A Day For The Danes
Sept. 19, 2009
Courtesy of Albany
Albany, N.Y. -- David McCarty scored on a 24-yard run with just over two minutes remaining, as UAlbany rallied in the fourth quarter to upend nationally-ranked Maine in the Great Danes' home opener before 4,823 fans on Saturday, Sept. 19 at University Field. The Black Bears were ranked No. 20 by Sports Network and No. 19 in the FCS Coaches polls.
UAlbany (1-2) trailed 16-3 heading into the final period, but finally gained some momentum with a 77-yard drive. Quarterback Vinny Esposito, who overcame a school-record four interceptions and a lost fumble on a first-quarter sack, fired a 41-yard strike to Tim Bush to jump-start the sequence. Esposito later rolled to his left and lofted a 22-yard touchdown pass to tight end Paul Booker, who outbattled two Maine defenders.
After a blocked punt, UAlbany tried for the home run, but Esposito's pass, on a flea-flicker play, was picked off by strong safety Jerron McMillian, his second of the game. Despite the Great Danes fifth turnover, the defense stiffened and Jordan Waxman got off just a 17-yard punt under pressure. The short kick set up Herb Glass' 33-yard field goal and cut the deficit to 16-13 with 3:45 remaining.
UAlbany's defense came up with another key play on Maine's next possession. Quarterback Mike Brusko ran a third-down option to the right and inside linebacker Chris Simpson forced the ball loose with one of his 11 tackles and defensive end Tony Sparano recovered at the Maine 26. McCarty knifed his way through the middle and cut back to his left two plays later on the winning touchdown.
"I just took my read steps, came unblocked, and made a play," said Simpson, who turned in a career-high effort. "Our defense picked it up (in the second half) and we played with emotion and confidence."
The Black Bears, who led 16-0 at halftime, marched to the UAlbany 37 in the final minute behind the arm of Warren Smith, but safety Jake Ciccarello picked off a fourth-down pass at the 13-yard line to preserve the comeback win.
"The defense was lights out in the second half," said UAlbany coach Bob Ford, whose team allowed just 92 of Maine's 276 total yards after the intermission. "The offense started to catch fire and the blocked punt helped. We battling for respectability, just taking it one play at time. But it was a phenomenal win."
In the opening half, Maine was in complete control after forcing the home team to commit four turnovers. Defensive back Steven Barker sacked Esposito and lineman Al Serena recovered the fumble on the sideline. Sophomore tailback Derek Session, who ran 21 times for 76 yards, scored on a 20-yard run over the left side for a 7-0 lead.
The Black Bears upped their advantage to 14-0 with Brusko tossed a 15-yard scoring pass to wideout Landis Williams early in the second quarter. UAlbany safety Emerson Kinsey came on a blitz from the right side and Williams beat his defender down the sideline. Defensive end Jordan Stevens added a safety when he sacked Esposito in the end zone with 2:50 left in the first half. UAlbany drove to the Maine 3-yard line in the closing seconds of the period, but on second-and goal, Esposito's pass over the middle was deflected and Barker came up with the diving interception.
McCarty rushed for 109 yards on 27 carries, the 20th time he has reached the century mark as a collegian. Esposito went 14-of-28 through the air for 186 yards, as his team defeated a FCS top-25 opponent for the first time since 2006.
"I am sore from my hip down," said McCarty, who has battled through injuries throughout the season. "The emotions were running through me and I saw how hard everyone was playing. I saw the hole (on the winning touchdown) and I wasn't touched."