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The Great Danes used a championship formula to beat the Elon Phoenix and right the ship snapping a three game skid, this past Saturday at Bob Ford Field at Tom and Mary Casey Stadium. 

Sophomore running back Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks led the winning effort with a career day, rushing for 210 yards on 35 carries and a touchdown. Most of Ibitokun-Hanks’ yards came in the second half as UAlbany tired out the Elon defense and began dominating play.“It was just good to get back,” said Ibitokun-Hanks.

Before coming into Saturday’s game Ibitokun-Hanks rushed for over 100 yards in only one of the last four games.

“We’re going to have hard days, but as long as we stick with it we know we can always bounce back,” said Ibitokun-Hanks.

The team has been searching to find their identity, after a three game losing streak, however it looks as if they found the winning combination in “smash mouth” football, which means run the ball well and play good defense. Although many teams try to accomplish this, UAlbany perfected it this weekend.

“We’re back on track,” said Albany Head Coach Greg Gattuso. “It feels good to get home, play a solid football game and get a win.”

Albany’s defense, which came into the game 2nd in the nation in turnover margin, takeaways and fumbles recovered picked up where they left off scoring twice in the second half. 

The turning point of the game was early in the third quarter Elon faced a 3rd and 1 on their own 11-yard line. Quarterback Daniel Thompson, tried to run off tackle when the ball was jarred loose. Albany linebacker Julian Cox picked up the ball and ran it into the end zone for a 12-yard touchdown.

“It was a big play and I was just in the right place at the right time,” said a humble Cox after the game.

“When I was in the end zone no one was running to celebrate so I was like where’s all the fun at,” said Cox. “But then I got to the sideline and got attacked by all my teammates. It was fun.”

The Albany defense looked strong as they were able to hold Elon to three points, and put constant pressure on the quarterback, forcing him to make errant throws all afternoon. The Great Danes defense were able to hold the Phoenix to 3-14 3rd down conversions.

“They (the defense) scored two touchdowns and put a lot of pressure on their (Elon’s) offense,” said coach Gattuso.

The other defensive score came by the hands of Rayshan Clark, who picked off Elon backup quarterback Conor Hughes and returned it 36 yards for the score. This put the Great Danes ahead 27-3 with 9:09 left in the game.

“I’ve got to give all the credit to the coaches,” said Reyshan. “All week we prepared and we know what they like to run on third and short. So I sat there and jumped the route and it just landed in my lap and I took it 36 yards.”

The defense’s ability to consistently get off the field allowed Ibitokun-Hanks and the Great Dane offense to chew up a lot of the clock and wear the Elon defense out. Albany had the ball for almost double the time that Elon did and they did it with almost no passing game.

Albany quarterback Neven Sussman never found a rhythm and was held to only 34 passing yards. With that being said he wasn’t asked to do much beside be a game manager with only 9 attempts. He missed a couple throws, but for the most part he didn’t make that big mistake that has been ailing the team in the past few games. Instead he just kept handing the ball off to Ibitokun-Hanks, who took care of the rest.

“I let my team know that I’m here for them you know whatever they need me to do,” said Ibitokun-Hanks.

Ibitokun-Hanks had a lot of physical runs between that tackles that he was able to break tackles and gain extra yards. His team rallied around him and they all seemed to play with a little more enthusiasm. “Just being around these guys and being here for two years I’ve learned that physicality is what gets the team going,” said Ibitokun-Hanks.

A lot of teams try to copy what the Great Danes accomplished on Saturday. And that is to run the ball effectively, dominate the time of possession and play good defense. The Danes should be in good shape if Ibitokun-Hanks can stay healthy and the defense continues its high level of play.


John C. Longton III is the sports editor of the Albany Student Press. He previously served as sports editor for Hudson Valley Community College's student newspaper, the Hudsonian. Longton also works for Townsquare Media, the Albany Patroons, and runs his own podcast weekly, Rated R Sports.

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