If the Union College football team expects to duplicate last season’s comeback after a similar 0-3 start, the Dutchmen will need to rely on the legs of T.J. Franzese.
Union, which also dropped its first three non-conference games a year ago before putting together a six-game winning streak, opens Liberty League play today against St. Lawrence. Game time at Leckonby Stadium in Canton is 1 p.m.
Franzese is one of the keys to Union’s hopes. The junior tailback ran for 82 yards and a touchdown in last week’s 27-24 overtime loss at Ithaca. The Dutchmen held a 21-7 lead over the Bombers until the final three minutes of regulation.
Franzese, who has piled up 232 yards on 60 carries, boasts four career 100-yard games and has been one of the most consistent offensive players for the Dutchmen over the last two years. With an extremely young and untested passing game led by first-year quarterback Connor Eck, Union needs to rely on an experienced runner to carry the load.
“They need me to step up big, just like I need them to step up and help me,” said Franzese. “It’s a team game, but I know we really need a running game right now. With two young quarterbacks, I know we will get better as the season goes along. We’ve just got to get the kinks out. I think we have the major potential to do something big this year, especially in the league. We just need everything to click, and then we will start winning.”
Union head coach John Audino appreciates having a dependable weapon like Franzese.
“T.J. has been a great runner for us over the last year and a half,” said Audino. “He’s a slasher with very good speed. He runs very well between the tackles and reads his blocks. He’s also a terrific pass protector and receiver.”
“I appreciate being the workhorse, and I’ll take the ball whenever they give it to me,” said Franzese. “I like getting up and down the field and pushing the chains. I think I’m an inside-the-tackles kind of guy who enjoys running the inside zone. I think I can make the cuts with the right vision and awareness to find the holes that my offensive line makes for me. I also think I have pretty good breakaway speed to shake defenders once I get into the open field,” he said.
Audino believes Union is only a few plays from being 2-1 instead of 0-3. Two of the Dutchmen’s losses have come by three points, and they led each of those matchups in the fourth quarter.
“I see a lot of the same things we had going last year after a slow start,” he said. “But last year, I thought we could have been 2-1 instead 0-3. This year, I think we should be 2-1 instead of 0-3. We should have won a couple of the close games, but we didn’t make a few plays here and there.”
Audino said a good game against St. Lawrence can turn everything around.
“With a win, we could get a confidence and our swagger back,” he said. “It’s more a mental thing now than a physical one. Our defense is playing well enough to win, but we are having lapses in one quarter. Offensively, we are turning the ball over at the wrong time, and it’s hurt us.”
Eck has completed 36 of 67 passes for 575 yards and three scores. Linebacker Noah Joseph tops the Liberty League in tackles with 35.
St. Lawrence, also 0-3, has given up 88 points in three games and has scored just 21. Quarterback Zane Fish tops the Saints in rushing with 87 yards. He has completed 49 of 100 passes for 539 yards, three touchdowns and seven interceptions.
DANES AT MAINE
University at Albany continues its challenging road schedule at 23rd-ranked Maine tonight at 6 at Alfond Stadium in Orono.
Last week, the 2-1 Great Danes fell at fourth-ranked Youngstown State, 31-24, but beat host Robert Morris, 35-10, the previous week. This will be the third straight road game that is at least 400 miles away.
Sophomore quarterback Will Fiacchi leads the Northeast Conference in completion percentage (69.1), and is 56-for-81 for 579 yards with five touchdown passes. Cole King and Ryan Kirchner are his
favorite targets. Kircher is third on the team’s all-time receiving list with 134 catches.
On the ground, Guilderland graduate Drew Smith is sixth on UAlbany’s career rushing chart with 2,473 yards. He ran for 174 yards against Colgate, 57 against Robert Morris and 47 against Youngstown State.
Maine (1-1), a member of the Colonial Athletic Association that UAlbany will join next year. The Black Bears feature a 1-2 rushing attack of David Hood and Rickey Stevens, who each rushed for 100 yards in a 51-7 win over Bryant last week.
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute takes on Worcester Polytechnic Institute for the Transit Trophy today at 1 at East Campus Stadium.
RPI (2-0) holds a 55-45-5 record in the all-time series, including a 21-10-1 record since the Transit Trophy was established.
Senior quarterback Mike Hermann passed for five touchdowns in last week’s 56-35 win at Castleton State. For the season, he is 33-for-50 for 544 yards and seven scores. He also is a rushing threat with 146 yards and two touchdowns. Senior Steven Turpoe tops the Engineers in receiving with nine catches for 159 yards.
WPI (1-2) opened the season with a 17-7 win at Curry before losing to Worcester State (28-21) and Norwich (20-3), respectively. Zach Grasis is the top WPI ground gainer with 284 yards and four touchdowns.