Danes Ground Hawks With Firework Display
Video: Courtesy of Daniel Lepelstat
ALBANY — The UAlbany football team was firing on all cylinders in their 28-14 victory over Monmouth in their home opener at Casey Stadium on Saturday.
There was a fireworks show at halftime, but the 6,384 fans that were in attendance didn’t have to wait until the break to see an air display.
Great Dane quarterback Will Brunson recorded his best game of the season hitting 17 of his 25 targets for 196 yards and a touchdown. Brunson added a 20-yard rushing score to his stat sheet with just over two minutes to play in the first half giving his team a 22-7 lead heading into the locker room.
At that point in the game Brunson was 14-15 with 148 yards and a touchdown with his only incomplete pass coming on a mental error when he carelessly threw the ball in a crowded middle of the field into the hands of a Hawks defender.
“There were really loading up the box to try and stop our running game,” said UAlbany Head Coach Greg Gattuso. “That’s why it’s important that we have good quarterback play and I thought both quarterbacks played well.”
Backup quarterback Neven Sussman started things off when he ran up the gut for a 4-yard score. This put the Danes up 7-0 3:31 into the game. That set the tempo from there and Monmouth couldn’t ever get anything going.
The UAlbany defense played out of their minds and made key stops throughout the length of the contest. The Hawks came in with a top five rushing offence in the nation averaging 263 yards in their first two games this season. The Danes knew this coming in and that was a focus in their game plan bottling up the Monmouth rushing offense for only 63 yards. That’s 288 less yards than the Hawks had on the ground last week versus Lehigh.
“I thought we were very physical with them,” said Gattuso. “I thought going into this week it was imperative that we were physical with them. I thought we did a great job filling gaps and being physical.”
While the Danes were imposing their will on both sides of the ball they got one of their best playmakers back out on the field since a season ending ACL tear last year. Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks got off to a slow start, but help the Danes put the game away late with his with his 6-yard touchdown rush putting the Danes up 28-14 all but sealing the deal.
“The touchdown run was a really spectacular run and it’s good to have him back,” said Gattuso.
Ibitokun-Hanks was a game time decision and there have been many whispers that the all-conference running back might not even play this season.
“I knew I was ready to play last week when we played at Morgan State,” said Ibitokun Hanks. “I stayed home and was going to do whatever I needed to do to my knee to get ready to play.”
Ibitokun-Hanks adds another dynamic to an offense that looks like it’s starting to click. On the other hand wide receiver Jerod Diggs had a coming out parting with 5 receptions for 112 yards. It seemed every time the Danes needed a big play Brunson would find Diggs and put the ball in his hands.
“Right now I’m not sure I can get anymore comfortable,” said Diggs about his role in the offense. “I feel like when we’re all clicking and on the same page especially with EB (Ibitokun-Hanks) back. It’s crazy.”
The Danes will have to duplicate their performance from Saturday if they have any chance at staying with #6 Villanova, who they host next week at 7 p.m. at Casey Stadium. Nova is coming off a 59-0 performance against Lafayette last week looked as nothing could stop them.
Last year the Danes lost 24-13 to the Wildcats, handing Albany their third loss in row sending their season where they opened up 4-0 into a tailspin.
This year the Danes are still finding their footing and are hosting a much improved ‘Nova team. If the Danes can muster a win this coming weekend it will show to the rest of the league that they are playoff worthy.