Story and photo courtesy of Albany Athletics
SMITHFIELD, R.I. - For the past two seasons, Bryant has seemed to be the University at Albany's kryptonite, but that all changed Saturday afternoon at Bulldog Stadium, as the Great Danes won the dogfight, 31-14. After a suspect first half, UAlbany rebounded to score the final 24 points of the contest in front of a national television audience and improved its record to 5-1 on the season and 3-0 in Northeast Conference play.
Recording seven receptions for 103 yards in the win, senior wide receiver Ryan Kirchner became the all-time receptions leader at UAlbany, breaking Tim Bush's record of 147. Still with five games remaining in the regular season, Kirchner has 149 career catches.
“Tim’s a good friend of mine. To be up there with him is an absolute honor,” said Kirchner. “I’m proud of it, but we still have some business to take care of. We’ve got to get another ring here.”
In addition, fellow senior Drew Smith continued to prove himself as one of the best players in Great Danes history as he logged 100-plus rushing yards for the 23rd time in his career. Smith finished the day with a 105 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns. One more 100-plus game and Smith ties David McCarty's record of 24 in a career.
Sophomore Will Fiacchi continued to impress in his first year as starting quarterback, as he totaled a career-high 262 passing yards, completing 23-of-34 pass attempts to keep the Great Danes perfect in league play.
Defensively, Jon Morgan and Kyle Jordan led the squad with five tackles apiece, while Tim Kologrivov added three, including two for a loss. Justinian Mason had the key play of the game; picking off a pass and running the interception back 75 yards for a touchdown.
Defense was the name of the game in the first quarter, as neither team could get into an offensive flow. The score stood, 0-0, heading into the second stanza. In the new quarter, the Great Danes struck first when Smith capped an eight-play, 37-yard drive with a three-yard rush up the middle and across the goal line with 6:59 remaining in the half.
However, the Bulldogs (0-6, 0-4 NEC) turned the tides on their next possession, marching 62 yards down the gridiron. Mike Westerhouse connected with Jordan Harris for a 12-yard touchdown pass at the 3:14 mark.
Just 11 seconds later the Bulldogs broke the 7-7 stalemate, as Robert Rutland intercepted Fiacchi's pass - the first play of UAlbany's drive - and Bryant used some trickery to go up by seven. Wide receiver Jordan Harris received a lateral and tossed an 18-yard pass to a wide-open Robert Ingebretsen on the right side of the end zone.
Trailing 14-7 at the locker rooms, things still looked gloomy out of the break, as the Great Danes were forced to punt, fumbled the ball, and missed a field goal, in the first five minutes of the half.
But, the first-place Great Danes did not roll over. UAlbany used a steady nine-play, 64-yard drive, capped by Smith's 1-yard blast across the goal line to tie the ballgame, 14-14.
UAlbany played spoilers on the Bulldogs next drive, as Bryant's Westerhouse tried to throw the ball away as he was being sacked, and Mason snagged the pigskin. He scampered 75-yards down the sideline to give UAlbany the lead for good, 21-14, with 1:19 remaining in the third quarter.
Not only did the Mason's play put the lead into the Great Danes' hands, it also silenced the Bulldogs' crowd of 1,219, limiting the home field advantage.
In the fourth quarter, Smith continued to power through the defense at will. He made the score 28-14 on his third touchdown of the game, rushing two yards into the end zone, finishing a seven-play, 62-yard drive.
With 4:02 left in the contest, kicker Sean Kenny made the last statement with a 35-yard field goal in tough wind conditions. Kenny had missed his three prior attempts, but finished the day on a high note.
The Great Danes are back in action next Saturday when they welcome Saint Francis (Pa.) to University Field for Homecoming Weekend. The NEC game will kickoff at 1:00 p.m.