Ithaca College junior quarterback Phil Neumann admits he toyed with the idea of attending Union College after he finished a stellar scholastic career at Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake.
But he’s happy with the way things have turned out with the Bombers, and he’s prepared to make a huge impact when Ithaca hosts the Dutchmen today at 1 p.m. at Butterfield Stadium.
“It’s kind of cool playing Union, because they were kind of the hometown team,” said the 6-foot-1, 184-pounder. “I only live 15 minutes from the Union campus, and they are a good program. They are historically a very good program, just like Ithaca, and I know they will come in here well prepared for us.”
Neumann drew plenty of attention from several colleges after twice leading BH-BL to the state title game. He was named the Section II Player of the Year in 2009, when he broke his collarbone in the second quarter of the championship game.
“It was on the side of my throwing shoulder, and unfortunately, we lost that game. But it was a great experience for me playing in Syracuse in the state final,” he said.
Neumann, who also excelled on the basketball court for the Spartans, came very close to playing for the Garnet, but he was undecided about what he wanted to do in his career at the time. He’s since decided on a sports journalism career, perhaps in sports broadcasting.
“I considered Union, and I actually thought a little about RPI, too,” he said. “I looked around at a lot of different places. I just wasn’t sure what I was looking for, but I’m glad I came to Ithaca. We have a great program here with very high expectations. Everyone who comes here to Ithaca knows about those expectations.”
Neumann has had an up-and-down career with the Bombers.
Last year, he played in eight games and started five. In his first career start against SUNY-Brockport, he completed 16 of 30 passes for 194 yards and his first TD pass. He later connected for 228 yards and another TD against Utica and helped Ithaca complete a come-from-behind victory over Frostburg State by throwing for a career-best 246 yards passing with 28 completions.
But he eventually lost his starting job.
“Coach decided to go in a different direction last year for a while, but I came back to get my starting job back at the end of the season,” he said. “I worked very hard in the off-season to improve all parts of my game, and I think having that experience from last year really helped.
“A year’s experience helps tremendously in the college game, because at this level, all of the guys are top-of-the-line DIII athletes. I learned from my mistakes, and that contributed to me having a lot more confidence this year.”
Neumann had a solid game in his season debut against Moravian. He completed 13 of 22 passes for 123 yards and a pair of TDs. Ithaca was idle last week.
The other major weapon for Ithaca is tailback Clay Ardoin, who ran for 206 yards and scored a touchdown in the opener.
Union (0-2) comes into the game without both of its starting receivers, Jimmer Bennett (Albany Academy) and Chris Paolini. Bennett is out for the year with an ACL tear, while Paolini has a high ankle sprain.
T.J. Franzese leads Union with 150 yards rushing, while sophomore quarterback Connor Eck has completed 24 of 47 passes for 398 yards and two scores since earning the starting nod.
Linebacker Noah Joseph paces the Liberty League with 24 tackles.
DANES ON THE ROAD
University at Albany plays its first-ever game at Youngstown State in the second of three straight road games. Today’s game will be at 4 p.m. at Stambaugh Stadium.
Both teams are 2-0. Youngstown is ranked fifth in the NCAA Sports Network Top-25 poll. The Penguins are also ranked eighth in the FCS coaches’ poll.
UAlbany sophomore quarterback Will Fiacchi threw for three touchdowns, all of them to sophomore wideout Cole King, in last week’s 35-10 win over Robert Morris.
Senior tailback Drew Smith (Guilderland) is now sixth on the Great Danes’ all-time rushing list with 2,426 yards. He ran for 174 yards against Colgate and 57 against Robert Morris.
Junior quarterback Kurt Hess and senior running back Jamaine Cook lead the Panguins, who rolled up 524 total yards in last week’s 59-0 victory over Valparaiso.
RPI AT CASTLETON
The Engineers, fresh off last week’s season-opening 24-6 victory over visiting Alfred, travel to meet the 1-1 Spartans at Spartan Stadium.
Senior quarterback Mike Hermann completed 17 of 26 passes for 213 yards and two scores, and also rushed for 80 yards to lead RPI last week.
Castleton quarterback Shane Brozowski threw for 400 yards and four TDs in the Spartans’ 35-7 win over Plymouth State. He was 25-for-44 with two TD passes and five interceptions in last week’s 66-14 loss at Endicott.