There are several winning formulas in college football, but for Union College head coach John Audino, it all comes down to three things.
“We try to shoot for 75 or more plays on offense. If we do that, we’ve got a great chance to win,” Audino said. “Then, on defense, we would like to hold our opponents to less than 60 plays. But the third thing that is most important is finishing the game right and making plays at the right time.”
The Dutchmen play their home opener against Ithaca College today at 1 p.m. on Frank Bailey Field. Union will attempt to bounce back from two disappointing seasons that were a far cry from its historic success as one of the better NCAA Division III programs in the Northeast.
In other season openers today, University at Albany travels to Buffalo in its first-ever game against a FBS opponent at 3:30 at UB Stadium, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute entertains Norwich University at East Campus Athletic Village Stadium at noon.
Union was 2-8 last year and 3-7 in 2013. That’s quite different from the Dutchmen’s usual standard of excellence, that included five NCAA Division III playoff appearances, three Liberty League championships and five ECAC Division III championships in Audino’s 23-year tenure. Audino had only one other sub.-500 team (2-7 in 2010) during his run.
“I think the most important set of plays, obviously, are at the end of the game, but we also need to be successful in the red zone and in third-down efficiency,” he said. “On third down, you like to be 45 percent or better offensively, and you would love to hold the other team under 30 percent efficiency. The other important numbers for us are that we would love to score 28 or more points a game and produce 400 yards of total offense.”
Yet Audino concedes that his team did a good job in the numbers department despite its losing record a year ago. The most important thing for Union was not finishing games well.
“Adversity is a great teacher,” he said. “When you look at last year, we would love to turn a negative into a positive. It will be a great challenge for us. We’ve had a great off-season in terms of working on one thing. It’s all about finishing. We talked about finishing our lifting, finishing our drills and finishing our practices strong. The good thing is that we have a lot of players who have been in this situation before. Everybody is extremely positive that we can turn things around.”
Union has 42 lettermen, including 24 starters, back. The trigger man will be sophomore quarterback Dante Cioffi, who connected for a school-record seven TD passes against Merchant Marine. He ended up with 1,008 yards passing in just five games. The two running backs with at least minimum experience carrying the ball are Jermaine Carn and Connor Kinzelmann, last year’s top return man. They will be pressed by talented freshman Enoch Penny-Laryea, Ricco Pierre and fullback Ian Bennett. Cioffi’s primary receiving target will be Kyle Reynolds, a fifth-year senior who led the league in receptions (56) and yards (828).
Ithaca holds a 6-5 edge in the series, which includes several NCAA playoff games.
UALBANY AT BUFFALO
The Great Danes, 7-5 in head coach Greg Gattuso’s debut, will take on a FBS foe for the first time. DJ Crook, a Penn State transfer, gets the call at quarterback for the Great Danes, who will also rely on several freshman running backs, including Christian Brothers Academy product Elliot Croskey.
RPI AT HOME
The Engineers, who return 15 starters, are coming off a 6-5 season that included a berth in the ECAC playoffs. Norwich was 7-4 a year ago.
Senior quarterback Jeff Avery directs the RPI offense. He completed 51 of 101 passes for 892 yards and 11 TDs.
GAZETTE COVERAGEEnsure access to everything we do, today and every day, check out our subscribe page at DailyGazette.com/Subscribe
More from The Daily Gazette:
Categories: College Sports