Football beats Stony Brook on senior night to finish season
By Jasmine Robinson
Nov. 24, 2014
The University at Albany football team ended its season Saturday night with a 27-17 win over the Stony Brook University Seawolves in the Empire Clash.
In the years old rivalry, UAlbany leads the series over Stony Brook 11-6. In their final game of the season last year, UAlbany fell at Stony Brook 24-3. That loss ended UAlbany head coach Bob Ford’s 43 year career, as he retired after the season. Chuck Priore, the head coach for Stony Brook (5-7, 4-4 CAA), played under Bob Ford as a fullback from 1978- 1982, and served as the Running Backs and Strength Coach for UAlbany (7-5, 3-5 CAA) from 1983-1985.
Most importantly, this game was senior day, dedicated to honor the players of the 2014-15 graduating class. Will Fiacchi, Omar Osbourne, Cole King, and Brian Parker were just a few who made their final starts on Saturday. All 14 seniors were called individually from the end zone to walk with their loved ones onto the field as an interview of each player was shown on the video board. His accomplishments, major, and some personal shout outs were shown to a dedicated crowd. The players were commended for their achievements before the game, a reminder that regardless the outcome, their success over their years as Great Danes is what matters.
“Just to watch them step up and play a gutsy game the way they did [today] was truly special for me,” said UAlbany head coach Greg Gattuso. He finishes his first season with the Great Danes with a winning record at 7-5. “It was a hard fought game and a huge win for us. To the seniors, my hat’s off to you. They stole my heart today.”
The weather was far from optimal at about 20 degrees at gametime, with a hail and sleet mix making play difficult throughout the night. The wind would also play a factor in the game, creating chilly conditions. Stony Brook won the coin toss and opted to start with the ball, almost losing their first possession on a fumble.
UAlbany’s defense started out strong on its opening drive, forcing a Stony Brook punt. The Danes had poor field position on their first drive, but a pass interference penalty gave UAlbany 15 yards and the first down to work with on their own 35. A few missed catches and a crumbling pocket had the Danes punting away after only five plays. Failing to take advantage of penalties in their favor would prove to be a challenge the Danes faced throughout the game. “We don’t like good fortune sometimes,” Gattuso said jokingly.
Quarterback Will Fiacchi didn’t fear rushing the ball at all in the first half, leading the team at halftime with 23 rushing yards. The offensive line held consistent with solid blocking in the second quarter to give Fiacchi the time he needed, but the Seawolves coverage proved to be too much for the Albany receivers in play action. Fiacchi completed 8-17 passes for 102 yards by the half, relying on Omar Osbourne to move the chains for 13 yards.
The first quarter was a struggle for dominance, with neither team making big moves during their possessions or during turnovers. Stony Brook quarterback Conor Bednarski found tight end Will Tye for only 26 yards, the leading receiver for the Seawolves at the half. Bednarski still targeted Tye, despite the fact that UAlbany had him in double coverage, but mostly had to rely on Stacey Bedell to reach first down. After a Josh Gontarek punt return, Osbourne fumbled, leading to a Stony Brook recovery. However, after a 10-play drive, Stony Brook could only go for a field goal attempt, which kicker Przemyslaw Popek sailed wide right, keeping the game scoreless.
The Danes passing game was revitalized during the second quarter. Fiacchi completed four passes for 50 yards in their first drive of the second, targeting Brad Harris, Gontarek and fellow senior Cole King. He found King for a 33-yard touchdown, who made the catch while getting fouled, putting the Great Danes up 7-0 after the extra point. Gontarek later fumbled and Stony Brook’s recovery gave their offense a chance to answer with a field goal.
Stony Brook’s defense shut down Fiacchi’s run game at the start of the second half, giving Bednarski early time to take the Seawolves down the field. After a big third down conversion pass to Pat D’Amato for 30 yards, it seemed like Stony Brook was ready to make a comeback. But UAlbany junior Kyle Sakowski ended the drive as soon as it started with an interception on. The drive later resulted in a Patrick Toole field goal for UAlbany.
Stony Brook put in John Kinder at quarterback to make some changes happen on the scoreboard, but he fumbled on a rush that UAlbany recovered. Though not much was done with the turnover as the Great Danes settled for another field goal.
The fourth quarter began with the Seawolves in control. Kinder was able to find Adrian Coxson deep in the backfield for a 79-yard touchdown in the opening drive. With the score 13-10 UAlbany, the Danes found themselves in a must score drive to maintain the lead. After a facemask penalty against Stony Brook during an interception, the Danes were given a second chance at extending their lead.
Osbourne dominated the rush game on five continuous snaps for 35 yards, but the freshman Gontarek was the ball carrier on the touchdown, the first rushing touchdown of his career. Fiacchi went back for what seemed like a draw play, but Gontarek got the ball on the end around and coasted into the end zone untouched.
The Seawolves scored their final touchdown of the game with five minutes left, taking the ball 75 yards before Marcus Coker rushed two yards for the touchdown.
In the final minutes of the game, Osbourne broke away from multiple tackles to rush for a 68 yard touchdown, finalizing the score at 27-17 UAlbany. He finished his final game as a Great Dane with 127 rushing yards and as the third best single season rusher in UAlbany history.
“That was a great way to cap off my season,” Osbourne, who graduates in Dec., said. “Everyone always wants to have one of those big runs and being able to do that in [my] final game in front of [my] whole family and everyone that came out to support me felt great.”
Fiacchi also broke the all-time passing record and single season passing records at UAlbany in his performance against the Seawolves. “I think he did tie the record on purpose last game so he would have to break it at home on senior night,” Gattuso joked. “It was a hard night but he fought through it. I thought he hung in there and did great.”
“Right now it’s such a blessing and such a privilege to be playing with such great teammates and under great coaches while I was here,” Fiacchi said. “One day I’m going to look back and say, ‘You know what? I accomplished some pretty special things.’