The Danes take on Richmond, a team that loves to pass, with a depleted secondary.
University at Albany senior Kareem Brown is the team’s top cornerback. He’d never played safety in a game until last Saturday, thrown into duty against William & Mary after yet another teammate went down on the game’s third play.
The defense held together until allowing two touchdowns in the final seven minutes of an agonizing 25-22 loss.
“It was definitely a humbling experience coming from corner to safety, because (at) safety there’s a lot more responsibility,’’ Brown said.
The Great Danes are missing several safeties because of to injury, which puts the team in a precarious position against Richmond on Saturday night at Casey Stadium with Ualbany (2-3 overall, 0-2 Colonial Athletic Association) badly needing a victory.
The Spiders (2-4, 0-3) love to throw deep to a talented group of receivers, sure to test a secondary that’s short-handed and inexperienced.
“It’s kind of tough, you know, because they’re going to throw the ball 50 times if they can,’’ Brown said.
Brown will get his first career start at safety, next to redshirt freshman AJ Mistler, who made his first college start against William & Mary.
At cornerback, Kareem Gibson will be the only member of Ualbany’s secondary starting at his normal position. On the other side, Ualbany will rely on either junior college transfer Dante Mount or redshirt freshman Daniel Banks, neither of whom have started this season.
The Great Danes are already without safeties Mason Gray (shoulder surgery) and Damon Burton (broken leg), both lost for the year in the preseason. Starting safety Josh Wynn of CBA hasn’t played since the season opener against Pittsburgh because of a lower-body injury. His return is unclear.
Hayden Specht, who had started in Wynn’s place, went down with a right knee injury against Saint Francis on Sept. 22 and is expected back against Towson next Saturday. Tyler Carswell replaced Gray until he was hurt early against William & Mary.
“It’s just insane,’’ Ualbany coach Greg Gattuso said. “It’s almost impossible to think about ... We have our best corner now playing safety, which is hard. We don’t have anybody left without converting a receiver.”
Freshman Joe Casale of Troy High is a safety, but Gattuso said he’s not sure Casale is ready to play, and the coaching staff is leaning toward converting him to linebacker, in any case.
The Great Danes have never beaten Richmond in five career meetings. The past three years they’ve met in high-scoring affairs with the Spiders prevailing 38-31 in 2015, 3630 in triple overtime two years ago and 41-38 in double overtime last year.
“Every year, it’s been nip and tuck,” Gattuso said. “I hope we win a 17-10 game. I just want to get a W and play our best. We know we’ve got to move the ball and control the ball on offense to have a chance to win. You don’t shut Richmond’s offense down.”
And that’s even without quarterback Kyle Lauletta, who’s a rookie backing up Eli Manning with the New York Giants, who took Lauletta in the fourth round last spring.
Richmond redshirt sophomore Joe Mancuso will make his second career start. In his starting debut last week, Mancuso had an action-packed performance, both good and bad, with 489 passing yards, three touchdowns and five interceptions.
In that game, Richmond redshirt junior wide receiver Cortrelle Simpson had 220 receiving yards and senior wide receiver Tyler Wilkins made eight catches for 175 yards.
The Spiders are dangerous despite losing leading receiver Dejon Brissett for the season to an ankle fracture on Sept. 13 against Saint Francis.
“Honestly, I don’t think they have a best guy,’’ Brown said. “I think all of them are really good. They’ll get downfield on you, they’ll make a move, they’ll beat you deep no matter who it is. They’ve always been good since I’ve been here and they’re probably the best receiving corps in the CA A right now that we’ll face all year.”
Ualbany punter and kicker Ethan Stark has his right hand in a cast because of a broken finger suffered against William & Mary. It could affect his ability to receive snaps, so former punter Neven Sussman, now a linebacker, could return to punting duty.
University at Albany safety Joe Casale takes part in Monday’s practice at Casey Stadium.