For the second week in a row, Union College had a chance to win in the last minute of play, but came up short.
Zach Epley’s 27-yard field-goal attempt with 32 seconds remaining missed wide left, allowing Worcester Polytechnic Institute to hold off the Dutchmen, 19-16, Saturday in the Engineers’ homecoming celebration at Alumni Field.
Last week, the Dutchmen had an opportunity to beat Rochester with four seconds remaining, but Andy Connolly’s pass into the end zone from the Yellowjackets’ five-yard line was tipped away with four seconds on the clock.
“That’s extremely frustrating,” said Union tight end Josh McKelligan. “It’s disheartening, to tell you the truth. To come that close and lose twice is hard to take. I guess that’s what college football is all about, and that’s why you have nine games.”
It was the first win for WPI over Union since 1999, and it was also the first time since Union joined a league that the Dutchmen started their conference schedule 0-2. Union is 1-3 overall.
“In all my years of coaching, I’ve never had two games like that in a row where we were inches away from a victory, but couldn’t get it done,” said Union head coach John Audino.
“I’d like to say that at 1-3, we are really a lot better than that record indicates. We just haven’t made the plays offensively or defensively that we need to make to win the games at the end. I still think that this team has a lot of potential, and I’m excited about that. But we can’t just wait around for that potential. We’ve got to win some games.
“Hopefully, the players, and the coaching staff, will keep our heads up. We’ve got to deal with the cards we have on the table.”
WPI improved to 1-1 and 4-1.
“This was a great win for our program,” said WPI head coach Ed Zaloom, the former head coach at Siena College and a former
assistant coach at the University at Albany. “I have a lot of respect for the Union program and their coaching staff. They are a very classy program, and that’s why you feel so good when you beat a team like that. I’m so very happy for our kids and our program.”
Epley’s 27-yard field goal — the same distance he missed from later put the Dutchmen ahead, 16-13, with 11:53 remaining in the game.
But Union’s defense couldn’t stop WPI quarterback Justin Wells, who exploited the Dutchmen with both his arm and his legs.
Wells completed four passes for 35 yards on the game-winning drive, including a two-yard TD pass to Will Ziegenfus with 5:58 left. Cody Beckel missed the PAT, but WPI had a three-point lead.
Union took over on its own 25, and marched 55 yards. The Dutchmen deliberately let the clock wind down before calling their final timeout with 36 seconds remaining to set up the field-goal attempt.
Wells finished with 196 yards passing on 16 completions in 28 attempts, and he also rushed for 126 yards on 15 carries. He had two TD passes and ran for a score himself.
The Engineers nearly scored the first time they touched the ball, but Wells fumbled the ball into the end zone for a touchback on a second-and-goal play from the Union five-yard line.
But WPI made its second possession count. After taking over on the Union 41-yard line, the Engineers scored in six plays. Wells hit Aaron Champagne with a five-yard swing pass, and Beckel tacked on the PAT for a 7-0 lead with 6:25 left in the opening period.
Union responded with a 70-yard, eight-play drive. Chris Coney was the workhorse on the drive, with five carries for 19 yards, but the key play was a play-action pass by Connolly. He rolled left and hooked up with Justin Gallo for a 33-yard TD strike. Epley kicked the PAT as Union knotted the score at 7-7 with 2:10 left in the quarter.
The Dutchmen took their first lead when Connolly connected with Jared Gourrier for a seven-yard TD pass with 11:58 left in the half. Epley’s PAT attempt was wide left.
Wells broke loose for a 58-yard TD run early in the third quarter to knot the score at 13-13, and that’s the way the game remained until Epley put the Dutchmen in front with his field goal three minutes into the final period.
Coney ran for 127 yards on 32 carries, while Connolly completed 16 of 30 passes for 198 yards and two scores.
Union travels to Hobart Saturday.
Union 7 6 0 3 — 16
WPI 7 0 6 6 — 19
W — Champagne 5 pass from Wells (Beckel kick).
U — Gallo 33 pass from Connolly (Epley kick).
U — Gourrier 7 pass from Connolly (kick failed).
W — Wells 58 run (kick blocked).
U — Epley 27 FG.
W — Ziegenfus 2 pass fromWells (kick failed).
First downs 17 16
Rushes-yards 41-171 33-168
Passing yards 198 196
Passing 16-30-1 16-28-
Return yards 35 39
Fumbles lost 0 1
Punts-avg. 4-34.8 4-39.5
Penalties-yards 3-28 3-25