Union College’s football team passed a gut check last week.
In a pivotal game that could have sunk their entire season, the Dutchmen snapped a three-game losing streak and upset previously unbeaten Hobart, 38-35, in Geneva.
Now, with their confidence restored, the Dutchmen hope to celebrate their homecoming by reaching the .500 mark when they host winless St. Lawrence today at 1 p.m. on Frank Bailey Field.
During its losing streak, Union lost back-to-back games in the
final minute of play. Head coach John Audino knew his team wasn’t as bad as its 1-3 record indicated, and the Dutchmen proved it last week against perennial league power Hobart.
“That was one of the best games in program history,” said Audino, whose team is 1-2 in the league and 2-3 overall. “I think we came out with more intensity in that game, and we got the leadership we needed.
“I’m not saying we gave up before. On the contrary, we’ve played hard all season. But last week, our guys didn’t panic. Plus, we got some big plays from Chris Coney and Drew [Andrew Connolly].”
Audino said he wasn’t surprised by his team’s performance.
“We’re a couple of kicks from being 4-1,” he said. “There were a couple of plays in each game, plus those missed kicks, that led to those losses. Against Hobart, we made all the key plays, and even though we gave up what appears to be a lot of points, we actually played some excellent defense in that game.
“Our program has plenty of energy, right now. This week will be an important game because we can even up our record by going 2-2 in the league and 3-3 overall.”
Perhaps the one player responsible for Union’s recovery last week was Coney, who continued his phenomenal season with a
career-high 243 yards and three touchdowns. Coney’s performance was the sixth-highest in Union history. He has rushed for at least 100 yards in four of Union’s five games, and is averaging 148.6 yards per game (eighth-best in the country) to go along with nine touchdowns.
“Chris was going up against an eight- or nine-man front for the entire game. The fact that he was able to run for 243 yards was simply amazing,” Audino said. “Chris had the chance to break off some long runs for a change, and that led to his big totals. He’s a team player, but he’s also a very good player who is the kind of back who can score at any time. Believe it or not, he could even have more yards than he has so far, because in one or two games, we stopped going to the run early because we were behind.”
Union is also getting solid play from Connolly, a freshman quarterback who has completed 47 of 103 passes for 631 yards and four touchdowns. Josh McKelligan is his primary target with 20 catches for 243 yards, whlie Jared Gourrier has 18 receptions for 220 yards and three scores.
Defensively, Kevin Rautenstrauch and John Peters are the leading tacklers with 48 and 45, respectively.
St. Lawrence (0-2, 0-5) is paced by quarterback JP Kearney, who has completed 61 of 123 passes for 634 yards and a pair of scores.
“Although St. Lawrence hasn’t won a game yet, they have an excellent defense, which is one of the best in the league,” said Audino. “In last year’s game at their place, they really stuffed us in the second half. Offensively, they throw the ball a lot, and we haven’t done a great job against the pass so far this season. We’ll need to play all four quarters to beat them.”
DANES ON THE ROAD
University at Albany attempts to extend its winning streak to three games when the Great Danes travel to Campus Field in Fairfield, Conn., to take on the Sacred Heart
Albany held off Central Connecticut State, 24-22, in its home opener last week. The Great Danes are 2-0 in the Northeast Conference and 3-3 overall. Sacred Heart is 2-0 and 6-0.
The defending NEC champion Great Danes have won 12 of their last 13 conference games and are led offensively by tailback David McCarty, who has rushed for 100 or more yards in 11 of his 12 collegiate starts. Linebacker Justin Brancaccio was named the NEC defensive player of the week.
The Pioneers, who are receiving votes in the Sports Network national poll, are averaging 34.5 points and 395.5 total yards per game. Quarterback Dale Fink, last year’s NEC Offensive Rookie of the Year, has connected on 122 of 180 passes for 1,279 yards and 15 touchdowns. Wideout Steve Tedesco has 40 catches for 482 yards.
RPI STILL UNBEATEN
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute puts its unbeaten record (2-0 Liberty League, 4-0 overall) on the line against the Susquehanna Crusaders in the Engineers’ homecoming game today on ‘86 Field.
Fourth-year quarterback Jimmy Robertson has completed 84 of 124 passes for 993 yards and seven touchdowns to lead the Engineers. Sophomore running back Nick Costa spearheads the ground game with 331 yards and six touchdowns.
Junior defensive back Joe Albano anchors the defense with 24 tackles, two intereptions and two pass breakups.
Susquehanna’s key weapons are senior quarterback Derek Pope, who has completed 79 of 149 passes for 848 yards and six touchdowns, and junior halfback Dave Paveletz, who has 778 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Punter Bobby Eppleman is eighth in Division III in average yards per punt (43.21).
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