SCHENECTADY — By the fourth quarter, some crows high in the air flew by to break up an otherwise flawlessly blue sky.
On the field below, the Union football team was also nearly perfect.
Except for a couple of inconsequential errors, the Dutchmen rolled up a 27-0 lead on RPI at halftime, then polished off a dominating 33-0 win at Frank Bailey Field on Saturday to keep the coveted Dutchman Shoes trophy.
Ike Irabor ran for three touchdowns in the first half for Union, including a 61-yard burst down the left sideline for a 20-0 lead, the offensive line didn’t give up a sack and the defense held RPI to 212 total yards while sacking George Marinopoulos seven times.
It was the first Dutchman Shoes shutout by either team since Union won 17-0 in 1996 and the biggest blowout since 1984, when the Dutchmen won 38-0.
Union finished the regular season at 10-0 and will find out Sunday who its opponent will be in the NCAA Tournament, likely a home game. RPI is 6-4 and may get an ECAC bowl game when those games are announced on Monday.
“It’s very big for us,” Irabor said. “It’s a strong rivalry with us against RPI, so we need to keep this trophy. All week we were talking about how this was the biggest game of the year. The playoffs doesn’t even matter.”
“It’s huge,” senior defensive lineman Vincenzo DiCaterino said. “It’s awesome, and better than last year. It’s on our home field, and the roles were reversed this year. Going into the playoffs, this is good for momentum.”
“I can maybe speak for everyone, but we would rather go 1-9 and win this game than 9-1 and lose to them. Regardless of what our situation, we don’t want to lose to this team.”
Irabor finished with 113 yards on 22 carries, and quarterback William Bellamy was 15-for-25 for 251 yards and touchdown passes to Andre Ross Jr. and Will Sirmon.
The Engineers’ first five possessions ended with punts, and three of those were three-and-outs.
Union, meanwhile, scored touchdowns on three of its first four possessions, the last of which amounted to a one-play “drive” when RPI punted to Union’s 39-yard line, and Irabor took it all the way on the first play from scrimmage.
He got through the middle of the line, then cut toward the left sideline and found a lane all the way to the end zone.
“We had some bad fits, a couple missed tackles, and when you let a guy that’s that dynamic get a little bit of space, he’s going to make you hurt,” RPI head coach Ralph Isernia said.
“I was trying to go straight down the middle, but I didn’t see anything, so I just started bouncing, and bouncing, until I found the outside, and I was gone,” Irabor said.
“Ridiculous. It was a ridiculous run,” Union head coach Jeff Behrman said. “I mean, there were two guys, he stopped, he jumped, they both kind of froze and then he just took off. Unbelievable play.”
The Engineers almost scored on a long play of their own on the ensuing possession, but Marc Meislahn stepped out of bounds on a 15-yard catch-and-run.
RPI was called for a penalty on the next snap to move back over the 50-yard line, and consecutive sacks killed that possession.
The Dutchmen did not allow the Engineers to get deeper than the Dutchmen’s 44 in the first half.
Other than a missed point-after kick on the first touchdown and DiCaterino’s failure to squeeze what would’ve been an easy pick-six in the first quarter, Union played the first half mistake-free.
“We wanted to keep them down and not give them any type of life,” Irabor said.
“We contributed to our own demise in the first half,” Isernia said. “We had some penalties that put us behind the sticks. We were making mistakes, and against a good football team like that, you can’t make those mistakes. You didn’t see them jumping offsides and lining up in illegal formation. They executed at a high level.”
“I certainly didn’t expect that [27-0 halftime lead], but I’m not going to complain about it, that’s for sure,” Behrman said. “It concerns you a little bit, though, to make sure that they’re going to maintain their focus and finish the game. It’s only half the game. If we can score 27 in the first half, they can score 28 in the second half. That can flip in a heartbeat. I told them it’s a new game, 0-0, let’s go win the second half.”
The Dutchmen put the game away on their second possession of the second half.
From 44 yards out, Bellamy lofted a perfect toss to Sirmon, who caught it in stride and took two steps into the end zone for a 33-0 lead at 8:49 of the third quarter.
“This is the game that matters,” Behrman said. “This game is the most important game of the season. This is the tradition of Union College, of a trophy game. This game is Ohio State-Michigan, for the Ohio boy in me that’s a Buckeye fan. And I didn’t learn that in year one. I started to learn it in year two.
“This is important because it’s not just important to us, it’s important to the school, the alumni. It radiates beyond our team.”
RPI 0 0 0 0 — 0
Union 13 14 6 0 — 33
U — Irabor 5 run (kick failed)
U — Irabor 8 run (Halpin kick)
U — Irabor 61 run (Halpin kick)
U — Ross 10 pass from Bellamy (Halpin kick)
U — Sirmon 44 pass from Bellamy (kick blocked)
Reach Gazette Sportswriter Mike MacAdam at 518-395-3146 or [email protected]. Follow on Twitter @Mike_MacAdam.
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Categories: College Sports, Sports