HOW BOUT THEM APPLES
ALBANY N.Y. — The University at Albany Great Danes knocked off the Stony Brook Seawolves 13-6 in the Empire Clash and claimed the Golden Apple trophy for the first time in front of a crowd of 3,836 at Tom & Mary Casey Stadium Saturday on Senior night.
Senior Rayshan Clark played as if it was his last game in a Great Dane uniform leading the Danes and his defense with a fumble recovery for a touchdown and two interceptions. Clark’s score would be the only touchdown in the game between both schools and proved to be the difference maker of the game.
After recovering a fumble and bringing it into the end zone Rayshan took the football and gave it to his mother.
“She’s my biggest supporter and I just wanted her to take it as a souvenir as just a thank you to her and a thank you to everyone that has ever supported me in football,” said Clark after the game.
Clark and his teammates knew that they were going to have to stop the Stony Brook run game and force them to throw the ball in order to be effective. “I told my teammates if they put it in the air I’m coming down with it,” said Clark
All three of Clark’s turnovers came in the second half of the game when the team needed them the most.
The Albany offense struggled all game and could only muster 201 total yards. Less than 10 plays into the game, Albany star running back Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks, was sidelined with an apparent knee injury and spent the rest of the game on crutches cheering his teammates on.
Last week Ibitokun-Hanks rushed for 298 yards and three touchdowns on 39 carries. He had a career high in carries and yards in the game and his 1,383 yards rushing this season are fifth all time for a UAlbany running back.
Without having their best player, a lot of the weight fell onto the shoulders of red shirt Freshman quarterback Will Brunson. With a one dimensional offense Brunson succumbed to the pressure and threw three interceptions and only managed to pass for pedestrian 137 yards. He and his lack luster offense failed to take advantage of great field position and turnovers on multiple occasions throughout the game.
The defense is what kept them in the contest and they proved to be the reason if they are to be chosen to make the playoffs.
Midway through the 2nd quarter Brunson was picked off on a deflection off of Freshman Jerah Reeves and was returned all the way down to the five-yard line by the Seawolf defender. The defense bailed the offense out with a goal line stand and held Stony Brook to only three points.
The defensev also forced five turnovers and got off the field when needed. Because of their play, the Seawolves, only converted 3/15 third down conversion and on out of four on fourth down.
“We found a way to win and that’s the most important thing,” said Albany Head Coach Greg Gattuso after the game. “Hopefully it gives us a chance to get into the playoffs and continue to play.
The win comes on the heels a day before the FCS college football committee makes their decision on how the playoff bracket shapes out. Albany is on the bubble and are hoping they solidified a spot with the win they had over the Seawolves.
The Danes, along with the rest of the FCS college football teams, will learn their fate at the selection Sunday show airs on ESPN U at 11 a.m.
As far as coach Gatusso is concerned he believes his team’s resume is good enough to continue playing. “I think our 7-4 record is as good as anyone in the country and I think we deserve to get in.”