Ualbany takes on team which it has beaten in each of past two sea­sons

Albany Times Union - - SPORTS - By Mark Sin­ge­lais ▶ msin­ge­lais@time­ • 518-454-5509 • @Marksin­ge­lais

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.

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