Union College hopes to pull back on the emotional throttle and shift gears just at the right time when the Dutchmen square off against the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Engineers in today’s 62nd renewal of the Dutchman’s Shoes Trophy game.
Today’s homecoming game, set for 1:30 p.m. on Frank Bailey Field, is the oldest collegiate football rivalry in New York, the fifth-oldest in NCAA Division III in years played and the 16th longest in terms of games played at the DIII level. According to Union records, the Dutchmen own a 79-25-4 lead in the series, although RPI disputes the results of a couple of those games.
Suffice it to say that this series, which began on Nov. 19, 1886, is an emotionally packed grudge match between two programs that recruit many of the same student-athletes and are located just a half-hour apart.
For Union head coach John Audino, who has a 10-9 record against RPI, the key to the game is controlling his team’s emotions.
“We want to be as calm and as poised as we can be, but we still want to play with intensity,” said Audino, whose Dutchmen are 3-1 in the Liberty League — a half-game behind leader Hobart — and 3-4 overall.
“I think the bye week has helped us get healthy, and we’ve felt the tempo pick up every day of practice in preparation for this game. We don’t want to be too cranked up emotionally for this game. There have been times this season when our players have held on to the wheel too tightly. We want to keep our guys on an even keel, emotionally, but we don’t want to take away any of the guys’ intensity. I don’t think that will be a problem.”
Audino expects a close game because both the Dutchmen and the Engineers are similar in so many respects.
“This year will be one of the best games ever in the series, in my opinion,” Audino said. “These are two evenly matched teams. Both teams have good quarterbacks with some very good receivers. Both teams have excellent kickers, and both teams use several different running backs. Also, both teams defenses struggled early, but seem to be playing better as the season has progressed.”
Audino said there is also added motivation beyond the historical significance of the series.
“We both have something to play for in this game, because each team can knock the other out of playoff consideration,” he said. “We’ve got just one loss in the league, and so do they, so if we win, we can knock them out of title contention, and the same goes for RPI if they win.”
Audino said the Dutchmen are the healthiest they’ve been all season, although several defensive linemen are out for the season. Union’s offensive line, banged up all year, has taken advantage of the off week, and all the skill-position players are ready to go.
Senior quarterback Drew Connolly paces the Union offense with 105 completions in 186 attempts for 1,680 yards and 15 touchdown passes. He is fourth on the team’s all-time list for career passing yards with 6,431.
Connolly’s favorite target is senior wideout Justin Gallo, who has caught 44 passes for 875 yards and 11 scores. He averages 19.9 yards per reception and is second on the Dutchmen’s all-time receiving yards list with 2,985. He needs 269 yards to eclipse Steve Angiletta’s mark of 3,253.
T.J. Franzese leads a balanced group of Union rushers with 237 yards. Darnel Thomas (219 yards) and Dylan Schuck (194 yards) are also threats.
Union kicker Adam Henry is 16th nationally in field goals made per contest (1.29).
RPI , which currently holds possession of the Dutchman’s Shoes Trophy, is spearheaded by junior quarterback Mike Hermann, who tops the team in passing (104-for-183, 1,216 yards, 10 TD passes) and rushing (561 yards, 10 touchdowns). T.J. Strunk adds 274 rushing yards from his tailback position, and Austin Caswell is the Engineers’ leading receiver with 26 catches for 356 yards and five scores.
Union averages 25.1 points and 366.9 total yards per game, and RPI produces 28.2 points and 363.3 total yards per contest.
Defensively, each program allows about 370 total yards per game, and both teams are minus-1 in turnover ratios.
DANES HIT THE ROAD
University at Albany travels to Wagner College Stadium to meet the Seahawks in a Northeast Conference game.
UAlbany tops the NEC with a 4-0 record, 5-2 overall, while Wagner is 1-3 and 1-6.
UAlbany, which has won 13 of the previous 14 meetings, is led by quarterback Dan Di Lella, who tossed a school-record five touchdown passes and ran for another score in last week’s 63-35 victory over Central Connecticut State.
The Great Danes are riding a five-game winning streak.
Wagner, which has lost six games in a row, is led by quarterback Nick Doscher, who has been battling a shoulder injury and missed several games. Doscher has passed for 703 yards and five TDs along with 200 yards rushing and three more scores.
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Categories: College Sports