Dukes top Great Danes in football dogfight
By Shane Marshall
It’s no secret. When James Madison came to Bob Ford Field to play the Great Danes, it was going to be a dog fight. JMU’s Vad Lee made sure his dogs had less bark and more bite. The redshirt junior quarterback finished with 288 all-purpose yards in James Madison’s thrilling 31-28 win over the University at Albany on Saturday night.
UAlbany head coach Greg Gattuso said he was more concerned about Lee’s running than his passing ability. “Their quarterback made plays when he needed to,” Gattuso said. “That’s what he does, he’s a runner.”
Lee led the Dukes in rushing yards with 111 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries. Through the air, Lee was 14-of-23 for 177 yards with touchdown passes to De’Andre Smith and Deane Cheatham. Lee’s 37-yard touchdown strike to Smith was a result of poor tackling, which Gattuso said was a problem all night.
“We didn’t tackle well tonight, and part of that is because these guys are big, athletic kids,” Gattuso said. He added that not forcing a turnover in the game was another factor in the loss.
For UAlbany, Omar Osbourne continued to dominate the ground game for the Danes. He added 129 yards on 29 carries, including two touchdowns, for his fourth consecutive 100-yard rushing game. The effort moved Osbourne into fifth place all-time in UAlbany rushing history, passing Peter Pedro and Tom DeBloise. However, Osbourne wasn’t satisfied with the effort.
“I felt I wasn’t hitting holes with the right tempo I usually do,” Osbourne said. As for being able to compete with other CAA teams, Osbourne said the team has no problems doing that. “[We] personally plan on staying with other teams,” Osbourne added. “We’re a different UAlbany. We know what we can do, we can stay with any team in the conference.”
Great Danes quarterback Will Fiacchi finished with a season-high 278 passing yards, going 17-of-32 passing, and connecting for two touchdowns. However, James Madison’s pass rush was able to get to Fiacchi four times in the game. The most effective pass rush the Danes have seen this season.
Fiacchi led the Danes 71 yards on 11 plays to tie the game at 28 apiece with fifty five seconds to play.
“There’s no quit in us,” Fiacchi said. “I was totally confident we were going to overtime. Our defense made plays when they needed to.”
Thinking about some key plays, Fiacchi said the Great Danes left some points on the field. Just five seconds into the second quarter with the game tied at 7, Andre Martin was stopped on 4th-and-goal from the James Madison one-yard line. The Dukes capitalized on the turnover, and marched 99 yards, capped off by Jauan Latney’s two-yard touchdown run. With 10:59 left in the game, Fiacchi found Cole King on a 33-yard catch for a touchdown, but it was called back on a questionable offensive pass interference call on King.
Questionable officiating was another theme of the game. On a UAlbany punt, JMU’s Sean Tapley fumbled the catch, which was recovered by UAlbany, but the referees called a kick-catch interference to give the ball back to James Madison.
“My only disappointment in the officiating tonight was not getting the courtesy of some explanations,” Gattuso said. “Generally, when a head coach asks for an explanation, that’s just common courtesy to give him one. I was not given that courtesy tonight.”
The loss ends UAlbany’s undefeated season, and now the Danes have to prepare for Richmond. Although coaches and players were both disappointed with the loss, they certainly proved they’re a much better, more competitive team than they were a year ago. “This was a hard fought win against a well-coached, hard playing Albany football team,” James Madison head coach Everett Withers said.
Richmond visits Bob Ford Field this Saturday, Oct. 11, at 3:30 p.m. for the annual homecoming weekend football game.
Click here for highlights from UAlbany’s loss to James Madison.