Union College quarterback Drew Connolly hooked up with a couple of Troy natives to beat his crosstown rivals in the 62nd annual Dutchman’s Shoes Trophy game Saturday at Frank Bailey Field.
Connolly tied a school record with five touchdown passes — all of them to Justin Gallo and his brother Connor — to lift Union to a 38-28 victory over Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute before a crowd of 2,032.
Frigid temperatures and even some snow in the second half didn’t slow either offense, especially the Dutchmen, who passed and ran efficiently all afternoon to accumulate more than 506 yards in total offense.
Connolly completed 18 of 28 passes for 335 yards. Justin Gallo caught nine passes for 115 yards and three scores, and Connor Gallo caught three passes for 55 yards and the other two touchdown throws. Jimmer Bennett chipped in with four receptions for 114 yards.
Union’s rushing attack, meanwhile, helped keep RPI off the field in the second half. T.J. Franzese rushed for 83 yards on 15 carries, while fullback Tim Hersey added 69 yards on 12 carries.
Union owns an 80-25-4 lead in New York’s oldest collegiate football rivalry.
“I’m so proud of this team,” said Union head coach John Audino. “Our kids kept battling back. I thought we did a good job of mixing up the pass and the run, but the key was that we went back to basics this week by getting the ball to Justin Gallo as much as possible.”
Audino said that Connolly’s performance in one of the biggest games of the year was remarkable.
“Drew was phenomenal today. I can’t say enough about what he’s done this year. He is extremely coachable, and I’m not surprised by what he’s accomplished.”
The Gallo brothers — who decided to play for Union rather than their hometown RPI — couldn’t be stopped by the Engineers.
“I’m so proud of Connor. He’s come a long way since he was a quarterback in high school,” said Justin Gallo. “We are both going to go home and enjoy this victory with our family.”
Justin Gallo, who is among the nation’s top receivers in terms of receiving yards, now has 14 TD receptions this season, a Union single-season record. He also became only the second Union receiver to catch passes for more than 3,000 career yards.
“Drew had a great day today,” Gallo added. “We all really stepped up today. Our offense really couldn’t be stopped through the air or on the ground.”
RPI took the momentum early by capping off a 64-yard, eight play drive with a one-yard quarterback keeper by 6-foot-6 Mike Hermann.
But Union came right back with a 55-yard, five-play drive of its own, capped by Connolly’s 29-yard scoring strike to Connor Gallo.
Senior defensive back Zach Scruggs intercepted Connolly to set up RPI’s next score, an 11-yard run by Hermann on a seldom-seen Statue of Liberty play.
But Union once again tied the score, 14-14, when Connolly found Justin Gallo for a four-yard TD pass with 10:51 left in the half.
The Engineers moved ahead, 21-14, when Andrew Armato busted loose up the middle for a 10-yard run with 1:04 remaining in the half, but Union once again retaliated with a Connolly to Justin Galllo three-yard TD strike in the corner of the end zone to send the teams into the intermission tied at 21-21.
Union took the lead for good, 28-21, when Connolly found Connor Gallo for a 15-yard touchdown pass on the first possession of the third quarter. The Dutchmen then really put the pressure on the Engineers when John Campbell’s interception set up Connolly’s final touchdown pass of the day, a 35-yarder to Justin Gallo, who caught the pass over his shoulder as he dove into the end zone.
Adam Henry tacked on a
36-yard field goal to start the fourth quarter.
RPI cut its deficit to 38-28 when Hermann hit a wide-open Mike Blais for an 11-yard TD strike with 11:27 left in the game.
Hermann was intercepted by Sam Goldman on his next possession, but when Dustin Schuld blocked a Union punt, the Engineers were in excellent position to get back into the game.
RPI moved the ball all the way down to the Union three-yard line, but on a fourth-and-goal, RPI decided to try for the touchdown rather than for a field goal that would have at least given the Engineers some points on the board. Hermann’s pitch on the option play went to Matt Wood, who was immediately tackled by Jonathan Stidd. Union then ran out the clock on its final possession.
“That was my decision on that last drive,” said RPI first-year head coach Tim Landis. “We could have gone either way, but I thought we needed the touchdown, and Mike Hermann is excellent on that type of option play.
“We had a tough time stopping Union all day, and Connolly had a terrific performance,” Landis added. “I thought it was a great game with lots of excitement.”
“We had our chances at the end, but I threw that interception, and we just couldn’t stop them,” added Hermann, who was 23-for-33 for 349 yards.
Union is now 4-1 in the Liberty League and 4-4 overall heading into next week’s game at Merchant Marine. RPI falls to 2-2 and 3-4.
RPI 7 14 0 7 — 28
Union 7 14 14 3 — 38
R — Hermann 1 run (Franks kick).
U — C. Gallo 29 pass from Connolly (Henry kick).
R — Hermann 11 run (Franks kick).
U — J. Gallo 4 pass from Connolly (Henry kick).
R — Armato 10 run (Franks kick).
U — J. Gallo 3 pass from Connolly (Henry kick).
U — C. Gallo 15 pss from Connolly (Henry kick).
U — J. Gallo 35 pass from Connolly (Henry kick).
U — Henry 36 FG.
R — Blais 11 pass from Hermann (Franks kick).
First downs 28 38
Rushes-yards 31-81 44-171
Passing yards 349 335
Att-Comp-Int 24-23-2 29-18-1
Fumbles-lost 0-0 2-0
Return yards 1 7
Punts-avg 3-27.0 1-28.0
Penaltlies-yards 3-21 4-53