yards and five touchdowns while completing 72.2 percent of his passes. His favorite target is Ryan Bell, who has 16 catches for 285 yards and is averaging nearly 18 yards per catch. Villanova has the strongest run defense in the CAA, allowing only 48.3 yards per game; but the Wildcats are giving up more yards through the air (256.3) than any team in the league. Villanova return 15 starters from a team that went 9-4 (6-2) and reached the second round of the FCS playoffs.

IN THE NEWS

Great Danes "Think Pink" for Saturday's game

UAlbany football to play at Syracuse in 2021

Nate Hatalsky named CAA Defensive Player of the Week

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