The partial-scholarship team set for No. 5 YSU
By Joe Scalzo
Next year, the University of Albany team will leave the Northeast Conference for one of the best conferences in FCS football, the Colonial Athletic Association.
Today, the Great Danes will get a taste of what they’re in for.
Albany (2-0) will play fifth-ranked Youngstown State (2-0) in a game that, in some ways, mirrors the Penguins’ opener at Pitt. The Great Danes will enter a hostile atmosphere as big underdogs (no pun intended) against a team with superior talent.
“You never have to worry about kids getting up for these types of games,” said Albany coach Bob Ford on his weekly coach’s show. “We’re gonna play in a stadium that seats 20,000 against a team picked by some to win the national championship.
“They are very, very, very, very talented. But that doesn’t mean we can’t win.”
Albany lost to Stony Brook in the first round of the playoffs last season after winning a share of the Northeast Conference title. The Great Danes have posted six straight winning seasons and, next season, will add 23 scholarships to reach the FCS maximum of 63.
“If we want to be in the playoffs, this is a playoff team,” YSU coach Eric Wolford said of the Great Danes. “They’re very well-coached and they’ve been somewhere we haven’t.
“They present an interesting challenge for our football team.”
Like the Penguins, Albany is a run-first team, averaging 246 yards per game on the ground (compared to 269 for YSU). Senior TB Drew Smith leads the Danes with 37 carries for 231 yards, while sophomore TB Omar Osbourne has 137 yards on 24 carries.
Sophomore QB Will Fiachi has been efficient, completing 33 of 46 passes for 351 yards, three TDs and one interception. The Great Danes have yet to give up a sack or lose a fumble.
Defensively, they run a 4-3 that has avoided giving up big plays this season. Senior linebacker Jon Morgan leads the team with 13 tackles while senior defensive tackle Ocieka Bakou has 2.5 tackles for loss on a team that has already piled up 10.
“You really can’t look past this Albany team,” said YSU senior lineman Andrew Radakovich, whose team has a date with conference power Northern Iowa looming next week. “They’re a playoff team with a good, solid coach that has been there 40 years.
“It’s a mature team with a lot of kids that have played a lot of downs.”
It’s also a team that YSU should beat by a couple touchdowns. But, unlike Valparaiso last week, it’s a team capable of pulling an upset.
“It’s like I said to the squad [earlier this week], it doesn’t matter if a scout came along position-by-position and said he would take their 22, one-by-one, over our 22 kids,’” Ford said. “As long as we play well as a team, we have a fighting chance to win it.”