The University at Albany football program will play in probably its biggest game in program history Saturday as the Great Danes visit Stony Brook University in a first round Football Championship Subdivision NCAA Tournament game at Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium (2 p.m. on ESPN3) in Stony Brook, NY. The winner will advance to the second round to play the tournament's No. 1-overall seed Sam Houston State University, Saturday, Dec. 3.
The Great Danes (8-3) earned a spot in the NCAA Tournament last Saturday by defeating Sacred Heart University, 31-21, to win the Northeast Conference with a 7-1 record and its automatic qualifying spot. UAlbany finished in a tie with Duquesne University, but the Great Danes owned the head-to-head tiebreaker after defeating the Dukes, 30-10, Oct. 8.
For those that don't know much about the 2011 FCS playoffs, here's a brief scouting report on UAlbany.
The Great Danes are led by head coach Bob Ford who's in the middle of his 39th season at UAlbany. Ford, who earned the Northeast Conference Coach Of The Year Award, has compiled 255 career victories, which is first among all FCS head coaches.
This week, Ford will be coaching against one of his former players, Chuck Priore, who was a three-year starter for UAlbany in the early 1980's.
UAlbany began its season with back-to-back losses to Colgate University (37-34, OT) and the University of Maine (34-15), but then rallied off six straight victories. After losing to Bryant University, 31-17, Nov. 5., the Great Danes beat Monmouth University (41-24) and Sacred Heart.
Under center for the Great Danes will be senior quarterback Dan Di Lella, who passed for four touchdowns against Sacred Heart. Di Lella finished the regular season with school record 24 touchdown passes and was tops in the NEC in total offense (2397.9 yards per game).
Di Lella's favorite target is junior wide receiver Ryan Kirchner who's fourth in receptions (110) and 10th in receiving yards (1,162) on UAlbany's all-time lists.
Junior tailback Andrew Smith rushed for over 1,000 yards this season (1,052). Against Scared Heart, Smith compiled 215 all-purpose yards, including 135 on the ground.
However, the key to a Great Dane victory will be its defense, which need to play well against the Stony Brook's offense (ranked No. 1 in all of the FCS). Last week, the UAlbany defense held Scared Heart to a season-low 79 net rushing yards, while forcing four turnovers. The Great Danes ended the regular season with the third-best ranked defense in the NEC.
Senior defensive end Eddie Delaney, who led the squad with 8.5 sacks, and junior linebacker Jon Morgan, who led the team with 97 tackles, each earned All-NEC First Team honors. Meanwhile, freshman linebacker Kyle Jordan (59 tackles, 3.0 sacks and two forced fumbles) was named NEC Defensive Rookie Of The Year.
Click here, for more from SB Nation on the FCS playoffs.