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Danes Win Fight of their Lives Against Villanova

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ALBANY — The Great Danes capped off an improbable win over the #7 ranked Villanova Wildcats Saturday when Eli Mencer returned a fumble recovery for a touchdown in overtime ending the game at 19-10, giving the Danes their first win over a top 10 opponent in program history.

“I saw the ball and my instincts just kicked in,” said Mencer “I just picked it up and ran.”

On that play Villanova was facing a fourth and one in overtime and the UAlbany defense swarmed behind the line of scrimmage, got to the quarterback and forced the ball out. That’s when Mencer picked the ball up off the ground and returned it 80 yards for an exclamation point that capped off the win, which erupted the 6,866 on hand at Casey Stadium to witness the upset.

“You can’t say enough about the effort and energy these kids played with tonight,” said UAlbany Head Coach Greg Gattuso. “I’m very proud of them.”

The Danes had a 10-3 lead in the game with just about two minutes left. That’s when Villanova put together a 15 play 87-yard drive and scored a touchdown as time expired to force and extra frame.

“That can bring a team down going into overtime, but our guys didn’t stay down; they stayed up and we knew we had to get points,” said starting quarterback Will Brunson.

Villanova won the coin toss in overtime and deferred to the Danes, who had to start on their own 40 because of a leaping penalty on the last play of the game that carried into overtime. UAlbany responded with an 8 play 37-yard drive and came away with a field goal. The rest is history.

The UAlbany defense kept them in the game for most of the contest holding the Wildcats to 254 yards including only 61 rushing yards. That’s impressive seeing how Villanova rushed for over 260 yards in two out of their first three games. Last week ‘Nova won 59-0 against Lafayette and seemed as if nothing could stop them.

“We’ve been preparing ourselves to be in this opportunity for a while,” said senior defensive lineman Malachi Hoskins, who had six tackles including two sacks in the game. “It’s great to actually put everything together and actually come out with a victory. Our program is up and up and this shows a sign of that.”

Last week UAlbany received two votes FCS coaches poll. You can probably bet that they are going to crack the top 25 this week after their performance over a perennial power such as Villanova on Saturday.

The team is getting better and better every week and seems as if they are starting to click on all cylinders. The defense was the story of the game, but the offense gave them much needed relief and kept them off the field.

The Great Danes dominated in time of possession. They held the ball for over 38 minutes compared to the Wildcats, who had their offence on the field for only 21:16. Will Brunson and company put together two key drives that ate a huge chunk of time at the beginning and end of the game.

On UAlbany’s first drive of the game the offense put together and 18 play 76-yard drive to come away with a field goal giving the Danes a 3-0 lead. That possession took 10:24 seconds off the clock and established the tempo that the Danes wanted to play.

On the Great Dane’s last drive in the fourth quarter they ran 15 plays for 71 yards and a touchdown, breaking a tie and put them up 10-3. On both of these drives Will Brunson made key throws and the offensive line had enough push up front to establish an efficient run game.

UAlbany can’t celebrate this win for too long. Next week they are on the road in North Carolina and face an Elon team that has won three games in a row.

“We gotta get ready for a big one next week,” said Gattuso. “It’s just the way it works. I won’t let them think about this too long. They’re going to enjoy it tonight. It is a big win for our program.”

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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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