ALBANY, N.Y. — The University of Albany Great Danes got exactly what they were looking for and opened their first home game of the 2017 season with a 28-14 win over the Monmouth Hawks as a crowd of 6,384 looked on.
The Great Danes, led by quarterback Will Brunson (17-25 for 196 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception) and returning running back Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks (17 carries, 63 yards and 1 touchdown) took control of the game early and never looked back. Immediately on their first possession after the Hawks of Monmouth punted the ball away, Brunson, alongside fellow quarterback Neven Sussman marched down the field in only four plays and scored on a Sussman four yard run.
The Danes scored later in the first quarter scoring quickly once again (only six total plays) with Brunson finding Donovan McDonald in the back of the end zone for his only touchdown pass of the game. At that point of the game, the Great Danes were locked in mentally and had Monmouth scrabbling to figure out how to stop their explosive offense.
In the second quarter, Brunson knew Monmouth’s cornerbacks could not contain wide receiver Jerod Diggs (who had a total of 112 yards receiving) kept gunning the ball down the field and giving him the opportunity to go up and get it. The Great Danes led 22-7 at the break after Monmouth quarterback Kenji Bahar fumbled the snap and the Great Danes’ defense recovered. Brunson immediately took one play and scrambled for twenty yards and found the end zone with just five seconds left until the halftime whistle.
The third quarter was a little sluggish for the Danes’s offense as they failed to pick up first downs on their first couple of possessions. However, the defense was the glue that kept everything together. They stood tough and gathered a few sacks and key stops to not allow the Hawks to get back into the game.
The fourth quarter was all about running back Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks who returned to the field after missing the first two games with a strained left knee. He re-aggravated it after having ACL surgery on that same knee at the end of last season. In the fourth quarter he ran the ball for forty-two hard-fought yards and capped off the win with a six yard touchdown run to put the Danes up 28-14 and sealed the win.
Head coach Greg Gattuso after the game had high praises for both of his quarterbacks saying, “He [Brunson] is just getting better and he is starting to make the good throws — we are really pleased with both of them and Neven is hot, cold, he is running the ball and just making plays”
He also was very pleased with the effort his defense and when asked about articles coming out criticizing their defense. Gattuso said, “We have a lot of pride in our run defense and the kids took that as a challenge and I thought they played really well.” Monmouth had a total of 11 first downs and only 63 total yards rushing. The Danes’s had key stops on third down on multiple occasions and three stops on fourth down which killed momentum for the Hawks.
The UAlbany Great Danes with the win last night improved to 2-1 on the season have a big game coming up September 23 against rival Villanova.