SCHENECTADY — It took until one minute, 18 seconds into the second quarter of their sixth game, but Saturday the Union football team finally found itself trailing an opponent for the first time all year.
“Honestly,” Union quarterback William Bellamy said, “I didn’t even know that.”
Bellamy didn’t need to be concerned. It didn’t last long.
After St. Lawrence took the lead with a touchdown set up by a muffed punt, Union responded with an 11-play, 69-yard drive that Ike Irabor capped off with a 6-yard touchdown run to get back in front.
From there, a balanced and efficient offense coupled with a shutdown defense allowed the Dutchmen to steadily pull away, closing with 31 unanswered points in a 37-7 rout at Frank Bailey Field.
“When you get a lead, it lets your defense breathe a little bit,” Bellamy said. “That’s the goal is to get ahead early, put a foot on their throat and just keep pounding the rock.”
Union (2-0 Liberty League, 6-0 overall) didn’t put together a laundry list of splashy plays en route to the convincing win.
The Dutchmen only had one play longer than 20 yards, but Irabor carried the ball 30 times for 106 yards and two touchdowns, backup Jonathan Anderson added 59 rushing yards and two touchdowns, and Bellamy completed 18 of 25 passes for 200 yards while connecting with eight different receivers on a day where preseason All-American wideout Andre Ross Jr. watched from the sidelines.
“The game plan was to create efficiency,” Bellamy said. “With the athletes we have, we kind of get greedy and we like to push the ball down the field, but you saw what can happen today if we establish the run game and soften the corners. We can just pick them apart.”
“We played more receivers today. I think they earned the right, throughout the practice week, to play,” Union head coach Jeff Behrman said. “They performed, and [Bellamy’s] comfortable throwing to any of them that are out there.”
Union scored on all four of its first-half possessions, but the Dutchmen’s halftime lead was just 16-7 as the offense stalled three times in the red zone and ended up settling for chip-shot field goals from Andrew Lau.
That changed in the second half, as Union turned all three of its red zone opportunities into touchdowns.
“It was a great feeling,” Irabor said. “We knew we could drive on this team today, and we got where we needed to get to. It took a little longer than it should’ve, but we got there in the end.”
St. Lawrence (0-1, 3-2) tried to surprise Union with an onside kick to start the second half, but Garrett Cafaro recovered for the Dutchmen at midfield and Bellamy engineered a 12-play touchdown drive that saw Irabor convert a fourth-and-1 before hurdling his way into the end zone from two yards out on the next play.
Union’s defense held St. Lawrence to one yard on its first three possessions of the second half, with a 1-yard touchdown run from Anderson making it a three-possession game heading to the fourth quarter.
Anderson added a bruising 18-yard score in the fourth to cap off the game while spelling Irabor, who saw his heaviest workload of the season with 30 carries and surpassed 100 rushing yards for the second straight game.
Aside from a brief leg cramp in the third quarter, it was smooth sailing for Irabor, who has carried the ball 52 times over the last two games after he missed Union’s Week 4 game against Utica due to injury.
Union’s defense limited St. Lawrence to 256 total yards, with 115 of those coming on the Saints’ final two drives after the result had largely been settled — and both of which ended in turnovers on downs.
With six wins in the book in the season’s first weeks, the time is ripe for Union’s bye week, allowing the team to get players healthy before starting the stretch run on Oct. 23 at Rochester.
“Let’s get [Irabor] healed up, let’s get Andre Ross healed up, since he’s been battling some injuries as well,” Behrman said. “It’s a good time to get all the bumps and bruises healed a little bit before we head into a really, really improved Rochester team that we have to be ready for.”
SLU 0 7 0 0 — 7
Union 6 10 14 7 — 37
U — Lau 29 field goal
U — Lau 30 field goal
SLU — Schmitt 1 run (Bocock kick)
U — Irabor 6 run (Lau kick)
U — Lau 23 field goal
U — Irabor 2 run (Lau kick)
U — Anderson 1 run (Lau kick)
U — Anderson 18 run (Lau kick)
RPI 24, BUFFALO ST. 16
TROY — George Marinopoulos threw a pair of touchdown passes to Peter Lombardi, leading unbeaten RPI past Buffalo State.
The Engineers (2-0 Liberty League, 6-0 overall) took a 24-3 lead on Jake Kaznowsky’s 31-yard touchdown pass to Vinnie McDonald on the final play of the fourth quarter, providing plenty of cushion against a pair of late Buffalo State (0-2, 0-5) touchdowns.
Marinopolous completed 15 of 21 passes for 194 yards, including nine for 88 yards to Lombardi.
Buffalo St. 0 3 0 13 — 16
RPI 7 7 10 0 — 24
RPI — Lombardi 19 pass from Marinopoulos (MacDougall kick)
BSC — Sciandra 30 field goal
RPI — Lombardi 17 pass from Marinopoulos (MacDougall kick)
RPI — MacDougall 27 field goal
RPI — McDonald 31 pass from Kazanowsky (MacDougall kick)
BSC — Sionko 5 run (Sciandra kick)
BSC — Jackson 35 pass from Sionko