STARK'S HEROICS BRING GOLDEN APPLE BACK TO UALBANY
Football score: UAlbany 25, No. 10 Stony Brook 23
Location: Tom & Mary Casey Stadium in Albany, N.Y.
Records: UAlbany 3-8, 1-7 CAA | Stony Brook 7-4, 5-3 CAA
Short story: Ethan Stark’s 48-yard field goal as time expired sent the University at Albany football team pouring onto the field to celebrate a 25-23 victory Saturday over No. 10-ranked Stony Brook at Casey Stadium.
Ethan Stark kicked his 13th and 14th field goals of the season. He finishes his senior year just one shy of the program record for field goals in a season. He made 14 of his 17 attempts.
Sophomore running back Karl Mofor ran for 100 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. His 11-yard reception with 13 seconds to play helped set up the winning field goal.
Freshman quarterback Jeff Undercuffler completed 10-of-20 passes for 170 yards and two touchdowns, including an 81-yard strike to Donovan McDonald in the fourth quarter.
Kareem Brown and AJ Mistler led the defense with nine tackles apiece. Eli Mencer also intercepted a pass and returned it 34 yards.
Head coach Greg Gattuso: “We played so hard all year, and we’ve been on the wrong end of these kind of games too much. I just have faith in these kids. For them to come back and be resilient enough win the game … they just played great all night. Our seniors, to a man, they played really hard and really well. They’re going to be missed in this program.”
Ethan Stark threw his arms in the air and then raced down the field with just about every member of the University at Albany football team chasing him.
His 48-yard field goal that hit the cross bar and skipped through the uprights as time expired had just lifted the Great Danes to a wild 25-23 victory over No. 10-ranked Stony Brook at Casey Stadium.
UAlbany piled on the senior placekicker in the stadium’s south end zone. The Great Danes had lost three games this season in the final minute, but not this one. Stark got hugs and high fives from tearful teammates on one of the most memorable Senior Days imaginable.
The win returns the Golden Apple Trophy to the Great Danes, who beat a Top 10 opponent for the second time in as many seasons. Last year, it was a 19-10 victory over No. 7 Villanova in overtime. This year, it was a heroic kick to cap a game in which the lead changed three times in the final two minutes.
“Our kids have been fighting their tails off all year,” Head Coach Greg Gattuso said. “This wasn’t a one-game thing. We’ve done this all year.”
Juwan Green (49 yards) and Donovan McDonald (81) also caught long touchdown passes from quarterback Jeff Undercuffler in a rivalry contest that went to halftime tied at 10. That helped set up the drama of the final moments.
Stony Brook had taken a 23-22 lead with 17 seconds to play on Joe Carbone’s 41-yard Hail Mary-style touchdown pass to Julius Wingate.
But the Seawolves were given an unsportsmanlike penalty during the celebration, moving the ensuing kickoff back 15 yards. Redshirt freshman safety AJ Mistler ended up fielding the squib kick at the UAlbany 40 and returning it 18 yards, to the Stony Brook 42, with 13 seconds left.
“I knew after AJ got that kickoff return I’d get another shot,” Stark said.
The Great Danes had just one to play to set up the kick. On the play, freshman quarterback Jeff Undercuffler surveyed his options, then checked down over the middle to Mofor, who was able to gain 11 yards.
He’d missed a 41-yard try in the first quarter as well as an extra point and 44-yard attempt in the fourth quarter.
He said he’d been praying for one more chance.
So was his coach.
“I was praying like a champion,” Gattuso said.
Stark’s kick dinged the crossbar … and skipped through.
“There isn’t a senior in the history of college football that’s had a better Senior Day,” Gattuso said. “Just an amazing kick.”
The game had been back and forth throughout.
With 4:02 left in the third quarter, Carbone broke the tie with a 17-yard scramble that gave the Seawolves a 17-10 advantage.
UAlbany answered with McDonald’s touchdown catch with 5:32 left in the third, but Stark’s extra point missed. That left Stony Brook still holding a 17-16 lead.
Mofor scored on a 16-yard run with 1:45 to play to put UAlbany ahead for the first time since the early stages of the first quarter. That play gave UAlbany a 22-17 edge following a failed two-point conversion.
UAlbany then recovered a fumble on the kickoff, but Stark’s field-goal try hit the left upright with 1:12 to go. Stony Brook still would get one more chance, down five points. The drive ended with Carbone’s TD pass to Wingate, which looked like it might be the decisive score.
That is, until Stark got the chance he’d been waiting for and delivered the best imaginable Senior Day moment.