Union College hopes for major improvements on offense when the Dutchmen open their Liberty League schedule by hosting a much-improved St. Lawrence football team today at 1 p.m. on Frank Bailey Field.
The 0-2 Dutchmen have scored just 19 points in two games. Even more alarming is the fact that Union has rushed for just 135 net yards.
“Obviously, every game is important,” said Union head coach John Audino. “We got off to a slow start. We are not where we want to be offensively right now. This is the first time in a long time that we are not putting points on the board. At least our first two games were non-league games, and they didn’t count in the league standings. Now we have a new lease on life, so to speak.”
Audino and his staff were counting on the offense to bail out its young defense early in the season. With quarterback Connor Eck and ace receiver Kyle Reynolds forming the league’s top passing combo, the Dutchmen were expecting big things once again.
But Reynolds (40 receptions, 11 TD catches last year) is out for the season with a rotator cuff injury, and the Dutchmen haven’t found anyone to fill his role. Eck hasn’t had enough time to find his new targets, and the rushing game has been almost nonexistent.
“The biggest issue I think we have right now is to run the football and protect the passer,” said Audino.
“We did face a couple of very good defenses in our first two games. Utica’s
defense was definitely stronger than I thought it would be, and Ithaca has one of the best defenses, if not the best defense, we will face all year.
“We learned a lot in those two games. We didn’t expect much from our young players on defense, but they’ve been playing very well. Now, we need to get our offense going.”
St. Lawrence, off to a 2-1 start, is led by quarterback Mike Lefflbine, who has completed 64 of 112 passes for 615 yards and five scores. Tailback Maurice Irby is the primary ball carrier with 170 yards on 45 carries.
Union leads the all-time series with St. Lawrence, 33-16-5.
“St. Lawrence is coming in here with a lot of confidence,” said Audino. “They have very good young players, especially on defense, where they have a strong defensive end, nose guard, several linebackers, and several good defensive backs.
“We recruited their quarterback, and he transferred in from Sacred Heart. Overall, they are a much improved team.”
Today’s game has been designated the NCAA’s “Take a Kid to the Game Day.” The first 100 children 12 and under will receive a free T-shirt. Members of the Union team will be available for a meet and greet, as well as autographs after the game.
Fans of today’s game will also have the opportunity to support Kristen Shinebarger, who had her leg amputated due to cancer. Shinebarger is the daughter of Union’s director of student support, Shelly Shinebarger.
Union player will wear yellow shoelaces, and the “Colleges Against Cancer” student organization will be selling T-shirts to assist in this initiative.
DANES HOPE TO REBOUND
University at Albany will be looking to turn things around after back-to-back home losses when the Great Danes visit Old Dominion in the 64th edition of the Oyster Bowl, an annual game to help support the Shriner’s Hospital for Children. Kickoff is slated for 6 p.m. at Foreman Field at S.B. Ballard Stadium in Norfolk, Va.
The 0-1, 1-3 Great Danes are coming off a 20-17 loss to Central Connecticut State University.
Omar Osbrourne ran for 119 yards and two touchdowns for his second consecutive 100-yard game of the season to pace the UAlbany offense.
UAlbany QB Will Fiacchi became the sixth quarterback in program history to pass for more than 3,000 career yards. His career totals include 257 completions in 436 attempts for 14 TDs.
The 2-2 Monarchs are have won their last two games. They earned the No. 4 seed in last year’s FCS Playoffs.
Old Dominion quarterback Taylor Heinicke was the Colonial Athletic Association’s Offensive Player of the Year last season.
TRANSIT TROPHY GAME
Unbeaten Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (3-0) takes on Worcester Polytecyhnic Institute (1-2) for the Transit Trophy in their Liberty League opener in Worcester, Mass. at 1 p.m.
RPI leads the all-time series, 56-45-5 and is 22-10-1 since the Transit Trophy was initiated in 1979.
RPI has started three different quarterbacks so far: Senior Brandan McGlynn, senior Jessie Maynard and sophomore Jeff Avery, who has completed 18 of 35 passes for 193 yards and two TDs.
Senior Andrew Armato is the leading RPI rusher with 212 yards and two touchdowns.