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Albany to Start Drive with Early Road Tests
ALBANY — Many of the finest players on the University at Albany’s football roster stood for photos and a few were interviewed by the media Tuesday afternoon in the Hall of Fame Room at SEFCU Arena.
All of the players sported purple jersey tops and enjoyed lunch, yet none received a wallet-size photo of University Field before departing to prepare for the second of two practices.
Too bad. Once the season begins, they won’t be seeing University Field any time soon.
The schedule for the Great Danes, the preseason selection to repeat as Northeast Conference champions, features just four home games and seven road contests. Their first five games are away from home.
UAlbany’s home debut will be Oct. 11 against NEC rival Central Connecticut.
The road stretch doesn’t figure to be easy. The first four outings are nonconference visits to No. 5-ranked Massachusetts (Aug. 30), Hofstra (Sept. 13), No. 16 New Hampshire (Sept. 20) and No. 9 Delaware (Sept. 27).
“It is tough to play away. You feel kind of comfortable on your home field,” UAlbany junior running back Dave McCarty said. “There is something about being at home that makes you play better.”
“This may be the toughest (schedule) we’ve ever had because we have four full-scholarship schools, all on the road, two of them have won national championships — Delaware with five and UMass with two — New Hampshire is a perennial contender and Hofstra is a very good football team,” UAlbany coach Bob Ford said.
Ford continues to expand the scope of his team’s nonconference profile. If the Great Danes can beat two of the nationally-ranked squads and once again get through the NEC schedule undefeated, a first-ever NCAA playoff berth at the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision level (formerly Division I-AA) could be the reward.
Ford knows the opening month is a challenge.
“I think that is the card you have to play. If this is the hand you are dealt, you have to say ‘What is the upside of this?’ Well, the upside is we are going to play four very, very good football teams,” Ford said. “You get better from that process, and you get tougher. I say to the kids all the time, ‘There is no place to hide on the football field.’ “
“These first four games are going to make us extremely tough mentally,” said McCarty, who rushed for 1,503 yards as a sophomore.
UAlbany also features a talented offensive line led by ALL-NEC selections Raphael Nguti, Kevin Richards and co-captain Nik Schultz and a stellar defense led by linebacker Justin Brancaccio and safety Dave West.
“Just because you played four tough games and were picked to win doesn’t mean you are going to coast through this conference,” Ford said.
Danes to start drive with early road tests
By James Allen, The Albany Times-Union (NY)