There is still a lot of fight left in the Union College football team, but not quite as many healthy bodies.
The banged-up Dutchmen, who will start four freshmen offensive linemen and a backup quarterback, host powerful Hobart today at noon in a Liberty League game on Frank Bailey Field.
Hobart, a perennial league stalwart with eight titles in the last 14 seasons, is 4-0 in the conference and 6-0 overall. The Statesmen average 35.5 points per game and allow just 12.8.
“Over the years, both programs, Union and Hobart, have been outstanding,” said Union head coach John Audino. “I remember when I first came to Union back in 1983, and we beat Hobart, 12-9, in a real dogfight. They have been a great program ever since. They are a tough, physical team. They are very good, and they are well-coached. Plus, they really come at you on defense. This will be a big challenge for us.”
Audino said that despite his team’s record (2-2 in the league, 2-5 overall), the Dutchmen haven’t given up.
“We are struggling, but we still have a lot of life. We’ve been having great practices, but we haven’t been able to carry that over to games,” he said. “We are definitely banged up. We played four freshmen on the offensive line at Rochester, and we’ll do the same thing this week.”
Audino said that regular starting quarterback Connor Eck, who sat out last week’s game at Rochester, will also miss this week, and possibly, next week with a bilateral sprain in his knee.
“I thought Nick [Becker] did an excellent job last week against Rochester, especially since he’s played just about a game and a half in the last two years,” Audino said. “He managed the game very well against Rochester. He’s grown a lot in the last two weeks.”
While Eck gave the Dutchmen a solid passing attack (95-for-175, 1,196 yards, four TD passes) and an extra runner, as well (223 yards, two touchdowns), Becker is more of a drop-back passer. He’s completed 17 of 39 passes for 141 yards and a pair of interceptions.
Union’s top weapons will continue to be tailbacks Darnel Thomas (453 yards, five touchdowns) and T.J. Franzese (408 yards, five touchdowns).
Sophomore middle linebacker Thomas Hayes anchors the Union defense with 60 tackles and one interception, while senior defensive tackle Casey Muse has 43 tackles and three quarterback sacks.
Hobart, guided by head coach Mike Cragg (118-52 in 19 years), features a multiple offensive attack. Tailback Stephen Webb has run for 895 yards and 12 touchdowns. The nation’s 25th-leading rusher is averaging a whopping 8.3 yards per carry. QB Patrick Conlan has completed 56 of 102 passes for 765 yards and nine scores. He’s been intercepted just twice.
Trayvon Taney leads Hobart’s aggressive, blitzing defense with 36 tackles and two forced fumbles. Cory Davis (35 tackles) and Jacob Price (30) are other key defenders.
UALBANY AT RICHMOND
The Great Danes visit the state of Virginia for the third time this season when they take on the University of Richmond at 4 p.m. at Robins Stadium.
UAlbany is 0-4 in the Colonial Athletic Association and 1-7 overall. Richmond is 0-4 and 2-6.
The Great Danes are led by junior quarterback Will Fiacchi (144-for-256, 202.5 yards passing per game, seven TD strikes) and junior tailback Omar Osbourne (850 yards rushing, nine touchdowns).
The Spiders lead the CAA in passing. Redshirt junior QB Michael Strauss has completed 223 of 349 passes for 2,372 yards and 14 touchdowns. His top target is Ben Edwards, who leads the league with 8.0 receptions per game.
RPI BACK HOME
The Engineers will try to snap a four-game losing streak when they host the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at 1 p.m. at East Campus Stadium.
Sophomore quarterback Jeff Avery has thrown for 471 yards with 43 completions in 91 attempts. Andrew Armato tops the Engineers in rushing with 368 yards and a pair of scores.
The Mariners (1-1, 4-1) average 285.2 yards rushing per game.