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UAlbany won’t need to flip a switch to go into 'playoff mode' when the Great Danes host Central Connecticut State.
“The past three games have been a playoff,” said running back Karl Mofor. “Everybody has that mentality the next one could be their last one, and nobody wants it to be.”
The prospect of a UAlbany team picked to finish 12th in the preseason Colonial Athletic Association poll crashing the FCS Playoffs really began coming into focus ahead of the Great Danes’ bye week. They were 5-3, 4-1 over the previous five games, with a road win over a top 10-ranked Towson bunch.
But coming out of the bye, a loss to Maine threw the postseason into uncertainty.
UAlbany closed the regular season at Delaware, against New Hampshire, and at rival Stony Brook. Two of those teams, Delaware and Stony Brook, played in the 2018 FCS Playoffs; the third, New Hampshire, was in the mix for a berth and had been to 14 of the previous 15.
For a program with just one FCS playoff appearance in its history, going into a postseason mindset for a full month looked surprisingly natural. The Great Danes won all three games by one possession, combining stingy defense – the opponent scoring average over that stretch was just 20 points per game – with effective offense.
No one was more effective than Mofor.
UAlbany’s junior’s running back capped a CAA-leading season with 1,204 yards, 353 more than the next-most productive ball-carrier in the conference. Mofor was electric from the outset of the season, but he saved his best for the Great Danes’ most critical stretch, recording 132 yards at Delaware; 107 with two touchdowns against New Hampshire; and a career-high 176 with three touchdowns at Stony Brook.
To call November a win or go home stretch isn’t quite right. For one thing, it’s cliché, but for another, it’s untrue. By winning out, UAlbany gets to stay home.
The Great Danes impressive play earned it a first round home game at Bob Ford Field – “We call it 'The Bob,'” UAlbany coach Greg Gattuso said.
As a squad, the Great Danes have played their best ball down the stretch, and Mofor individually took it to another level.
His was not necessarily the stuff of social media dreams, with the kind of jaw-dropping moments that become viral GIFs. Gattuso summed up Mofor’s contributions best:
“He’s not flashy. But every game, he shows up.”
Mofor’s tone-setting drive in the Battle for the Golden Cup perhaps most accurately crystallizes the back’s game:
- 7-yard rush
- 6-yard rush
- 4-yard rush
- 2-yard touchdown
Mofor excels at finding the most narrow of creases in the defense. He bounces off would-be tacklers like a pinball and grinds out extra yards. And while flash may not define Mofor’s game, don’t think he won’t kick into a higher gear and break away with some electrifying speed.
He set up his second touchdown run at Stony Brook, for example, with a 44-yard run.
“I feel my main asset as a ball-carrier is I’m creative,” Mofor said. “It’s not the same style every play. I can switch it up when need be; just the versatility.”
In an offense that thrives with balance, Mofor’s versatile game includes giving the CAA’s passing leader, Jeff Undercuffler, an additional target in the passing game. When Undercuffler uncorks to Juwan Green, Jerah Reeves or any of the other outstanding receivers, Mofor plays a vital role as a pass-blocker.
In the emergence of Mofor is a snapshot of UAlbany’s expectation-defying campaign.
He appeared in all 11 games in 2018, and he played well. Mofor rushed for 596 yards as the Great Danes change-of-pace back, and his five rushing touchdowns led the team. But he wasn’t a returning starter, and not a 2018 All-CAA selection like some of his counterparts.
“Everybody wants to pick based on last year, and teams change,” Gattuso said.
Undercuffler’s performance after appearing in four games down the stretch as a true freshman was a significant change. Mofor going from 105 carries to 241 was certainly a change.
And UAlbany’s offense putting up 10 points more per game is one of the key changes behind the reversal in the program’s fortunes.
“This season has definitely been eye-opening for me,” Mofor said. “Because being the back-up last year, just now stepping into a major role, getting more carries, taking more hits, doing my job every single down, has been an opportunity I’m grateful for.”
And the Great Danes are grateful for Karl Mofor.
“He’s a complete player and a great teammate,” Gatusso said. “It’s a blessing to have him on your team.”