Danes End Losing Season on a High Note
ALBANY, N.Y. — The one constant this season for the University at Albany football team, that ended the year 4-7, was their defense.
The defense made one final statement on Saturday, shutting out number 14/16 ranked University of New Hampshire 15-0.
After starting the season 3-1, including a win against number 8 ranked Villanova, and being ranked nationally, the Great Danes lost six straight games, dropping them to 3-7. All that was put behind in the rear view mirror on Saturday.
“It’s an incredible win against a really good football team that was fighting for a playoff berth,” Coach Greg Gattuso said. “I can’t say enough about these group of seniors.”
This was the Great Danes second win of the year against a ranked opponent, going 2-3 against other ranked opponents, the three loses consisted of two overtime losses against Richmond and Stony Brook and a 6-0 defeat to Elon.
“You can question our wins and losses and how our seasons going, but you can’t question our brotherhood,” senior Nate Hatalsky said, who lead the Colonial Athletic Association in tackles this year with 122.
In a first half that saw both teams punt the ball four times, the Great Danes were the only team to get on the board. Will Brunson had 87 passing yards in the first half, 31 of them coming on a deep pass down the middle to Brad Harris, that eventually set up Ethan Stark’s 27-yard field goal that gave the Great Danes a 3-0 lead — one they would take into halftime.
The Great Danes opened up the second half with yet another three and out. But after two sacks by the Great Danes’ defense, the Wildcats had fourth and long deep in their own territory. The Wildcats lined up for the punt, but the snap sailed over the punter’s head and out of the back of the end zone for a safety.
The Great Danes went up 5-0 on the safety, but would gladly take the free points in a game where nothing was coming easy to either team. After the ensuing UNH punt, UAlbany started their second drive of the half with good field position.
Three plays later, Brunson then connected with a wide open Austin Ellis on a 54-yard pass down the middle of the field for a walk-in touchdown. It was the redshirt sophomore’s first career touchdown.
The Great Dane defense then went back to work, forcing the Wildcats to punt on their next drive. The Great Danes offense appeared to have it all clicking again as they started to run the ball effectively on the Wildcats otherwise stingy defense.
As Will Brunson and Kendall Rodgers combined for over 35 rushing yards on the drive. The drive came to a screeching halt when the Wildcats defense dug in and forced a field goal attempt. Ethan Stark’s 38-yard attempt went wide right and the score remained 12-0.
The defense did their job yet again on the next Wildcats drive forcing a turnover on downs. After a penalty on the Wildcats on a fourth down punt, the Great Danes drive was kept alive, eventually leading to another 38-yard field goal attempt by Ethan Stark. This time he connected, and increased the UAlbany lead to 15-0, which would prove to be the final score.
The Great Danes defense then forced two fumbles on the next two Wildcats possessions, not getting any points off the two turnovers, but taking enough time off the clock to put the game out of reach.
At the end of the day the Great Danes defense had eight sacks in total, four forced fumbles, two recovered, and limited the Wildcats to just 122 total yards on the day.
“It’s really hard to do anything when the defensive line is as dominant as our guys were today,” Coach Gattuso said. “They have really played that way all year, it’s been an incredible year for them, even with the offense being challenged at times.”
Before the game the Great Danes honored 14 seniors including defensive stars Malachi and Nate Hatalsky, and wide receivers Brad Harris and Jerod Diggs.