Jared Gourrier of Union College and Eren Savasli of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute are considered big-play receivers for their respective teams. They had never even heard about New York’s oldest collegiate football rivalry before they came to the Capital Region, but they are hoping to make a major impact when the 106th renewal of the series is played today at 1 on ’86 Field.
“I know it’s an exciting game. This is the one we play for,” said Gourrier, a New Orleans native who played quarterback for the Dutchmen last year, but was converted to a wideout this season.
“We want to win all the big games, and this is definitely a big game. It’s a rivalry game, and we haven’t won it the last two years,” added Gourrier, who has 20 receptions for 267 yards and three touchdowns. ”I haven’t tasted victory in this rivalry since I came here, and we’re looking forward to it. We want our seniors to win this game in their last chance.”
Savasli, a senior, is sixth in the nation in receiving yards per game (125) and 19th in receptions per game (7.17). He’s reached the end zone eight times already.
“I came from Brooklyn, and I never knew about this rivalry before I came here,” said Savasli. “Now, all of my family members and friends know about this game. We have some confidence now, because we’ve won the last two games in the series. This is a big game not only because of the rivalry, but also because it’s another step to a league championship.”
According to Union records, the Dutchmen lead the series, which is the fifth-oldest among NCAA
Division III programs, 78-23-4. RPI records indicate a 77-25-4
record. Since the Dutchman’s Shoes
Trophy was established in 1950, Union holds a 44-14 edge, but each team has won five times in the last 10 years.
Undefeated RPI leads the Liberty League standings at 4-0 and is 6-0 overall. The Engineers are attempting to win three games in a row in this series for the first time since 1957-59.
“This is as big as it gets,” said RPI head coach Joe King. “The fact that we’re more competitive in this series makes it so much better. For years, it was lopsided in Union’s favor. The scores weren’t even close before. Union dominated us, and we were very frustrated. To win three games in a row in the series would be unbelievable. It certainly would be tremendous for our program.”
Four-year starting quarterback Jimmy Robertson is the sparkplug for the Engineers with 129 completions in 193 attempts for 1,620 yards, 13 touchdown passes and just one interception. He is 13th in the
nation in total offense (293.5 per game) and 19th in pass efficiency (158.54).
Although the Engineers are one of the top passing teams in the region, they also have a solid ground game, led by sophomore Nick Costa (365 yards, eight touchdowns).
Defensively, Joe Albano, a junior defensive back, is the catalyst with 43 tackles, two interceptions and three pass deflections.
Union, in the unaccustomed role of spoiler and coming off a bye week, has bounced back from a three-game losing streak with two straight wins to even its record at 2-2 in the league and 3-3 overall. Two of Union’s losses were close games decided in the final minute.
“The bye week came at the perfect time for us,” said senior linebacker Joe Catalano. “We got some momentum with those two straight wins, and then we got a whole two weeks to prepare for this game. I’ve never had the Shoes Trophy in my possession. I was at Lehigh as a freshman, and then RPI won the last two games. I would really like to win the Shoes Trophy before I graduate, and this is my last chance.”
Offensively, the Dutchmen rely heavily on sophomore running back Chris Coney, who is 15th in the nation in rushing with 822 yards (137 per game). He also has 12 touchdowns.
Freshman quarterback Andrew Connolly has completed 56 of 117 passes for 849 yards and six scores, while defenders Kevin Rautenstrauch and John Peters have combined for 111 tackles.
“The bye week was perfect for us, because we got healthy and we improved some of the things we needed to,” said Union head coach John Audino. “Our kids understand where the ‘Shoes’ are at this point. This is always a big game on our schedule. The game is always competitive. Strange things happen in this game.”
The game, the last one to be played on ’86 Field, will be broadcast live on Time Warner Cable Ch. 3.
TITLE AT STAKE
Defending Northeast Conference champion University at Albany hosts Monmouth in a pivotal game at 1 p.m. on University Field.
Both teams are 4-0 in the conference and 5-3 overall. The winner can just about clinch the league title.
The game features two of the nation’s top rushers. Monmouth’s Dave Sinisi paces all Division I FCS runners with an average of 161.9 yards per game. He is the Hawks’ all-time leading rusher with 3,233 yards.
UAlbany’s David McCarty, from LaSalle, is fifth in the nation in rushing at 142.5 yards per game and has 2,641 career rushing yards.
HVCC ON THE ROAD
Hudson Valley Community College
(3-4) travels to undefeated Dean Community College (8-0) in a Northeast Conference game.
The Vikings are paced by quarterback Andreas Hudson, who has completed 88 of 162 pases for 1,355 yards and nine touchdowns.