The 31-17 loss to Old Dominion last Saturday may have dropped the Great Danes record to 0-1 on the season, but the game itself could be good for the 2017 Great Danes and the program moving forward.
The last two season openers for UAlbany were played against the University Of Buffalo in Western New York including last year’s 22-16 victory.
Not only does playing an FBS opponent make players better but it also puts an FCS team like the Great Danes on the map.
“It’s good for our kids, it’s good for recruiting, it’s good for our program and it’s good for people to see who UAlbany is playing,” Head Coach Greg Gattuso said.
“That game gave us a lot of confidence that we can play with anyone, we really held our own,” said Freshman RB Karl Mofor, who rushed for 99 yards and a TD in the loss.
Mofor and Redshirt Junior Kendall Rodgers Jr. we’re expected to rotate every two possessions in place of Athlon Sports Preseason FCS All-American Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks, who missed the game with a lingering knee strain. But Mofor was given the majority of the carries in the second half.
“I was prepared to do it because EB and KJ are good mentors and role models and they help me get better every day regardless if they’re practicing, playing or not,” Mofor said.
A few missed throws and drops are self-inflected wounds that led to UAlbany being down 21-3 at halftime.
“Even though we didn’t play a great first half it’s not because we weren’t ready to play, that wasn’t the case at all,” said Gattuso “It took us a little while to get started, I told our guys at halftime when we were down 21-3, we walked out more confident than we did at the start of the game.”
“I think it was a mixture of miscommunication and just trying to get settled into the game,” Redshirt Sophomore QB Will Brunson said “We knew we could play with them, at that point we knew we could hang with them and beat them.”
Down two scores in the fourth, Junior CB Kareem Brown intercepted a pass with 9:53 to play that led to a 31 yard rushing TD by Mofor that cut ODU’s lead to seven.
“I was just reading my reads, reading my keys, I turned and there was the ball,” said Brown.
A 14-0 run for the Great Danes put them in position to tie and potentially win the game until an inadvertent facemask penalty turned a second and 14 into a first and ten. The very next play, ODU’s QB Blake LaRussa would toss a 55 yard TD to Jonathan Duhart.
Brown, who was in coverage on that momentum swinging play barely missed deflecting the ball before the catch, “My technique played a very big part, I got behind him a little bit, he kind of nudged me a little bit with his arms but it was a great ball, great catch and great play by him,” Brown said.
“We had a chance to tie at the end of the game and that’s all you can ask for in those kinds of games,” said Gattuso.
The Great Danes are now shifting their focus to Morgan State but, the loss to ODU they believe can be built off of.
“They really need to be tested before they get good and that was a great test for them,” Gattuso said.
“Those guys upfront on the OL played a great game for what it was, that defensive line, we’re not going to see that the rest of year,” said Brunson, “Those two DE’s are NFL caliber players and our guys played their butts off against them”
Scheduling that FBS game is becoming a tradition and it’s possible because of the growth of the program, Gattuso said “Albany went down there five years ago and lost by 56 points so not much has changed for them but a lot has changed for us.”