Union College turned the tables on the Springfield College football team.
Although the Pride came into the game with the nation’s second-ranked rushing offense (374.8 yards per game) and was also leading the Liberty League in turnover margin (plus-2.25 per game), the Dutchmen not only out-rushed them, 353-106, but also forced six turnovers en route to a 49-21 rout Saturday night at Frank Bailey Field.
In all, Springfield fumbled the ball eight times, with Union recovering five times to go along with an interception return. The Dutchmen turned five of those turnovers directly into scores.
Springfield, in its first season as a member of the Liberty League, was admittedly behind the 8-ball by starting its third-string quarterback in freshman John Marrero. Both regular starting quarterback Austin Bateman, a junior, and backup QB Rob Merckling, a sophomore, were injured in the last two weeks.
Union’s defense certainly took advantage of the Pride’s inexperience behind center, but the Dutchmen also put together their most balanced rushing attack in years. T.J. Franzese ran for 94 yards on 16 carries, Darnell Thomas broke loose for 94 yards on 15 carries, and fullback Tim Hersey rushed for 83 yards on 11 carries and scored twice. Dylan Schuck tacked on two rushing touchdowns.
Sophomore quarterback Connor Eck also got into the act with 67 yards rushing. He connected on three touchdown passes, as well.
“My defense made it easy on me today,” said Eck. “We knew that Springfield was capable of scoring a lot of points, and we felt we had to score at least 48 points to win. So we scored 49.
“My running backs made me look much better than I was today. We have so many weapons that can run the ball, and they all got a chance to show what they could do today.”
“It was really all about our defense today,” said Hersey. “When you force that many turnovers, there is no way you should lose.”
Although Union’s opening series ended on Springfield’s 25-yard line without a score, the Dutchmen would soon begin to light up the scoreboard.
On the ensuing drive, Springfield lined up to punt from its own 42-yard line, but the snap sailed over punter James Poggio’s head. To prevent Union from recovering the ball, Poggio kicked it into the end zone, and the Pride was called for an illegal kick.
Union took over on the one-yard line, and Schuck bulled over left tackle for the Dutchmen’s first score.
On the next kickoff, Franco Bianchi fumbled the return, and Kevin Heaney pounced on the loose ball for the Dutchmen, who scored in just four plays. Eck found a kneeling Kyle Reynolds in the near corner of the end zone for a 13-yard TD pass.
When Marrero fumbled the ball later in the period, Casey Muse recovered it to set up Schuck’s second TD run of the night from three yards out, and Union owned a 21-0 cushion.
Springfield finally got on the board with Marrero’s 10-yard keeper late in the half. Union missed a chance to increase its lead when Tosin Kazeem’s 35-yard field-goal attempt was wide right with just over a minute left in the half.
The game got interesting on the Pride’s first possession of the second half, as Marrero hit Poggio with a 55-yard bomb over the middle to cut the Union lead to 21-14.
But Union responded with a 10-play, 75-yard drive that was capped off with a Hersey 14-yard TD run.
Following Connor Beerworth’s interception on Springfield’s next drive, Union scored again, this time on Eck’s six-yard TD strike to tight end Eric Zavadsky.
Springfield closed the gap once again, 35-21, on a 35-yard TD pass from Marrero to Phil Baie, but Union tacked on another Hersey touchdown run from 23 yards out and then, following a Jake Lebowitz fumble recovery, Eck found Zavadsky for another TD pass, this time from three yards out for the final tally of the game.
“We ran the ball extremely well,” said Union head coach John Audino, whose Dutchmen (2-0, 2-3) have won two straight after an 0-3 start for the second straight year. “We had a good week of practice.
“We knew that Springfield had a lot of injury issues, but they still run a great option attack, and you have to play well against them to beat them. Their offense put a lot of pressure on us.
“This was a turning off point for us. Hopefully, we can continue to improve the way we have been.”
Springfield 7 7 7 0 — 21
Union 21 0 21 7 — 49
U — Schuck 1 run (Kazeem kick).
U — Reynolds 13 pass from Eck (Kazeem kick).
U — Schuck 3 run (Kazeem kick).
S — Marrero 10 run (Peacock kick).
S — Poggio 55 pass from Marrero (Peacock kick).
U — Hersey 14 run (Kazeem kick).
U — Zavosdky 6 pass from Eck (Kazeem kick).
S — Baier 35 pass form Marrero (Peacock kick).
U — Hersey 19 run (Kazeem kick).
U — Zavodsky 3 pass from Eck (Kazeem kick).
First downs 21 49
Rushes-yards 44-106 64-353
Passing yards 118 87
Comp-Att-Int 4-10-1 7-16-0
Return yards 47 25
Fumbles-lost 8-5 1-0
Punts-avg. 3-38.7 3-39.0
Penalties-yards 4-64 10-70