Spiders spoil Great Danes Homecoming
By Shane Marshall
Coming off a heartbreaking 31-28 loss to James Madison, the University at Albany looked to rebound on Homecoming afternoon against 20th-ranked Richmond. However, it wan’t the home team who left Bob Ford Field with a win.
A first drive interception by Aaron Roane gave the Spiders momentum early. Just five plays and twenty-two yards later, Spiders quarterback Michael Strauss found Reggie Diggs for a four yard touchdown pass to give the Spiders a 7-0 lead less than four minutes into the game. The Spiders never slowed down.
“This Albany team really fought hard,” Richmond head coach Danny Rocco said. “I knew that they would. We really never knocked them out. They really continued to compete and make plays.”
Fueled by Strauss’ 277 yards passing with three passing touchdowns, Strauss’ third game this season with three touchdown passes, the Spiders rolled to a 41-28 victory. The Spiders came into the game leading the nation in third-down conversions at 65 percent and improved on that stat going 9-for-12 on third-down against Albany.
“Their quarterback is outstanding, he does a great job, he gets the ball out fast,” Albany head coach Greg Gattuso said. “When you play a team like that, you can’t allow them a play when you have an opportunity to make one.”
The struggle for the Danes to get their defense and Richmond’s offense off the field was a huge factor in the game. Wide receivers Stephen Barnette, Reggie Diggs, and Brian Brown were a threat in the passing game all day, all three recording touchdown grabs. Barnette led the trio with 109 yards, Diggs with 75, and Brown with 70. Barnette’s effort moved him into fourth-place all-time in Richmond’s record books for receptions, and tied for third place all-time in school history for touchdown receptions.
“Richmond is a very good football team,” Gattuso said. “They’re one of the upper echelons in this league, but we continue to put ourselves in the hole, and it takes away how we have to play.”
Will Fiacchi’s interception on his first drive was the only blemish on his passing game. The fifth-year senior quarterback was 28-of-49 passing for 341 yards and two touchdowns in the effort. Fiacchi’s first 300 yard passing game of the season moves him into second place on Albany’s all-time passing list with 5,783 career passing yards. He now sits 1,232 yards behind career leader Joe Savino. Omar Osbourne was held below 100 yards rushing for the first time in five games finishing with only 32 yards on nine carries. The early deficit forced the Danes to pass more than use Osbourne in a ground-and-pound offense. Cole King had a career day due to the increase passing game. The redshirt senior wideout had 145 yards and a touchdown in his 11 receptions. King moved into fourth-place all-time on the Danes’ career receptions list, passing Chris Phillis. Josh Gontarek once again contributed in the passing game, catching six passes for 80 yards and a touchdown.
“We’re getting hard to defend because we have enough weapons out there,” Gattuso said. “We’re getting there, we’re getting better.”
Richmond’s Evan Kelly was a presence in the backfield all game. Both Spiders sacks were credited to Kelly, and they came in huge situations to kill a couple Albany drives.
Defensively, UAlbany won the turnover battle. Kyle Sakowski, Michael Nicastro, and Jamal Robinson each recorded an interception for the Danes. However, Richmond still outscored UAlbany in points off turnovers, 10-6.
The two straight losses against CAA opponents now puts Albany in another position to prove themselves in one of the toughest conferences at the FCS level. Some people even went so far as to say UAlbany had a weak schedule their first four games of the season.
“Nothing is easy in this,” Gattuso said. “There’s a level of building, and I hope our fans stay with us, cause that’s a such a critical part of being a good football team is having a home base of fans that come, cheer, and stay with us through this building process.”
The homecoming loss came in front of a sellout crowd of 8,500 at Bob Ford Field, something the Great Danes want to see a lot more of because they feed off the energy of the crowd.
Click here to see highlights of UAlbany’s loss to Richmond.