Union College’s offense finally began catching up with its stout defense last week.
The result was the Dutchmen’s first victory of the season, a one-sided 27-7 win at Springfield.
Now, Union tries to keep its momentum and continue its offensive resurgence when the Dutchmen host longtime rival Worcester Polytechnic Institute today at 1:30 p.m. on homecoming day at Frank Bailey Field.
Union (1-1 Liberty League, 1-3 overall) owns a 32-8 record in the all-time series with the Engineers that began in 1909. Union has won 16 of the last 17 meetings.
“We did dominate last week — especially on the defensive side of the ball. I’ve got to give a lot of credit to our defensive coaches, who really put together a great game plan,” said Union head coach John Audino, whose Dutchmen limited the Pride to just 85 total yards on 38 plays. Springfield came into the game with the nation’s top Division III rushing offense at 393 yards per game.
Even more impressive to Audino was the fact that his sporadic offense rolled up 481 total yards, including 320 from junior quarterback Connor Eck, who was 20-for-34. Eck threw for one touchdown and rushed for another.
“We had a little bit more of a mind game to overcome this week,” said Audino. “Not only were we off to an 0-3 start, but we were also 0-1 in the league. The guys knew we had our backs against the wall, and that we couldn’t afford another league loss right now. Not only did our defense hold the nation’s top running game to just 85 yards, but the offense held the ball for 42 or 43 minutes. Connor had a great game at QB.”
Audino said the Dutchmen are still playing without four or five offensive starters, but he added that the Union offensive line is finally beginning to click. That means extra protection for Eck, and better blocking for the Union running backs.
T.J. Franzese ran for 83 yards and a touchdown to pace the runners, while Tosin Kazeem caught six passes for 103 yards. Defensively, Thomas Hayes made eight tackles and forced a fumble, while Tyler Valenti contributed seven stops, including two for a loss.
Audino is expecting a solid game from WPI (1-1, 2-3), which would like nothing better than to rebound from last week’s 41-7 loss to league power Hobart.
“Obviously, WPI is a good football team. They always play us hard,” said Audino. “They have an excellent running back in Zach Grasis, who really hurt us last year. They also have a good quarterback, who can throw and run. They have more than enough weapons to tax us defensively. Plus, their defense can put eight or nine players in the box to stop our run.
“The main thing is that we need to play hard and smart. Our offense and special teams are finally beginning to complement our defense. You need at least two out of three to win.”
Grasis tops WPI in rushing with 618 yards and seven touchdowns. He averages 5.0 yards per carry. QB John Antonopoulos has completed 36 of 68 passes for 439 yards and four scores, but WPI also uses Jacob Grills (33-for-68, 348 yards, three TDs).
UALBANY BACK ON ROAD
For the third straight week, the University at Albany Great Danes will play a tough game on the road. The Danes (0-2 CAA, 1-5 overall) meet the University of Delaware’s Blue Hens at noon.
The Blue Hens (1-1 CAA, 4-2 overall) have won six national championships to go along with five national runner-up finishes and 20 appearances in the NCAA tournament.
Senior running back Andrew Pierce has 404 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 92 carries, while junior quarterback Trent Turley has been one of the top signal callers in the league this season with 101 completions in 151 attempts and 14 TD strikes.
UAlbany junior quarterback Will Fiacchi has completed 110 of 195 passes for an average of 213.7 yards per game and five TD passes.
Senior Kevin Chillis is his main target with 30 catches for 329 yards and four scores, while junior running back Omar Osbourne is third in the CAA in rushing with 658 yards and six touchdowns.
RPI MEETS SLU
RPI (0-1 Liberty League, 3-1 overall) travels to Leckonby Stadium in Canton to take on St. Lawrence (2-0, 4-1) at 1 p.m.
Sophomore Jeff Avery, one of three quarterbacks the team has used so far this season, has thrown for 292 yards on 28-for-60 passing, while senior Andrew Armato is the leading rusher for RPI with 250 yards and two touchdowns.
Although RPI trails in the all-time series, 30-26-2, the Engineers have won seven of the last 10 meetings.