In a game of similarities one can expect a close outcome. Such is the case when the Great Danes of Albany travel once again to the familiar grounds of La Valle Stadium, the home of the Seawolves of Stony Brook and the first round game of the Division I Football Championships. Eastern Kentucky quietly awaits James Madison with cred.
By Ralph Wallace
College Sporting News
Both the teams of UAlbany and Stony Brook are in the State of New York, about 200 miles and four hours apart. Both have 8-3 records, both were in the same D-II (EFC) and D-I (NEC) conferences at one time, both are in the D-I playoffs for the first time, both teams come from the newest D-I playoffs automatic qualifying conferences and they have played each other 14 times before (Albany leads the all-time series 10-4, last time played in 2007).
My favorite part are the connections between the head coaches.
Albany's legendary coach Bob Ford recorded his 250th win as a college head coach this year and is first among active NCAA Division I FCS coaches with 255 career victories (fourth on the all-time FCS chart). He moved the Great Danes all the way from the club level in 1970 to the present. Along the way, among all the players and coaches he has taught there was one Chuck Priore (UAlbany '82 and current Stony Brook head coach), a fullback from 1979-81 in their wishbone offense and among the best all-time Great Dane rushers. Then Priore became Ford's runningbacks coach for three seasons,
So there are some shared roots, laughs, battles, and circumstances.
Ford acknowledged it by saying "I think we are fortunate playing a team we are somewhat familiar with. Head coach Chuck Priore was one of our captains and coached for a period of time here. I have got a lot of respect for him and we are ready for the challenge."
Priore chimed in "I'm not sure I'd be where I am today without Coach (Bob) Ford. To this day, some of the stuff I do organizationally and the way I handle my staff is because of Coach Ford. We've always had a healthy relationship. I trust him, and he trusts me."
"Both schools compete against similar opponents. It's a great opportunity for two state schools to face each other for the first time in the FCS playoffs. I like that the Albany-Stony Brook rivalry has a chance to be renewed."
University at Albany Great Danes (8-3) vs. #22 Stony Brook University Seawolves (8-3)
NCAA Division I Football Championships - First Round
Saturday, November 26, 2011
Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium (8,136 / Field Turf)
Stony Brook, N.Y., 2:00 p.m. Eastern
UAlbany earned a share of the Northeast Conference championship following last Saturday's win against Sacred Heart. With the victory they clinched the AQ but shared the title with Duquesne. Stony Brook won the Big South Conference championship outright by beating Liberty in their final regular season game.
The UA offense can run and pass to roll up yardage. Examples are last week's 4 TD pass game from QB Dan Di Lella and TB Andrew Smith has nine straight games of 100 or more all-purpose yards. Toss in TB Dillon Romain on the run and WR Ryan Kirchner on the receiving end and the Great Danes can score plus accumulate yards at a nice clip. Big plays are not unusual either and it is notable that Smith is the only non-quarterback to throw a touchdown pass in UAlbany's Division I FCS history, throwing a 44-yard scoring pass off a punt fake just last week. He also did it against Columbia, Maine, and Monmouth in the past.
Defensive end Eddie Delaney is the root of the UA defense. Whether it is sacks, tackles, or just redirecting an opponents attack, Delaney dominates despite playing without a left hand and wearing an insulin pump to control diabetes. DT Zach Gallo joins him on the line to combine with a stout linebacking crew and secondary led by S Jake Ciccarello to give Albany a tough squad to control opposing offenses.
When the offense and defense band together with all-NEC punter Paul Layton to put the Great Danes in the spot to win, they bring on PK Herb Glass who's their all-time field goals and PAT leader.
So while Stony Brook's squad is boasting national all-stars of its own, look for the Great Danes to be ready and able to advance to face #1 Sam Houston State.
EASTERN KENTUCKY IS IN IT TO WIN IT
Eastern Kentucky has won six of its last seven games, captured a share of the Ohio Valley Conference title, its 21st overall, and are making their 20th appearance in the NCAA D-I championships, second most in history behind only Montana (21).
So the fact that they were not a GPI-ranked team in line to get a bid matters little to them. They are ready, have the record (all-time and current), and they are hosting their first home playoff game since 1994.
This is the OVC's first shot this year at the Colonial Athletic Association when the Dukes of James Madison arrive to play Saturday at 12:05 p.m. Eastern in Roy Kidd Stadium, Richmond, Kentucky. In fact this is the first time the Colonels have ever faced the Dukes.
The Colonels are 200-44-1 (.818) all-time, won 10 FCS playoff games and only has one losing home record in 43 years at Roy Kidd Stadium.
They can run the ball. First team OVC junior RB Matt Denham is one of just two players in the FCS to have four 200-plus yard rushing games this season. Behind fellow first teamers juniors Aaron Adams (right tackle), O.J. Enabosi (center) and Patrick Ford (left tackle) he plows.
They can pass it too. Junior QB T.J. Pryor threw for a season-high 282 yards and set a program record with five touchdown passes at Jacksonville State. Junior WR Tyrone Goard has caught at least one touchdown pass in five straight games and now has 11 total scoring catches.
Other OVC first teamers include DB Jeremy Caldwell (2010 CSN National Special Teams Player of the Year for his kick and punt returns) who is currently tied for fourth among all active FCS players with 15 career interceptions, senior DT Emory Attig, junior DB Justin Bell, sophomore LB Ichiro Vance, and sophomore DE Anthony Brown who has 118 career tackles and is the EKU active leader in sacks (10.0) plus ranks second in tackles for loss (22.5).
Facing a hot James Madison squad is a challenge but this time Eastern Kentucky is at home.
And they have a chip on their shoulder.