ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — At this point in the season last year, the University at Albany football team had allowed over 40 points per game, which translated to an underwhelming 1-5 record. But this year’s defense has the Danes looking like a whole new team.
After improving to 4-2 with last Saturday’s nail-biting win at Towson that ended in a game-clinching, goal-line stop – UAlbany’s first road Colonial Athletic Association victory since the spring 2021 season – the Danes cracked the Stats Perform FCS Top-25 this week, and sit 24th in the nation.
The 17 points they allowed to the Tigers marked the fourth time this season they’ve allowed fewer than 20 points. That happened just once all of last season.
UAlbany boasts the 12th-best scoring defense in the FCS, while having played two FBS teams. None of the 11 programs ahead of them have played more than one such game.
Senior linebacker Dylan Kelly’s career-best 23 tackles drew the majority of the headlines last weekend, but the unit’s overall success through six games has been a group effort.
“It all starts with Joe Greaney, Elijah Hills, Bill Martin, Neco Eberhardt up front,” said Kelly. “Just them opening up holes, taking two (linemen). I know Ori (Jean-Charles) also got 17 tackles, so it just makes our life a whole lot easier. When the ball’s in front of us, it’s just doing your job; making sure that we don’t miss a tackle.”
Being a defensive-minded head coach, Greg Gattuso’s very encouraged with the turnaround he’s seen from that unit.
“It just makes me comfortable,” said Gattuso. “The first five games last year were unrecognizable to me; it was disappointing. We started to turn around at the Villanova game last year, and started playing better, and tougher. Even when you look at (the) Elon game, we battled them. Even though we were getting turned over and stuff, you could see the beginnings of a defense that was starting to grow up. And we’re seeing that now. Defense is about everybody playing well, and right now, so far, we’re playing pretty well.”
The Danes face perhaps their toughest FCS test yet on Saturday, traveling to New Hampshire, where the Wildcats have averaged nearly 40 points per game on offense this year.