ALBANY– Eli Mencer’s head perked up as he smiled and said, “Emotionally it was exhilarating, my teammates at the end dog-piling on me was a little bit tiring but, that’s what happens when you get an exciting win.”
That was less than 20 minutes after Mencer forced and scooped up a fumble and returned it 80 yards in overtime of UAlbany’s historic 19-10 victory over #7 ranked Villanova.
The Great Danes have never beaten a team ranked higher than Villanova, they had never beaten a top-10 FCS team, making this the largest upset in program history.
“We’re going to enjoy it tonight, it is a big win for our program, that’s a team we wanted to beat very badly,” said Head Coach Greg Gattuso.
Before tonight, UAlbany had never beaten Villanova (0-3) and they never even led for a minute of any game against the Wildcats.
“We haven’t played really well against them in our first couple matchups, they’ve been at this level for 30 years and have been really good,” Gattuso said.
Ethan Stark’s made field goal to open the 2nd quarter was the first time UAlbany had ever led Villanova in a football game and oddly enough, the Great Danes would not trail for a second in this game.
Time of possession and defense were key for the Great Danes. They held the ball for 53:44 compared to 21:16 for Villanova and the defense held the Wildcats scoreless for three quarters.
Senior Malachi Hoskins was what he and his coaching staff expected from him this season: dominant. His six tackles, two sacks and forced fumble gave Villanova QB Zach Bednarczyk fits in many key game situations.
“This was easy to get up for man, it’s football, to get a win like this against a team like that, it’s really exciting,” Hoskins said.
With Villanova driving in the two-minute drill with less than 10 seconds left in the first half, Hoskins got a strip sack, ending the Wildcats drive and the first half.
It came against 6’4 335 pound left tackle Ethan Greenidge and it helped keep the momentum on the Great Danes side heading into the second half.
“You can’t say enough about the effort and the energy these kids played with tonight,” said Gattuso.
“It means everything, we’ve been preparing ourselves for this for quite awhile and to get this victory means our program us on the up and up,” Hoskins said.
Despite only scoring three points until the 2:23 mark in the fourth quarter, UAlbany’s offense was led and controlled by Redshirt Sophomore QB Will Brunson and Freshman RB Karl Mofor.
Brunson was 24-36 for 221 yards and made several plays with his legs, rushing eight times for 40 yards.
“I thought Will [Brunson] was exceptional,” said Gattuso “That was the number one defense in the country last year.”
Mofor, who started in place of Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks (who missed his third of four games) had 19 carries for 43 yards and a touchdown along with five receptions for 39 yards.
That was Mofor’s first CAA action, “It was different, we gave it our all every play and I was just happy to be out there, this win was big for us.”
UAlbany travels to North Carolina to play Elon next Saturday and Gattuso won’t let his guys celebrate for too long. “We have to get ready for a big one next week, it’s just the way it works, I’m not going to let them think about this for too long.”
Despite a 13-minute delay because of pregame smoke, the Danes improve to 2-0 at home and 3-1 for the season.