The Danes take on Rich­mond, a team that loves to pass, with a de­pleted sec­ondary.

Albany Times Union - - SPORTS - By Mark Sin­ge­lais ▶ msin­ge­lais@time­sunion.com 518-4545509 @Marksin­ge­lais

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.

Will Wal­dron / Times Union

Univer­sity at Al­bany safety Joe Casale takes part in Mon­day’s prac­tice at Casey Sta­dium.

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