SCHENECTADY — In its season-opening game, its first in 644 days, the Union College football program lived up to its preseason hype.
Ranked No. 15 in the country after a 2019 campaign that saw it only lose its finale, an NCAA Division III tournament second-round game, the Dutchmen breezed past SUNY Morrisville 48-14 on a sunny Saturday afternoon for its ninth consecutive win at Frank Bailey Field.
That the Dutchmen simply played, head coach Jeff Behrman said, was a victory worth celebrating.
“For them to be able to experience this again and be on the field is just tremendous,” Behrman said. “So happy for them.”
Behrman’s team provided plenty of reasons for the coach to smile after the game. Union scored a pair of touchdowns in three of the game’s quarters, plus one in the third, and dominated from the start. Union opened the game’s scoring on a 25-yard touchdown pass from veteran quarterback William Bellamy to freshman Robbie Tolbert just minutes into the game, and Morrisville never really challenged the Dutchmen in a serious way.
“We’ve been practicing hard, coach Behrman had a great game plan, and we came out here and executed,” Bellamy said.
Like Union, SUNY Morrisville didn’t play last season. The Mustangs were 6-5 in 2019 and 4-2 in the Empire 8. Saturday’s game served as the first as Morrisville head coach for Ed Raby Jr.
Before not playing the 2020 season because of concerns related to the novel coronavirus pandemic, Union finished 11-1 in 2019. That campaign ended with a 62-41 postseason loss to Salisbury, a game that saw Bellamy set a school record for passing yards in a single game with 456.
Bellamy? He didn’t look Saturday like a quarterback playing in his first game in approximately 22 months. Bellamy’s first four passes were caught for 111 total yards, and he finished his day 20 of 25 passing for 294 yards and four touchdowns.
Andre Ross Jr. caught a pair of Union’s touchdown passes as part of an effort that saw the star wide receiver register nine receptions for 159 yards. Saying “that’s what we expect to do,” in describing the Dutchmen’s stellar offensive performance, Ross credited the team’s work leading up to its season-opening game.
“That’s how we practice during the week so that we can come out here and do this on the weekend,” Ross said.
Besides Ross and Tolbert, Robbie Hermann had a receiving touchdown, while Michael Fiore and Ike Irabor each rushed for a Union touchdown. Sophomore Liam Hoye provided a late highlight, capping the game’s scoring by blocking a punt and returning it for a score with 80 seconds to play.
Union’s offense compiled 484 yards to Morrisville’s 304. Cole DaSilva recorded an interception for Union, which limited Morrisville to 38 rushing yards on 27 attempts.
Union plays next Saturday at Worcester State, which lost 38-20 in its opening game at WPI. The Dutchmen maintained a multiple-possession advantage for the final 41:16 of its debut game, but Behrman said Union knows it needs to get better in the days before it plays its first road game of the year.
“That game’s over,” Behrman said of the team’s season-opening win. “We’ve turned the page.”
SUNY Morrisville 7 0 0 7 — 14
Union 14 14 6 14 — 48
U — Tolbert 25 pass from Bellamy (Lau kick)
U — Irabor 3 run (Lau kick)
M — Chaney 41 pass from Britten (Cole kick)
U — Hermann 19 pass from Bellamy (Lau kick)
U — Ross 32 pass from Bellamy (Lau kick)
U — Fiore 2 run (Kick fails)
U — Ross 16 pass from Bellamy (Lau kick)
M — Chirurgi 9 pass from Britten (Cole kick)
U — Hoye punt block, recover (Gluck kick)