Sibley’s run, Greaney’s return spark UAlbany football to first victory

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ALBANY — Two long touchdowns propelled the University at Albany football team to its sorely needed first victory of the season on Saturday.

The first came from graduate running back Todd Sibley Jr., who ran 97 yards on the game’s first offensive play. The second one came from sophomore defensive tackle Joseph Greaney, who rumbled 77 yards on a fumble return for a pivotal score in a 45-26 victory over Central Connecticut before 6,111 fans at Casey Stadium.

Sibley’s touchdown came after UAlbany muffed the opening kickoff and had a penalty that put the Great Danes at their 3-yard line.

He took a handoff from quarterback Reese Poffenbarger and followed great blocking through the right side. He ran through an attempted tackle at his own 27 and sprinted down the right sideline for the second-longest touchdown run in program history.

“I feel like anytime you can start the game off with a touchdown, I mean, that’s probably the best way you can start a football game,” Sibley said. “It helped the offense kind of get our momentum early and we just kind of rolled from there.”

UAlbany improved to 1-3 heading into its bye week.

Joseph Greaney said his touchdown was his first that counted since his pee-wee days. He had one called back by a penalty in high school.

On Saturday, Central Connecticut (0-4) was still within striking distance at 24-12 early in the third quarter. Blue Devils coach Ryan McCarthy, a former UAlbany assistant, decided to go for it on fourth and 7 from the Great Danes’ 20.

UAlbany defensive tackle Elijah Hills sacked Central Connecticut quarterback Shon Mitchell, who fumbled. Greaney scooped  the ball at the 23 and chugged all the way to the end zone before diving in. His teammates piled on.

“I had to dive into the end zone because my feet were giving out on me,” Greaney said. “I was laying there and everyone was jumping on me so it was tough. I was looking for an oxygen mask or anything. I was dead. I just had to get my legs back under me and had to get back in the game.”

UAlbany senior tight end Thomas Greaney, Joseph’s older brother, got into the act after that. He caught touchdown passes of 22 and 6 yards from Poffenbarger in the second half.

“I told Central Connecticut when we were kicking the extra point (after Joseph’s touchdown) that you guys are going to let both Greaney brothers score on you today,” Thomas said. “I was happy to be able to get two today, but it was awesome seeing him run down and score. I don’t know the last time two brothers have scored in a college game on different sides of the ball. So being able to see him score was honestly better than any of my collegiate touchdowns.”

Poffenbarger finished 18-for-26 for 257 yards and two touchdowns and Sibley rushed 18 times for 190 yards.

Defensively, UAlbany coach Greg Gattuso said he felt the team made some strides after losing 48-45 at Fordham a week earlier. After getting next Saturday off, the Great Danes will face Colonial Athletic Associaton opponents for the rest of the season, starting Oct. 8 at Monmouth.

“We needed a win,” Gattuso said. “We talked about it as a team. One win leads to two wins and we had to get the first one. Overall, I thought we played well.  … I thought the defense started to play better.”

Sibley said he would rather not have a week off before facing Monmouth, which knocked off CAA preseason favorite Villanova 49-42 on the road on Saturday.

“Honestly, I would prefer to have a game (next week),” Sibley said. “I like to keep the momentum rolling. I like how we’re playing. I think defensively they grew up a lot today. Offensively, we’re piecing things together well and special teams is playing together, too.”

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