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Danes win ECAC Classic 2002


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UAlbany Upends Duquesne 24-0 in ECAC Classic


Albany, N.Y. - Junior tailback Gary Jones rushed 36 times for 194 yards and two touchdowns, as Albany knocked off previously unbeaten Duquesne, 24-0, in the ECAC Football Classic on Saturday, Nov. 23 at University Field.



The postseason contest annually matches the regular-season champions from the Northeast Conference and Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.



NEC champion Albany (8-4) scored on three consecutive possessions in the first quarter to leap to a 17-0 lead. Wind gusts out of the northwest that at times exceeded 30 miles per hour played havoc with both teams passing and kicking games.



Following Joe Maker’s two-yard punt, the Great Danes had good field position at the Duquesne 43-yard line. Senior quarterback Ryan Roeder directed his team on a seven-play drive that ended in Jones’ 19-yard dash through the middle to the end zone.



Albany scored 10 more points by taking advantage of two consecutive short punts that were directly affected by the wind. Fullback Jon George and Jones ran five straight times, before place-kicker Stan Zylinski booted a 30-yard field goal. The Great Danes, who rushed for 253 yards on a muddy field that was drenched by a heavy overnight rain, had to travel just 29 yards for their next touchdown. George drove over left guard on a one-yard scoring run with 19 seconds left in the period.



MAAC champion Duquesne (11-1), ranked 21st in the Division I-AA national polls entering the game, had two scoring chances late in the second quarter. But the first opportunity ended in a missed a 24-yard field goal by Earl Bellisario, and the second drive stalled out at the Albany 13 when quarterback Niel Loebig’s fourth-down pass fell incomplete.



Although Albany failed to score in the third quarter, the offense helped the defense by controlling the clock for 14-plus minutes in the period. The Great Danes put the game away with a late fourth-period drive. Jones, who set the NEC’s single-season records for rushing (1,509 yards) and scoring (142 points), carried five times in the scoring march. The ECAC championship MVP went around right end on a one-yard TD run to cap his team’s upset victory.



“This is a picture-perfect way to end a career,” said Albany linebacker Josh Bazan, who led his team with 11 tackles, broke up two passes, and established the school’s career mark in the process with 354. “We lost some close ones this year, but I wish everyone could go out like this.”



The Dukes, who were bidding for the program’s first undefeated season since 1941, were shutout for the first time since 1997 and held to 146 total yards, including 44 on the ground. Duquesne was averaging 36.1 points and 430.2 yards entering the contest. Loebig completed 12 of 37 passes for 102 yards, and was picked off twice by Albany roverback Ryan MacLean.



“We played like we’re capable of playing,” commented Jones, who rushed for 100 or more yards for the seventh straight game. “We’re lot better than our record. We pounded the football in tough conditions and relied on a line that got the job done.”

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