Union football opens Liberty League play at Buffalo State

Union’s Daniel Gioioso, left, puts pressure on Utica quarterback Ryan VanGalen in the Dutchmen's 30-9 win last Saturday at Frank Bailey Field.

Union’s Daniel Gioioso, left, puts pressure on Utica quarterback Ryan VanGalen in the Dutchmen's 30-9 win last Saturday at Frank Bailey Field.

OK, let’s play the common opponent game.

Union College football team, come on down!

The Dutchmen dismantled Morrisville State 48-14 in Week 1, and Buffalo State got smoked by Morrisville State 41-10 last weekend.

Throw in the fact that Union is 4-0 and Buffalo State is 0-3, and Saturday’s noon matchup in Buffalo promises to be a one-sided affair.

Coaches aren’t allowed to think that way, though, so Union head coach Jeff Behrman is bracing for whatever challenge the Bengals present as both teams open the Liberty League conference schedule.

“They played away the last two weeks, and they played better at home, so I think that’ll be somewhat of a challenge,” Behrman said on Friday. “If I had to read them week-to-week, they play better at home, it’s their homecoming, so I’m sure they’ll be ready to go.”

Buffalo State opened the season with a 21-14 loss to St. John Fisher at Coyer Field and has been on the road the last two weeks, including a 58-9 loss at Cortland.

Behrman characterized the Bengals as a team that blitzes frequently on defense and is big on the offensive line.

Among that group is 6-foot-7, 400-pound junior Austin Gilligan from Walter Panas High School in Westchester County.

“I think they have good personnel,” Behrman said. “They create a lot of pressure on you when they’re on defense, they blitz a lot. They can create a lot of stress on an offense that way, so you’ve really got to be on top of your game plan and execute.

“Offensively, they have some really strong skill kids, and they have a really big offensive line. Their one guard is like 6-8, 400, and he moves pretty well. So they’re big up front, and I think they’ve got some athleticism, as well.”

Buffalo State joined the Liberty League in 2019, so the history between the Bengals and Dutchmen is limited to one game, a 28-14 Union win in which the Dutchmen racked up 425 yards on offense.

Of the seven teams in the league, four got through the non-conference schedule undefeated, and St. Lawrence is 3-1.

“Honestly, I have not seen another Liberty League team play, from the film we’ve been watching,” Behrman said. “I’m certainly aware of how the teams are doing, and I think it’s a credit to a very strong league right now. It doesn’t surprise me that so many teams had such a strong non-conference record. That’s good to see.”

The Dutchmen are coming off a 30-9 victory over Utica that was short on offense from both teams.

Union at least was able to get into the end zone, unlike the Pioneers, who turned it over three times and were 0-for-5 on fourth down, including the opening drive of the game.

“Huge,” Behrman said of Union’s defensive performance. “They forced them to three field goals. It was incredible, truly a bend-don’t-break philosophy, which is what we do. The defensive staff did a great job getting those guys prepared and ready throughout the week. When you turn a team over three times and then you stop them on five fourth downs, that’s a credit to how your players are playing on defense.”

Reach Gazette Sportswriter Mike MacAdam at 518-395-3146 or [email protected]

Categories: College Sports, Sports

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