Ualbany takes on team which it has beaten in each of past two seasons
The Danes hit the road looking for their first football league win of season at UNH./B3
The University at Albany football team has just two more chances to avoid going winless in the Colonial Athletic Association this season.
The first opportunity comes on Saturday at New Hampshire, an opponent the Great Danes (2-7 overall, 0-6 league) have beaten the past two seasons.
“When you look at the film from last year, us vs. them, it’s something to build on,” Ualbany junior wide receiver Jerah Reeves said. “But you have to remember that, teams in the CAA are so different every year, you never know. We don’t really talk about last year or past success, but at the same time, it’s definitely good knowing that you
had success against them the past few years.”
The Great Danes knocked off the Wildcats 36-25 in Durham two years ago and blanked them 15-0 at Casey Stadium in last year’s finale. That’s Ualbany’s only victory in its past 13 conference games.
Both times, UNH went on to reach the NCAA playoffs while Ualbany stayed home. But that won’t be the case this season.
Because of a slow start, the Wildcats (3-6, 2-4) are going to miss the postseason for the first time since 2003, snapping the longest streak in the country.
But UNH hasn’t given up on its season. The Wildcats upset third-ranked James Madison 35-24 in Durham last week. UNH has back senior quarterback Trevor Knight, the CAA preseason Offensive Player of the Year, who was hurt in the season opener and missed the next three games as the Wildcats got off to an 0-4 start.
“New Hampshire did a great job staying out in front (of James Madison) against a really good football team,” Ualbany head coach Greg Gattuso said. “I think (the Wildcats) were voted the No. 2 team in the conference for a reason. They’re talented, they’ve got a great quarterback and it’ll be a handful. And they’re going to be pretty excited about playing after last year’s game here. I think they’ll be pretty motivated.”
Meanwhile, Ualbany will start freshman quarterback Jeff Undercuffler for the second straight week with senior Vince Testaverde still hampered by a bad ankle sprain.
Gattuso said he was impressed by Undercuffler in the 21-16 loss to Delaware last week. He was 15-for-28 for 171 yards with two interceptions. But one was a desperation throw at the end of the game, and the other one at the goal line in the first quarter wasn’t entirely Undercuffler’s fault, according to Gattuso.
He was impressed with Undercuffler completing one pass after picking up a bad snap and making a couple of others on the run.
“I thought he played really well,” Gattuso said. “I don’t know how many times you’ve been around a true freshman playing quarterback, but I thought he was in control. I thought he was calm.”
Gattuso said he noticed Undercuffler pick up the tempo in practice this week after getting the game experience under his belt.
“That’s all confidence,” Undercuffler said. “You have confidence in yourself, you can pick the tempo up and let everyone know what we’re doing, why we’re doing it and what our reads are. Just having the confidence in yourselves and your coaches and your teammates makes a big difference.”
Gattuso said his team was “distraught” after the loss to Delaware, its third in the final minute this season. But he interpreted that as a positive sign because it means they still care despite the record.
Gattuso noted the defense has played better with the return of senior safety Josh Wynn of CBA, who missed several games with a lower-body injury.
“I like our culture, I like our team,” Gattuso said. “They’ve worked hard. We’re starting to get somewhat healthy ... We’re onward and upward. We’re going to keep working. I believe in these kids and we’re going to try to finish with a couple of wins here.”
Ualbany ends the season at home against Stony Brook a week from Saturday.