By Christian Hince | December 11, 2023
Saturday night was a historic moment for the University at Albany, as they beat the fourth-seeded Idaho Vandals 30-22 at the Kibbie Dome in Moscow, ID over 2,500 miles from home.
Reese Poffenbarger (left) and Greg Gattuso (right) after advancing to the FCS Semifinal on Saturday.
Photo Credit: Brent Warzocha / UAlbany Athletics
Down 19-14 heading into the fourth quarter, the Great Danes scored the next sixteen points, winning as a five-point underdog in front of a roaring crowd of 9,372.
“It was a magical win for our program and [the] first time in the final four is pretty sweet,” head coach Greg Gattuso said.
It’s a new height seen at any level for the program, which was founded by head coach Bob Ford in 1970 as a club team, spending 1973-94 in Division III and 1994-98 in DII before arriving in I-AA.
Reese Poffenbarger threw for 341 yards and three touchdown passes, all of which went to wideout Brevin Easton. Easton was electric, hauling in nine catches for 228 yards and scoring from 64 yards out in the first quarter to tie it at 7-7, 39 yards out in the second to cut Idaho’s lead to 16-14, and 30 yards out in the fourth to put the Great Danes up 23-19 with 4:38 left in the game.
“It was definitely a pivotal moment and overall great play by me and Reese,” Easton said.
This connection allowed Poffenbarger to break UAlbany’s career passing touchdown record, eclipsing Jeff Undercuffler’s previously held mark of 59. The record doesn’t matter as much as the victory to Poffenbarger, who said he cried tears of joy afterwards.
“I don’t think anybody on our team would know exactly when they broke a record,” he said. “Maybe I’ll tell my kids one day.”
Running back Griffin Woodell rushed for 98 yards on 21 carries, capping his night off with a 29-yard score to increase UAlbany’s lead to 30-19 with 46 seconds remaining.
The Great Dane defense faced one of their tougher challenges against the Vandals, allowing over 400 yards of total offense for the first time since losing 38-31 to New Hampshire in October.
Idaho quarterback Gevani McCoy often scrambled out of pressure as he threw for 317 yards and a touchdown, and running back Anthony Woods took 16 carries for 104 yards and a rushing score.
The UAlbany defensive unit came through in the end though, when an Anton Juncaj strip-sack was recovered by defensive tackle Elijah Hills with 2:46 left in regulation.
“That’s a great play by a great player,” Gattuso said. “It came at the right time.”
Their victory over Idaho also marks the largest win increase in Division I this year, now sitting at 11-3 as opposed to last year’s 3-8. Gattuso thinks it’s a natural progression of a team which is largely the same on paper.
“We fought our tails off last year,” he said. “We tried to win games and I knew we had something special with the kids we had.”
Next Saturday the Great Danes will try to make school history again in the final four when they visit the first-overall defending champions in South Dakota State. The Jackrabbits are 13-0 and have won 27-straight, but Gattuso is excited to see his team operate as road warriors for yet another week.
“These kids have been resilient,” he said. “They believe in each other and they believe in what the coaches are telling them.”