On a day celebrating Union College’s seniors, a freshman grabbed the spotlight.
Rookie quarterback Andrew Connolly tied a school record with five touchdown passes to lift the Dutchmen to a convincing 42-14 victory over the U.S. Merchant
Marine Academy Saturday on Frank Bailey Field.
The victory in Union’s last home game evened the Dutchmen’s record at 3-3 in the Liberty League and 4-4 overall. In order to prevent the program’s first losing season in 28 years, Union must win at Susquehanna in the season finale Saturday.
“It was nice to see some big plays in our passing game,” said Union head coach John Audino. “We didn’t pull the trigger enough last week [in a 25-12 loss to RPI]. But this week, we decided to give the ball to Chris Coney early in the game to establish our play-action passing, and it worked great.
“Andrew threw the ball so well today. He stayed in the pocket, and he made some great throws. I thought it was a great effort all-around. Our defense also stepped up and played extremely well.”
Union outgained the Mariners, 378-191, in total offense, including a 256-54 edge at halftime. One of the Merchant Marine Academy’s scores was set up by a facemask penalty following a punt from deep in Union territory. The other came off a fumble by Coney, who ran for 94 yards but also fumbled three times.
Although he threw a pair of
interceptions, Connolly connected on 11 of 25 passes for 182 yards. He hooked up with Jared Gourrier for two scores and also tossed TD strikes to senior tight end Josh McKelligan, freshman wideout Justin Gallo and junior receiver Mike Concannon.
“My receivers made some great catches today,” said Connolly. “It’s nice to have such a good ground game to take the pressure off and set up the passing game. I didn’t really think I threw the ball that well today, but it’s nice to have the school record. I know a lot of great quarterbacks played here, and it’s an honor to share the record with them.”
Union scored on its first possession, driving 73 yards in eight plays. Concannon caught a 15-yard pass from Connolly in the middle of the end zone with 11:50 left on the clock, and Zach Epley kicked the first of six PATs.
The Mariners (1-5, 2-6) knotted the score when Michael Mitchell returned Ben Rapple’s 39-yard punt to the Union 28-yard line, and then got some extra yardage on a facemask penalty. That gave USMMA the ball on the Union 14-yard line, and the Mariners scored in two plays. Derrick Ventre hit Chris Rye with an 11-yard TD pass in the left corner of the end zone with 7:45 remaining in the first quarter.
Senior defensive back Kevin Rautenstrauch intercepted one Mariners pass and then blocked a Mariners punt to set up Union’s next score, a 22-yard TD pass to Gallo with 2:23 left in the first
Union’s next scoring drive took 5:31 off the clock and covered 76 yards in 12 plays. Connolly hit McKelligan for a five-yard TD strike with 7:54 left in the half for a 21-7 Dutchmen lead.
Union stretched its advantage to 28-7 following another blocked punt, this time by sophomore linebacker A.J. Rocchio. Rautenstrauch recovered the loose ball, and the Dutchmen took over on the Mariners’ 19-yard line. Coney scored his 15th touchdown of the season on a one-yard plunge.
After failing on a fake punt
attempt on their own 34-yard line, the Mariners gave the all back to the Dutchmen early in the third quarter. Connolly wasted no time in hitting Gourrier on a post pattern for a quick score and a 35-7 lead.
Junior defensive lineman Thomas Othmer recovered Coney’s fumble on the Union 30-yard line to set up the Mariners’ other touchdown, an eight-yard TD pass from Ventre to Wright.
Union closed out the scoring with 10:50 left on a sensational catch by Gourrier in the back of the end zone as he leaped over a defender and caught the ball over his shoulder as he flipped over the end line. The Dutchmen emptied their bench the rest of the way.
“I thought it was a great day for the seniors,” said Rautenstrauch. “It was very emotional at the end. This sends all of the seniors off on a high note.”
Audino admitted that next week’s game at Susquehanna will be big for the program.
“The guys know we haven’t had a losing season in 28 years, and they know we want to beat Susquehanna badly,” he said.
“We don’t want to be the class to finally have a losing season. It would be embarrassing,” added Rautenstrauch.
Merchant Marine 7 0 7 0 — 14
Union 14 14 7 7 — 42
U — Concannon 15 pass from Connolly (Epley kick).
MMA — Rye 11 pass form Ventre (Troy kick).
U — Gallo 22 pass from Connolly (Epley kick).
U — McKelligan 5 pass from Connolly (Epley kick).
U — Coney 1 run (Epley kick).
U — Gourrier 34 pass from Connolly (Epley kick).
MMA — Wright 8 pass from Ventre (Troy kick).
U — Gourrier 25 pass from Connolly (Epley kick).
First downs 14 42
Rushes-yards 34-68 42-196
Passing yards 123 182
Passing 14-36-2 11-25-2
Return yards 75 106
Punts-avg. 8-32.1 4-36.0
Fumbles lost 0 2
Penalties-yards 3-51 4-28