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Football Earns CAA Championship With Blowout Win Over Monmouth

By Vince Gasparini | November 22, 2023


The University at Albany bested the Monmouth Hawks 41-0 on Saturday, Nov. 18, capturing their first Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) title in program history.


Linebacker Dylan Kelly (pictured above) was named CAA Defensive Player of the Week for his efforts on Saturday.


“It was a great win for our players, our team, our fans,” head coach Greg Gattuso said. “Can’t put into words right now how good it feels.”


The Great Danes finish the regular season sitting at 9-3 overall and 7-1 in CAA play, along with a 5-0 record at home. This is a drastic turnaround from their 2021 and 2022 seasons, in which they finished 2-9 (1-7 CAA) and 3-8 (2-6 CAA), respectively.


Quarterback Reese Poffenbarger’s 247 passing yards and four touchdown passes on 19-29 passing led the way for the Great Danes. In the opening minute of the fourth quarter, Poffenbarger connected with an open Brevin Easton, who ran 75 yards downfield and front-flipped into the endzone to put UAlbany up 34-0. He finished with 100 yards receiving..


Poffenbarger also found wide receiver Julian Hicks in the endzone twice, along with tight end Ian Renninger.


Poffenbarger wasn’t UAlbany’s only passing threat. On the Great Danes’ first drive of the game, the quarterback lateralled the ball to wide receiver Marqeese Dietz, who tossed it to Hicks in the endzone to put the Great Danes up 7-0.


“Every coach, and every offensive coordinator’s mentality is to score every drive,” Poffenbarger said. “It’s super important to come out and throw the first punch.”


The Great Danes shined on the defensive end. Brian Abraham led the team in sacks with three out of a team total of seven. Anton Juncaj, Ori Jean-Charles, Joseph Greaney, and Dylan Kelly each contributed one sack in the effort. Monmouth’s defense was stifled, recording just 176 total yards on 56 plays through the game.


“It all starts on the inside, with the monsters on the end,” Kelly said. “Having them just get that pressure in there, and then just the linebackers doing our job, we just knew that if we did our job, nobody could stop us.”


Kelly, whilst bringing in 11 tackles in the effort, broke UAlbany’s single season tackle record of 143, bringing his 2023 total up to 145.


The Great Danes finish the regular season sitting at 9-3 overall and 7-1 in CAA play. They share the CAA title with Richmond and Villanova, who are also 7-1 in conference.


“When I hear [the players] repeating what we’re preaching to them during meetings all year long and I see it in articles in the newspaper and I hear it from them, it tells me they bought in,” Gattuso said. “This team has been fantastic.”


Having earned the No. 5 seed in the 2023 Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) Playoffs, UAlbany earned a bye week in the first round, and will begin postseason play on December 2 at home against either North Carolina Central or conference rival Richmond. This will be the third appearance for the Great Danes in the FCS Playoffs, their last coming in 2019.


“When you’re winning games like that in a dominating fashion, you’re gonna keep building confidence,” Poffenbarger said. “We’re flying high on confidence, and we’re just gonna keep it going in the playoffs.”

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