Union College’s football team is in unfamiliar territory.
Although the Dutchmen usually start slowly in the non-conference part of their schedule, last Saturday’s 29-25 loss to Rochester was their first setback in a league opener since 1995, when they dropped a 9-8 decision at St. Lawrence.
From 1995 through 2003, when the Dutchmen were part of the Upstate Collegiate Athletic
Association, and from 2004 through 2007 in the Liberty League, Union has never lost its first two conference games. That streak could be in jeopardy when the Dutchmen travel to Worcester Polytechnic Institute today at 1 p.m.
Union owns a 12-game winning streak against the 0-1, 3-1 Engineers. The Dutchmen hold a 28-7 advantage in the series, which began in 1909. WPI’s last win came on
Sept. 18, 1999 in Schenectady.
“Our record [1-2] is no different than it was last year, although losing our first league game is something we’re not used to
doing,” said Union head coach John Audino. “Everybody in this league has improved, and any team can win on any given week. We have to be ready to play every week, or we won’t win.”
Union had a chance to pull out a victory last week against the Yellowjackets. The Dutchmen had the ball on the Rochester five-yard line with four seconds remaining, but their pass into the end zone was tipped away as time expired.
Audino prefers to point out the positives rather than dwell on the negatives of last week’s game.
“We showed the ability to come back, but we didn’t finish the deal,” he said. “There were plenty of pos-itives to take away from that game. Certainly, we need to shore up our special teams, both in the kicking department and the coverage game. We also need work on our pass defense. But we showed that we can run the ball, and we showed that we can also stop the run. Our quarterback looked good. We had 420 yards of offense, so that shows we can move the ball. We just have to fix a few things.”
The Dutchmen’s kicking game turned out to be the difference between winning and losing. Union missed three PATs and a field goal. The coverage team also gave up an 85-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
Ben Rapple was the starter at both placekicker and punter last week, but this week’s depth chart has Zach Epley listed as the both placekicker and the punter.
Good news for Union was the play of sophomore tailback Chris Coney, who was named the Liberty League co-offensive player of the week after scoring four touchdowns and rushing for 136 yards. He leads the league in rushing at 124.3 per game.
Freshman quarterback Andrew Connolly has completed 19 of 48 passes for 313 yards.
The Dutchmen suffered two key injuries against Rochester. Junior defensive lineman Sean Conerly is out for the season with a foot injury, and wide receiver Charles Kaliades will miss the rest of the year with a torn ACL.
“We’re pretty banged up, but we’re not going to use that as an excuse,” he said.
“I’m not happy with 1-2, but there is no reason to panic. There is still plenty of time to turn this team around.”
WPI is led by quarterback Justin Wells, who has completed 59 of 109 passes for 772 yards and four scores. Tailback Manny Cambra is the top rusher with 193 yards and two touchdowns.
University at Albany plays its fifth straight game on the road when the Great Danes travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Duquesne Dukes in the Northeast Conference opener.
Albany fell to No. 17 Delaware, 38-7, a week ago before a sellout crowd of 22,196 at Delaware
Stadium. The Blue Hens pulled away from a 14-7 halftime advantage by scoring on their first four possessions of the second half.
UAlbany (1-3) is spearheaded by quarterback Vinny Esposito and by tailback David McCarty (LaSalle), who saw his nine-game 100-yard rushing streak snapped by the Blue Hens.
Michigan State transfer Connor Dixon has thrown for 870 yards in three games for 2-1 Duquesne. Cleodis Williams became the first Duquesne player to run for at least 100 yards in back-to-back games in five years.
RPI VISITS ROCHESTER
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (1-0, 3-0) travels to Fauver Stadium to take on the 1-0, 1-2 Yellowjackets.
Senior quarterback Jimmy Robertson completed 27 of 33 passes for 285 yards and three touchdowns in last week’s 35-21 win over WPI. Nick Costa ran for 98 yards on 23 carries.
RPI is looking to start the season 4-0 for the second consecutive year and the fifth time in the last eight seasons.
Freshman quarterback Braezen Subick, who has completed 41 of 63 passes for 453 yards and four touchdowns, leads the Rochester attack.
Hudson Valley Community College hosts Erie Community College in a Northeast Conference game between a pair of 1-1, 2-2 teams.
The Vikings, who top the league in total offense, look to league-leading quarterback Andreas Hudson (55-for-94, 983 yards, six touchdowns) to ignite the offense. Mark Kemper (179 yards, two touchdowns) is the team’s top rusher.
Brian Fowler (604 yards, five touchdowns) is the star offensive player for Erie.