By Christian Hince | November 6, 2023
Heading deeper into November, the University at Albany football team is in a strong position to earn a playoff spot in the Football Championship Subdivision. They’re tied for first in the Colonial Athletic Association at 5-1 in league, holding a 7-3 record overall, and a big reason behind this performance is quarterback Reese Poffenbarger over the past month.
Poffenbarger scrambles for a run against William & Mary in a Nov. 4 home game.
Photo Credit: Shawn Ness / The ASP
In October, Poffenbarger averaged more than 300 yards passing per outing, throwing for 1,246 with 12 touchdown passes and four interceptions across four games, compiling a 3-1 record. He set a career record for yards in a game in an Oct. 14 loss at New Hampshire with 373, accompanying four throws for touchdowns in the defeat.
His most impressive performance arguably came in the first half against Rhode Island the following week, when he threw for 310 yards and three touchdowns, including strikes of 85 and 83 yards to Julian Hicks and Brevin Easton, en route to a 28-3 halftime deficit the Rams never overcame.
Poffenbarger credits his production to receivers such as Hicks and Easton, players he threw to a decent amount in 2022 as well. “You have playmakers all over the place,” he said. He enjoys being “able to cut some of those drives that are usually 15 plays into six plays” due to having reliable producers of chunk plays.
Hicks also had a 75-yard touchdown grab in the New Hampshire game, one of four tossed by Poffenbarger between their outings against the Wildcats and Rhode Island. “Reese, he’s just helped me tremendously, putting confidence in me every day,” he said after defeating the Rams 35-10.
Easton has been close with Poffenbarger ever since the two transferred to UAlbany from Assumption University and Old Dominion respectively in 2022. “We have been building… a connection,” he said. “There's definitely a lot for us to improve on.”
Poffenbarger’s numbers across the season nationally are nothing to scoff at with his 23 touchdown passes tying for fourth-best in the FCS. The redshirt sophomore originally from Old Dominion has made head coach Greg Gattuso proud with this reliability, which often involves successful out-of-the-pocket improvisation for major plays downfield.
“He's really playing smart and he's making good decisions. He's giving his receivers a chance,” Gattuso said. “He's not running the football necessarily, [but] he's scrambling to throw the ball.”
Gattuso has strong rapport with his quarterback, dressing up as him for Halloween in a purple #7 jersey and a pair of yellow practice shorts, going as far as stealing Poffenbarger’s black Hooey baseball cap from his locker for the costume.
“That was one of the funnier things I've seen a coach do throughout my college experience,” Poffenbarger said. “He always keeps it light hearted and everything.”
Poffenbarger’s relationship with his coach has been a highlight of his college experience, feeling like he can let his guard down around Gattuso. “The first thing I noticed was that you can be yourself around him at all times,” he said. “You don't have to try to be some stuck up like, brown-noser to get respect from him.”
The quarterback has also acted as a minor recruiting force through the transfer portal, with former ODU teammates MarQeese Dietz and Levi Wentz joining the wide receiver room this season, as well as starting left guard Austin Mosier.
“In college football in general right now, if there's somebody that can help your team that's in the transfer portal, you're going to try to go get him,” Poffenbarger said. “All three helped us, so it worked out.”
Poffenbarger’s offense is operating at a high level, and he’s not at all doubtful of their ability to compete at the right times. “When we’re running hot, I don't think it's a matter of who's the best offense in the conference,” he said.
Now, Poffenbarger and the Great Danes have two regular season games left to define the story of one of Greg Gattuso’s most successful seasons ever in 13 years at UAlbany.