Playing without two of its key offensive players, the Union College football team will take on Ithaca in the Dutchmen’s home opener at 1 p.m. today on Frank Bailey Field.
Union lost its regular-season opener, 25-16, last week at Utica in what head coach John Audino called one of his team’s worst offensive performances in many years. It won’t get any easier for the Dutchmen against the Bombers of the Empire 8 — especially without top receiver Kyle Reynolds and senior running back/fullback Dylan Schuck, who are both out for the season.
Reynolds, who tore a rotator cuff, caught 40 passes for 618 yards and 11 touchdowns in a breakout campaign a year ago as part of a formidable tandem with quarterback Connor Eck. Schuck was a valuable reserve and a scoring threat on goal-line situations.
“We won’t have as many bullets as we normally do, but other kids will just have to step up,” said Audino. “We do have plenty of other receivers, and we also have depth in the backfield, as well.”
Although Audino admitted some concern about losing two of his top skill players, he was more disappointed in his team’s offensive execution and turnover problems.
“Part of our problem against Utica was that they already had a game under their belts, and it was our opener,” said Audino. “We had problems with execution on both sides of the ball, but we were still in the game right down to the end.
“We had four turnovers from our quarterback position, and we can’t have that and still expect to win. We must limit our turnovers. We also were sacked quite a few times, and not all of them could be blamed on our offensive line. We have to do a better job of making adjustments.”
Although the Dutchmen gave up 25 points, Audino said his young defense did a solid job.
“Our new kids played well. Our defense actually only gave up 18 points, because one of the interceptions led to a pick-six,” Audino said. “Our kids made Utica work, and I was pleased with their effort and emotion. We will need to be more stout against Ithaca.”
Eck completed 24 of 42 passes for 262 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions against the Pioneers. T.J. Franzese ran for just 36 yards on nine carries. He was the team’s top rusher last year with 819 yards and seven TDs.
Ithaca, which beat Moravian, 31-7, in its opener two weeks ago, is paced by tailback Rakim Jones, who ran for 138 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries. Quarterback Phil Neumann, a Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake graduate, completed 19 of 28 passes for 201 yards and two TDs.
Ithaca, which for many seasons only played Union in the postseason, owns a 6-4 lead in the all-time series, which began on Nov. 9, 1985, when the Bombers beat the Dutchmen, 13-12, in the NCAA playoffs. Last year, in the beginning of a new series between the longtime rivals, Ithaca rallied to beat Union, 27-24, in overtime, at Butterfield Stadium.
DANES EYE COMEBACK
University at Albany will try to bounce back from last week’s 19-13 overtime defeat in its home opener to the University of Rhode Island when the Great Danes take on Central Connecticut State University in a non-conference game at 7 at Bob Ford Field.
The game will be part of the Great Danes’ Hall of Fame weekend.
UAlbany is 0-1 in the Colonial Athletic Association and 1-2 overall. CCSU is 0-3 overall.
Against URI before a sellout crowd, Omar Osbourne ran for 96 yards and a touchdown, but the Great Danes missed two key field goals.
CCSU is led by running back Rob Hollomon, who has 371 rushing yards and five touchdowns.
RPI AT HOME
The Engineers (2-0 overall) play their third straight non-conference game when they host 1-1 Castleton State at noon at East Campus Stadium.
Last week in a 24-21 win over Alfred, junior Andrew Franks kicked a school-record five field goals, including a 50-yarder that tied another school mark.
Tailback Andrew Amato topped the Engineers in rushing with 115 yards on 27 carries against the Saxons.