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Football set to open season Saturday at Pitt

UAlbany Sports Information   08-30-2018

ALBANY, N.Y. – The University at Albany football team opens one of the most challenging schedules in program history Saturday, Sept. 1, when it faces Pittsburgh of the Atlantic Coast Conference. 

Kickoff at Heinz Field, home of the Pittsburgh Steelers, is set for 3:30 p.m.

The Great Danes will face a Football Bowl Subdivision school for the fourth consecutive season when they take on the Panthers, whose last game of 2017 was a victory over Miami (Fla.), then the No. 2-ranked team in the country.

UAlbany will go on to face three opponents ranked in the FCS STATS Preseason Top 25 in Colonial Athletic Association play. The CAA, arguably the strongest FCS league in the nation, has six teams ranked in the poll.

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Twitter: @UAlbanyFootball

STORYLINES

Testaverde earns starting nod at QB

Vincent Testaverde, a fifth-year senior, won a three-way battle for the starting job during training camp.

Testaverde, the son of longtime NFL quarterback and former Heisman Trophy winner Vinny Testaverde, will be backed up by redshirt junior Will Brunson, who started all 11 games in 2017, and redshirt sophomore Nyc Burns, who comes from Northeast Oklahoma A&M after redshirting at Oklahoma State.

Testaverde joined the Great Danes as a mid-year transfer in 2017. He last appeared in a college game in 2014, when as a true freshman at Texas Tech he completed 15-of-26 passes for 116 yards against Texas. He then transferred to Miami, his father’s alma mater, where he redshirted in 2015.

This season Testaverde will wear No. 14 as a nod to his father. He had worn No. 17 when he first arrived at UAlbany.

Ibitokun-Hanks makes his return

The Great Danes’ offense gets a boost from redshirt junior tailback Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks, who missed all but one game of 2017 while rehabbing a knee injury he had suffered in the 2016 season finale.

Ibitokun-Hanks was a STATS FCS Third-Team All-American and member of the All-CAA First Team in 2016 after rushing for 1,401 yards and 16 touchdowns.

He also had led the team in rushing in 2015 as a true freshman, when he ran for 609 yards and two touchdowns.

In Ibitokun-Hanks’ one appearance in 2017, in Week 3 against Monmouth, he ran for 63 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries.

The Great Danes expect to have a dynamic backfield this season. UAlbany also returns sophomore Karl Mofor, who stepped in for Ibitokun-Hanks last season as a true freshman, rushing for 555 yards and six TDs.

Three coaches pay visit to alma mater

The Great Danes have three Pitt graduates on the coaching staff: Jarred Holley (2009-12), Nate Byham (2006-09) and Jim Sweeney (1980-83).

Holley, UAlbany’s safeties coach, was a two-time All-Big East player who finished his career with 11 interceptions. He attended mini-camps with the Pittsburgh Steelers after signing as an undrafted free agent.

Byham was a three-year starter at Pitt who served as a team captain as a senior. He was an All-Big East honoree in his final two seasons, during which he caught 30 passes for 368 yards.

Sweeney started four seasons (1980-83) on the offensive line. He was a second-round pick in the 1984 draft who went on two play 11 seasons with the New York Jets, one with the Seattle Seahawks and four with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Gattuso makes a homecoming

Head Coach Greg Gattuso also has deep ties to Pitt and Western Pennsylvania.

A graduate of Seton-LaSalle High School who also was the head coach of his alma mater from 1989-91, Gattuso grew up just three miles from Heinz Field.

He went on to graduate from Penn State in 1984, but not before helping the Nittany Lions capture a national title in 1982.

Gattuso served as the head coach at Duquesne from 1993-2004, compiling a 97-32 record over 12 seasons.

He then worked under Dave Wannstedt at Pitt from 2005-10. He was the tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator from 2005-06 and then coached the defensive line from 2006-10.

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