UAlbany Boots Stony Brook to Win Empire Clash, 25-23

by Ryan McCarthy, BBM Staff Writer

The Great Danes celebrate their Golden Apple Trophy victory (photo credit: Ryan McCarthy)
Albany, NY - All UAlbany kicker Ethan Stark wanted was a crack at redemption. When the opportunity came, a little luck showed up to help him out.

Stark’s 49-yard last-second field goal bounced off of the crossbar and carried over as time expired to give UAlbany their biggest win of the season, upsetting Stony Brook, 25-23, in front of 2,483 at Bob Ford Field on Saturday afternoon. The win was the first in the CAA this season for the Great Danes, who finished 1-6 in the CAA and 3-8 overall. The win also brought the Golden Apple Trophy back to the state capital.

RB Karl Mofor rushed for 100 yards and a touchdown and QB Jeff Undercuffler threw for 171 yards and two touchdowns in the Great Danes’ win.

Each team traded field goals on their first drives. On the Great Danes’ second drive, Undercuffler used play action and a pump fake to find WR Juwan Green down the middle. Green snagged the ball with one hand and took it to the end zone to give UAlbany a 10-3 lead. The Great Danes got the first takeaway of the game on Stony Brook’s next drive as LB Eli Mencer picked off QB Joey Carbone and returned it inside Seawolves territory. Their inability to take advantage of the turnover became a break for the Seawolves as RB Jordan Gowin’s 7-yard touchdown run knotted the game at 10.

Ethan Stark watches his game-winning kick (photo credit: Ryan McCarthy)
Stony Brook converted Undercuffler’s second interception of the game into points when Carbone’s 17-yard touchdown run to give the Seawolves a 17-10 lead midway through the third quarter. That score would stand until late in the fourth quarter when the game got very exciting. P Marc Nolan pinned the Great Danes deep inside their own territory, but on the lone play of the drive, Undercuffler found WR Donovan McDonald deep down the left sideline for an 81-yard touchdown. Stark missed the extra point wide left and the Seawolves kept the lead. The Great Danes forced a three-and-out from the Seawolves and Mofor took over: he accounted for 51 yards of the 63-yard drive topped by a 16-yard touchdown scamper to get back to 22-17 after the missed two-point conversion. UAlbany forced a turnover on the ensuing kickoff and Stark was sent out to ice the game, but his 44-yard field goal attempt hit the left upright.

The Seawolves got the ball with 1:12 left and on fourth-and-10, WR Julius Wingate caught Carbone’s heave to the end zone to give the Seawolves the lead with 17 seconds left. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty would push the kickoff back to Stony Brook’s 20-yard line. Instead of kicking deep, the Seawolves inexplicably elected to squib the kickoff. DB AJ Mistler returned the kick to the Seawolves 42-yard line, leaving enough time for a chance to get within field goal range. Mofor took an Undercuffler pass to Stony Brook’s 31-yard line to give Stark a chance to be the hero with four seconds left. After Stark’s kick to win the game, the Great Danes team ran off the sideline to mob the senior kicker in the south end zone and celebrate in the snow.

(The loss did not prevent Stony Brook from securing an FCS playoff berth. They will travel to play Southeast Missouri State this Saturday in the first round.)

What are the three takeaways from the game? 

Takeaway #1: UAlbany showed steel reserve throughout the game on both sides of the ball. With the exception of the Towson game, the Great Danes have been a tough team to play at Bob Ford Field in 2018. The bugaboo all season long had been giving up plays over 20 yards and until Stony Brook’s final offensive play on the Hail Mary, the Great Danes only surrendered two plays over 20 yards. The offensive line, which been plagued with pass protection issues all season, also bounced back from last week’s poor effort, surrendering only one sack to the Seawolves.

Takeaway #2: Undercuffler showed why he could be UAlbany’s starting quarterback in 2019. Undercuffler was vaulted from third string to the starting job in UAlbany’s game against Maine. In his first win as a starter, Undercuffler showed why the Great Danes have put their faith in him to lead the offense going into 2019. He not only showcased his strong arm with a pair of long touchdown throws, but he also profiled his escaping ability out of the pocket to lengthen drives. 

Takeaway #3: The future is bright for the Great Danes. UAlbany head coach Greg Gattuso was forced to use some underclassmen throughout the 2018 season due to injury. But Gattuso trusted several players to be positive contributors. On defense, LBs Levy Metheny and Danny Damico and DB Mistler finished 1-2-3 in total tackles. On offense, WR Dev Holmes led UAlbany in receiving yards and was second in touchdowns and Mofor finished second in rushing and all-purpose yards while finishing first in touchdowns. All of these underclassmen stepped up to be productive members on the 2018 squad.

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