ALBANY — He started slow. That didn’t last.
Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks made his return Saturday night in the University at Albany football team’s home opener — and he made sure the Great Danes sealed their 28-14 win against Monmouth with a convincing finish.
“It feels good to have him back,” UAlbany head coach Greg Gattuso said of his star junior running back. “I can promise you that.”
Ibitokun-Hanks rushed for UAlbany’s final touchdown of the night as part of a performance in which he got stronger as the game headed toward its conclusion in front of 6.384 fans at Tom & Mary Casey Stadium. After his first four carries went for negative-one yards, the final 13 carries for Ibitokun-Hanks — playing in his first game since tearing his left ACL in last year’s season finale — produced 64 yards and a 6-yard touchdown run that capped the game’s scoring with 9:30 to go in the fourth quarter.
“I knew it was coming,” Ibitokun-Hanks said of his touchdown run in his return. “I just knew that it was going to come. I just had to wait for the opportunity.”
When it did, Ibitokun-Hanks seized the moment.
“I don’t even know how he scored. I still don’t,” Gattuso said. “He kind of jumped through a little crack. That’s what the great ones do.”
Ibitokun-Hanks had reinjured his left knee a month ago during the Great Danes’ preseason, causing him to miss UAlbany’s first two games after it had been expected he could return for the team’s opener. He was labeled as a game-time decision for Saturday’s contest, but said he had no doubt he’d play.
Before Ibitokun-Hanks got…
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