Union looks to Connolly

Until the Union defense plugs up some holes, senior quarterback Drew Connolly needs to be even more

Until the Union defense plugs up some holes, senior quarterback Drew Connolly needs to be even more of catalyst for the Dutchmen offense.

Connolly, who became the fifth Union signal caller to throw for at least 5,000 career yards during last week’s 28-27 loss at Utica, will be expected to carry the load once again when his 0-2 team takes on 1-1 Ithaca College in the Dutchmen’s home opener today at 1 p.m. on Frank Bailey Field.

Although Union’s defense hasn’t been stellar, the Dutchmen’s offense has more than held its own under the leadership of Connolly, who has completed of 31 of 56 passes for three touchdowns and 475 yards. For his career, Connolly has completed 335 passes in 673 attempts, which is quite an accomplishment, considering the fact that he has missed num­erous games in his career.

“When you look at it, he didn’t play two games as a freshman, and he missed four or five games last year because of injuries and the death of his father,” said Union head coach John Audino, who has a career record of 135-58 at Union. “Compare him to the other quarterbacks on the all-time list, and he’s done quite well. I really thought he was coming on last year before he got injured. He’s more relaxed and calm. He understands what he can do, and he’s been getting better game by game. He’s going to have to carry us. Not only is he an excellent passer, but he’s also a good runner, both on designed plays and in scrambling.”

Connolly’s favorite targets in the early going have been Justin Gallo (10 catches, 233 yards, one TD) and Chase Richey (six catches, 115 yards, one TD), but he also has Connor Gallo and Jimmer Bennett as viable receiving options.

Meanwhile, the Union rushing attack, which stalled against Salve Regina, came alive against the Pion­eers as Dylan Schuck ran for a 107 yards and a touchdown.

“Schuck is a big kid. He was injured all of last year as a freshman, and that first game against Salve Regina was really his first coll­egiate game,” said Audino. “He’ll be a guy who runs forward and leans forward. He’s also a good blocker. He’s not the kind of guy who is going to be able to run away from people, but he’s very strong and effective.”

Despite the fact that Union is off to a slow start and has lost eight games straight games over the last two seasons, Audino said his players are extremely excited about the home opener against a program well known to Union fans.

Union and Ithaca have played each other seven times, with the Bombers leading, 4-3. The programs squared off in the NCAA Division III playoffs in both 1985 and 1986.

“I haven’t seen our kids this excited in a year,” Audino said. “You would think that at 0-2 and coming off a tough loss that the kids might be a little down, but they are coming off a great week of practice. They are really looking forward to playing a team like Ithaca. It’s been a great rivalry, and they are always one of the best teams we play all year.”

The Bombers are coming off a 21-7 loss at Salisbury after beating SUNY-Brockport, 19-14, in their opener. Sal Sulla is their top rusher with 115 yards and two scores. They have split their quarterback duties so far between Phil Neumann

(20-for-39, 238 yards, one TD) and Jason Hendel (13-for-32, 131 yards, one TD). Neumann has been intercepted five times.

Although linebacker John Joseph is having a fine year with 21 tackles, two pass deflections and a fumble recovery, and safety Richard Sixto has excelled with 14 tackles, a fumble recovery and one pass deflection, the Union defense hasn’t been clicking on all cylinders, especially in the fourth quarter.

“Our players haven’t always been technically sound or in the right pos­ition,” Audino explained. “We’ve given up four big plays in the first two games, and we got exposed

every time. I think we’re in the right schemes, but we have to do a better job.”


University at Albany will also be playing its home opener against Maine tonight at 6 at University Field.

The 0-1 Great Danes lost their season opener at Colgate, 37-34 in overtime. Quarterback Dan Di Lella passed for a career-high 239 yards, and kicker Herb Glass moved into fifth place on the school’s all-time scoring list with 174 career points. He is tied for the lead in field goals (28).

Maine (1-1), which competes in the Colonial Athletic Association, is receiving votes in The Sports Network national poll. The Black Bears return 18 starters, including quarterback Warren Smith (27-for-45, 334 yards and three TDs in a

35-29 loss at Pittsburgh) and Pushaun Brown (26 carries for 146 yards and two TDs in the opener against Bryant).


First-year RPI head coach Tim Landis makes his home debut when the 0-1 Engineers host 0-1 Castleton State at 6 p.m. at East Campus Stadium.

This will be the first-ever meeting between the teams.

RPI, which lost to nationally ranked Alfred, 48-17, in its opener, is paced by junior quarterback Mike Hermann, defensive lineman Patrick Gilreath, offensive lineman Joe Grabler and junior linebacker Matthew Day. Hermann threw for a TD and ran for another against the Saxons.

Castleton State QB Ernie Bragg completed 25 of 37 passes for 200 yards and two TDs, while receiver Brandon Boyle caught eight passes for 139 yards and two scores.

Categories: College Sports

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