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Heartbreaks: a 2017 Theme

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Stony Brook, N.Y. — The UAlbany football team lost to Stony Brook 28-21 in overtime in the New York State “Empire Clash” on the road in front of a crowd of 7,106  a LaValle Stadium Saturday, relinquishing the Golden Apple to the Seawolves.

The Great Danes’ season has taken a turn for the worse as they have now lost five games in a row since upsetting #6 Villanova back on September 23rd. This year the team has been plagued by inconsistent performance on the offensive line, which has led the Danes to fall from fifth in the Colonial Athletic Association in rushing in 2016 all the way to last in 2017.

Last year the team had four seniors on the offensive line and led the league in rushing behind Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks, averaging just over 177 yards per game. This year the team had to fill that void left by the departing players as their average dropped off by more than 100 yards with the team only being able to muster 70 yards on the ground. Saturday’s game was no exception as the Danes only manufactured 85 yards from their run game.

The game didn’t start off to well as Donovan McDonald fumbled the opening kickoff inside the UAlbany 20-yard line, which was recovered by a swarm of Seawolve defenders. That set Stony Brook up in the red zone on the 16-yard line with only seconds taken off the clock. From there the Seawolves ran a 4 play 1:54 drive capped off by a 6-yard touchdown run by Donald Liotine, giving Stony Brook an early 7-0 lead.

The Danes responded the way that coach Gattuso would have liked them marching down the field and tying the game on a 7-yard pass from Will Brunson to Brad Harris. The drive went 12 plays and took 6:07 off the clock. If the Danes could have maintained that same efficiency for the duration of the game, then this would be a different story. That simply was not the case.

The Danes forced a 3 and out on the ensuing Seawolve drive, but shot themselves in the foot again when Karl Mofor was stripped inside the UAlbany 10-yard line as Stony Brook jumped on the ball at the 9. Stacey Bedell ran in for a 4-yard touchdown and the Danes found themselves in a 14-7 hole.

Mistakes were the difference in the game for a UAlbany team that led the league in turnover margin last year. This year that has not been the story, as they have given the ball away more than taken it from their opponent.

“We gave them opportunities. It’s self-inflicted,” said UAlbany head coach Greg Gattuso. “We shouldn’t be in the position that we’re in. We need to play better. The discipline, the penalties, the turnovers were silly.”

In the second half the Danes played a cleaner game and didn’t allow Stony Brook to put points on the board. UAlbany tied the game up on a 3-yard Karl Mofor run with under two minutes to play in the game, which put the clash into overtime.

In the extra frame the Danes elected to start of defense and it only took a few plays for the Seawolves to find the end zone. That came on a 13-yard pass from Joe Carbone to Harrison Jackson.

On UAlbany’s overtime chance they got the ball all the way down inside the 10-yard line, but that’s where the drive stalled out and Will Brunson’s pass attempt on 4th down sailed over his intended receiver, ending the game. UAlbany has now lost by a touchdown or less in four of their last five games.

Now it’s back to the drawing board for a program that looked as if it turned the corner way back on September 23rd, but has regressed since. Greg Gattuso and company have two games left in the season where they would like to go out with some pride and end on a high note.

Saturday they travel to Delaware and take on the Blue Hens and before they look to play spoiler when they host #19 New Hampshire at Casey Stadium next week.

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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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