In a game dedicated to the seniors, two underclassmen put on a show.
Sophomore quarterback Connor Eck completed 15 of 18 passes for 265 yards and three touchdowns, and junior tailback T.J. Franzese broke the 100-yard rushing mark for the sixth time in his career, to lead Union to a 51-7 rout of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. The Dutchmen honored their 22 seniors Saturday with a convincing performance on both sides of the ball at Frank Bailey Field.
Union rebounded smartly from last week’s loss at Hobart and improved to 5-1 in the Liberty League and 5-4 overall. The win guaranteed the Dutchmen another non-losing season, their 31st in the last 32 years.
Union scored 51 unanswered points and showed off an extremely potent and balanced offense that piled up 482 yards.
“I think the kids played well all year and approached each game every week with the same intensity. It says a lot about their character,” said Union head coach John Audino. “We were worried about a hangover from last week in a game that we came very close to winning. But this game was an opportunity for us, and the kids looked at it that way.”
Audino said there was no lack of motivation for his group, despite the fact that last week’s loss knocked the Dutchmen from Liberty League title contention.
“We’ve had something to play for during the last four weeks. We had our homecoming game, and then we had the big game at Hobart. This week was senior day, and next week we’re playing for the Dutchman’s Shoes,” Audino pointed out. “It’s exciting to have something to play for.”
Eck’s mistake-free game was superb. He was accurate in the pocket, scrambled only when he had to, and engineered eight scoring drives before he was lifted midway through the fourth quarter, when the Dutchmen emptied their bench.
“I was just trying to carry the offense the best that I can,” he said. “The coaching staff has really been coaching me up all week. This was the biggest game of the year for us after losing to Hobart, and next week will be the biggest game, as well. The emphasis is to win every game.
“We thought that if some plays went our way, we had a chance to win last week against Hobart. But we lost that game, and it’s over with. We played this whole week for the seniors.”
Franzese who also caught five passes for 35 yards and a touchdown to go along with his 103 yards rushing, said Union’s offense was well prepared against the Mariners.
“I had a lot of openings to run today. The offensive line gave me a lot of good looks,” he said. “It was difficult to come back and put last week’s game behind us, but it was also a great motivator for us. Now, we can’t wait for next week. We’ve been waiting all summer for two big games, the Hobart game and the RPI game. This will be a very intense week for us.”
Merchant Marine Academy (2-4, 4-5) scored first, when quarterback Alex Coviello kept the ball on the option and skirted 34 yards up the middle with 3:18 left in the opening quarter.
But Union took only a minute to even the score when Franzese caught a 14-yard pass from Eck in the flat and darted into the endzone.
From there on out, it was all Union.
Eck hit Kyle Reynolds with two touchdown passes to push Reynolds’ season total to 10 scoring receptions.
Darnell Thomas added a two-yard touchdown run, senior fullback Tim Hersey bolted over from the one-yard line and Dylan Schuck added a seven-yard scoring run.
Backup placekicker David Pope, who was filling in for the second week in a row for injured starter Tosin Kazeem, added a 19-yard field goal and was 6-for-7 on PATs.
Senior tight end Eric Zavadsky also had a big day as he took over the punting duties and boomed three punts for an average of 47.0, including two inside the 20.
Seniors Jeff DeVico and Noah Joseph each made 11 tackles, and senior Connor Beerworth chipped in with six tackles, including three for a loss.
USMMA 7 0 0 0 — 7
Union 7 23 7 14 — 51
MMA — Coviello 34 run (Kennedy kick).
U —Franzese 14 pass from Eck (Pope kick).
U — Reynolds 15 pass fom Eck (kick failed).
U — Thomas 2 run (Pope kick).
U — Reynolds 23 pass from Eck (Pope kick).
U — Pope 19 FG.
U — Eck 9 run (Pope kick).
U — Hersey 1 run (Pope kick).
U — Schuck 7 run (Pope kick).
First downs 14 20
Rushes-yards 55-150 44-217
Passing yards 79 265
Att-Comp-Int 8-4-1 18-15-0
Return yards 0 5
Fumbles-lost 3-3 2-1
Punts-avg 3-47.0 3-47.0
Penalties-yards 5-39 4-38