Batten down the hatches. The Seagulls are coming to town.
One of the toughest schedules in Union College football history continues today at noon, when powerful Salisbury visits the Dutchmen in a noon non-conference matchup at Frank Bailey Field.
Union, trying to snap a two-game losing streak, is 2-3 overall, while the Seagulls, from the Atlantic Central Football Conference, are 5-1.
“This could be the toughest schedule we’ve ever had, when you take into consideration our three non-conference games with Ithaca, Salisbury and Springfield, and a very tough Liberty League schedule this year,” said Union head coach John Audino. “All three of our non-conference games are against premier programs, and the Liberty League is extremely balanced. We’ve had our hands full, so far.”
The Dutchmen are coming off an emotional 23-14 loss to Liberty League-leading St. Lawrence last week. Union played without starting quarterback Drew Connolly, who was home in Foxboro, Mass., to attend the funeral of his father, who passed away at age 48 of a heart attack.
“Last week was an unusual situation. We’ve had young men pass away before the season, like when Mark Stokes died a few years ago, but this is a little different. We lost a quarterback because his father died at such a young age. It was very unsettling for us. Our hearts bled for Drew, and it was an emotionally trying experience for us all. Our kids didn’t quit last week, but they were emotionally spent in the second half.”
In that game, the Dutchmen replaced Connolly with wide receiver Connor Gallo, who hadn’t played quarterback since his high school days. Gallo did an adequate job, but he was intercepted three times and couldn’t generate any big plays through the air.”
“Mentally and physically, we have something to prove this week,” Audino said. “Drew will be back for us, and we are all committed to playing our best football. Our guys are very resilient.”
But even with Connolly (47-for-104, 712 yards, seven TD passes) back in the lineup, Union will be short-handed. Fullback Kyle Holmes is out for the season with an injury, and leading rusher Chris Coney (609 yards, five touchdowns) is not at full strength after separating his shoulder last week against the Saints.
Salisbury presents numerous challenges for the Dutchmen. The Seagulls are led by quarterback Dan Griffin, who is the team’s leading rusher with 820 yards and 10 touchdowns. Griffin has only tried 37 passes so far, completing 15 for 257 yards and a pair of TDs.
The Seagulls also have an extremely large offensive line, led by left guard Alex Smith (6-foot-8, 315 pounds), center Christian Emezie (6-3, 300) and right guard Chris Hutton (6-1, 310).
“Salisbury uses a flex bone offense with a lot of option. They have both a lot of size and a lot of speed, especially on offense. Last year’s game [a 19-16 Salisbury win] was a heckuva a game that went right down to the wire,” Audino said.
A.J. Roccio (43 tackles, one sack, one fumble recovery) and Anthony Cassese (42 tackles, one interception, four pass deflections) are the leaders for the Union defense, and they will be tested by Salisbury’s high-scoring offense. The Seagulls average 43.2 points per game.
RPI at SLU
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute takes on St. Lawrence at Leckonby Stadium in Canton today at 1 p.m.
The Engineers are 1-1 in the conference and 3-2 overall, while St. Lawrence is 3-0 and 3-4. If RPI wins, the league standings would tighten up considerably and put the Engineers back in the title chase.
RPI, which trails the all-time series with SLU, 29-24, is spearheaded by sophomore quarterback Mike Hermann (83-for-141, 797 yards, seven TD passes) and senior wideout Pat McCarthy (23 catches, 270 yards, two TDs). Hermann is also RPI’s top rusher with 223 yards and a touchdown on 53 attempts.
St. Lawrence is at its best with a ball-control offense with plenty of running between the tackles by Marcus Washington, who ran for 100 yards against Union last week. Quarterback JP Kearney is also a threat.
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Categories: College Sports