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Great Danes Clinch NEC Title by Dominating Wagner
ALBANY — The best part of Bob Ford’s icewater bath on Saturday afternoon was the unseasonably warm temperature.
“The good news is it’s 60 degrees,” Ford said. “I wouldn’t want that if it was about 20 degrees. But it’s good to get it.”
The dousing Ford received from his players on the sideline was well-deserved after the Great Danes trounced Wagner 30-11 at University Field to finish undefeated in the Northeast Conference for the second straight year.
UAlbany (8-3 overall, 7-0 league) earned its third outright NEC title and became only the second team in conference history to run the table in back-to-back years. Robert Morris (1999-2000) was the other.
“It means a lot to us,” senior safety Dave West said after his final regular-season home game. “We put in so much hard work. We had the most guys ever stay up here this summer to work out, like 28 guys and 18 starters, just working hard and thinking about a championship.”
Junior tailback David McCarty ran for 104 yards on 28 carries to set UAlbany’s single-season and career rushing records with 1,581 and 3,082 yards, respectively.
He passed Gary Jones of Ravena, who played for UAlbany in 2002 and 2003, in both categories.
McCarty broke the career mark on his 11-yard touchdown run that gave UAlbany a 16-5 lead with 1:16 left in the first half.
“It’s something to be proud of maybe 10 or 15 years down the road,” said McCarty, a La Salle Institute graduate. “But the first thing is it shows what kind of offensive line we’ve got.”
The yards came hard against Wagner (3-8, 1-6), which had allowed the fewest yards in the NEC entering the contest.
But the Great Danes, who won their 13th straight league game, had success through the air against the third-ranked passing defense in the Football Championship Subdivision.
UAlbany senior Tim Bush of Saratoga Springs had 10 catches for 141 yards and a pair of touchdowns from quarterback Vinny Esposito. Bush’s 58 receptions are a UAlbany single-season record.
Bush credited offensive coordinator Ryan McCarthy for his big day. “Coach McCarthy calls great plays at the times you need to call it,” Bush said. “He just gives me the opportunity to make plays.”
UAlbany took the lead for good at 9-3 early in the second quarter when Esposito threw a 35-yard scoring strike to Bush, who had beaten safety Stefen Gage on a post pattern.
Meanwhile, UAlbany manhandled the feeble Wagner offense. The Great Danes had three interceptions, including cornerback Daniel Avery’s 56-yard return for a score that made it 23-5 in the third quarter.
UAlbany has one more game remaining at University Field in the Gridiron Classic on Dec. 6. The Great Danes will face the Pioneer League champion, which will be the winner of next week’s game between Dayton and Jacksonville.
UAlbany finishes unbeaten
By Mark Singelais, The Albany Times-Union (NY)