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The Great Danes shined in their home opener as they beat Holy Cross 45-28 in front of over 8,000 fans at Tom & Mary Casey Stadium.

The Danes kept a well-balanced attack throughout the game, which allowed them to avenge a 37-0 loss handed to them by the Crusaders a year prior.

“Last year was last year and this year’s a new team,” said sophomore running back Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks.

Ibitokun-Hanks led the Great Danes with 183 yards rushing and added four touchdowns in the win. His first score came on a 40-yard scamper at the beginning of the 2nd quarter. Ibitokun-Hanks ran the ball up the middle, broke a couple tackles, bounced out to the left sideline and outran the defense to tie the game at seven. That touchdown run changed the game drastically, as it looked like Holy Cross had all of the momentum up until that point. However, the score by Ibitokin-Hanks led to UAlbany gaining momentum and scoring 38 additional points while holding Holy Cross defensively.

The offensive line dominated the line of scrimmage and pushed the Crusaders back at will. They gave up one sack, where it seemed like sophomore quarterback Neven Sussman tripped over himself on the play, but besides that provided a wall that gave Sussman enough time to throw and opened up holes for Ibitokun-Hanks to run through.

“Those guys are great,” Ibitokun-Hanks said. It is a unit that has returned all of their starters from last year and seem to be the catalyst to the offense’s success. “To me I look up to them and they’re the real work horses. I just cash the check and they put in all the hard work.”

“I love our offensive line,” said head coach Greg Gattuso. “We’ve challenged them for the last two years to become who they are and I’m fired up about them.”

The Danes were also efficient in the air as Sussman went 8-12 for 183 yards and two touchdowns, both of which were in the hands of Sophomore Zee Robberson. Last year Sussman split snaps with junior DJ Crook. This year he’s looked like he’s step into the starting role and his offense is rallying around him.

“He’s always had great confidence and that’s what we love about our quarterback,” Robberson said. “It’s really big for our offense to really start clicking on all cylinders.” Robberson caught his first and second touchdowns of the season on Saturday and totaled 142 yards.

“I’m feeling pretty good, but I’ve got to give it to the O-line they make it look easy,” Sussman said. The offense has 11 returning starters and have taken a step in the right direction. Sussman explained, “The chemistry is there. I think we’re all gelling and meshing together well.”

Late in the game Holy Cross came within 10 points of UAlbany on two different occasions, but both times the Crusaders marched down the field and scored the Great Danes would answer with a drive of their own.

“They were big,” Gattuso said referring to the two scoring drives his team had after Holy Cross scored. “We’re kinda growing up a little bit. This is a team that we played very poorly against for two years.”

On the other side of the ball the defense swarmed forcing four turnovers with three fumble recoveries and an interception. They now have a turnover ration that leads the nation at 10:0. The defense has been a staple in the team’s success. Most of the yards and points they gave up were when Holy Cross was in desperation mode and had to move the ball down the field.

Both sides of the ball seem to be hitting a groove at a time when every game gets more and more important. Next week the Great Danes host the Saint Francis Red Flash at home at 7 p.m. Albany is 14-0 in their series with the flash and look to add to their momentum as the season thickens.


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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