ALBANY– In desperate need of a win to keep their playoff hopes alive, UAlbany gave up 209 yards on the ground to (2-6, 1-4) University of Rhode Island in a 31-14 loss on Saturday at home.
The Great Danes have lost four in a row, now (3-5, 1-4) and haven’t won a game since beating Villanova at Tom & Mary Casey Stadium on Sept. 24.
“It’s your worst nightmare to be in this situation,” Head Coach Greg Gattuso said “We really played well in a couple of losses and lose three tough games to ranked teams by 11 total points, I really think it’s had an effect on us.”
Those losses all came to CAA opponents; Elon, Richmond and Maine.
LB Eli Mencer was at the podium after their last win because of his game winning fumble recovery in OT. Saturday after a 69 yard TD in the loss to URI, Mencer found himself fielding questions again, in an entirely different situation.
“I don’t think this team is any different, you just have to come out and play and we didn’t have the heart today that we had against Villanova,” said Mencer.
A normally stout rushing defense (4th in rush defense, 2nd in total defense) was everything but on Saturday. Danes allowed three different URI ball carriers to rush for over 60 yards including the Rams QB JuJuan Lawson, who was also 12-19 for 123 yards and 2 TD’s.
“It was clearly missed tackles, we had the QB dead to rights at least three times and it’s been a problem,” Gattuso said.
UAlbany’s defense was also on the field for over 38 minutes.
“Our defense has played pretty well for the most part but missed tackles have been a problem, tackling is effort and tackling is heart and our kids just haven’t finished very well,” added Gattuso.
As bad as the Danes defense was, the offense was worse. They mustered just three first downs in the first half and seven total for the game.
Ranked 11th in the CAA, UAlbany averages 95 yards rushing per game. Their struggles on the ground in 2017 continued as they had 23 rushes for seven total yards against URI.
Other than one ten play-71 yard drive with Neven Sussman playing QB, Sussman and starter Will Brunson struggled mightily. Brunson was 8-15 for 59 yards and one interception, Sussman was 5-11 for 73 yards and an interception.
Gattuso’s frustrations aren’t with the QB’s or the windy conditions, it’s with his offensive line. Both QB’s were sacked a combined seven times.
“The amount of sacks these kids are taking is ridiculous and unacceptable,” Gattuso said.
The youth and inexperience of the line has been well documented. In theory, with game experience, they would improve. With this unit, that is not the case.
“Yeah, I think they have regressed to be completely honest, we definitely need to be better up front, said Gattuso, “If that group doesn’t play as a cohesive unit we have massive problems and they broke down today all across the board.”
With three games remaining, the challenge for the players and coaches is to not let this season get out of hand. This team has preached “Purple Family” all season and is something they still believe in.
“I think our kids have a lot of pride, we have family oriented atmosphere and our guys care about each other and what we do here,” Gattuso said.
Danes look to snap their four game skid at Stony Brook next Saturday.