Union College athletic director Jim McLaughlin couldn’t help being biased as he introduced the coaches, support staff and players for both participants in the oldest collegiate football game in New York.
“This is still THE game on our schedule,” he said with emphasis at Thursday’s press conference at Nott Memorial. “This is the trophy, and we want to keep it in Schenectady.”
Today’s 111th meeting between the Dutchmen and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute will be for the coveted Dutchman Shoes Trophy. The local rivals have split the last 16 meetings, but according to Union College records, the Dutchmen lead the all-time series, 81-25-4. Since the trophy was introduced in 1950, Union is 47-16.
The game will be televised on Time Warner Cable at noon.
Along with the historical significance of the game, today’s matchup will be senior day for the Dutchmen, who will finish under .500 for only the second time in the last 28 years. Twenty Union players will wear the garnet for the final time in their career.
“This is a great time of the year for both programs,” said Union head coach John Audino, who is 12-9 all-time against RPI and a has a record of 150-70 at Union. “This is one of the best rivalries in the country in all of Division III. Last year, we were lucky to win in overtime. We are expecting a hard-fought contest.”
The Dutchmen won last year’s game, 34-28, at East Campus Village in Troy when Kyle Reynolds caught a 31-yard TD pass from quarterback Connor Eck in the extra period. Reynolds is out for the year after an injury, and Eck is also injured, meaning last year’s heroes won’t play a role in this year’s game.
“We’ve had an up-and-down season,” Audino said. “It’s not a typical season for Union to be 3-6. But we want to win this game badly. It’s one of the best teams we will play all year. We want to send our seniors off with good feelings for next year.”
First-year RPI head coach Ralph Isernia will be experiencing this rivalry for the first time, but he’s done his homework.
“This is a great historical setting,” he said. “I’m a newcomer to this game, but that doesn’t mean I don’t understand the historical significance. As soon as I got here, I researched this game, and it’s all the alumni talked about. The competitive rivalry from both alumni bases is huge. Both schools are very competitive, but I think there is a mutual respect there.”
Senior quarterback Nick Becker will continue to direct the Union offense in Eck’s absence. He has completed 63 of 118 passes for 651 yards, four touchdowns and five interceptions.
Union’s rushing game has been balanced with senior T.J. Franzese (504 yards, five touchdowns) and junior Darnel Thomas (581 yards, five touchdowns). Joe Vito has stepped into Reynolds’ role as the primary receiver and has 25 receptions for 227 yards.
Sophomore linebacker Thomas Hayes tops Union’s tackle chart with 76, and he also has an interception.
RPI is paced by running back Andrew Armato (476 yards, two touchdowns) and quarterback Jeff Avery (43-for-91, 471 yards, three touchdown passes).
FINALE FOR FORD
University at Albany head coach Bob Ford, who will retire at the end of the season, will be coaching his final home game when the Great Danes entertain 23rd-ranked New Hampshire at Bob Ford Field at 3:30 p.m. It will also be the Great Danes’ senior day.
Although the Great Danes are 1-9 overall and 0-6 in their first season in the Colonial Athletic Association, Ford ranks first among active NCAA Division I FCS coaches with 265 career victories and is fourth on the all-time FCS chart. He’s led the Great Danes to a 256-167 record in 41 seasons.
Junior quarterback Will Fiacchi has completed 170 of 303 passes for an average of 197.1 passing yards per game and nine TD strikes. Senior wideout Kevin Chillis has been Fiacchi’s favorite target with 43 catches for 533 yards and five touchdowns. Junior Omar Osbourne is third in the league in rushing with 1,040 yards on 234 carries and 11 touchdowns.
New Hampshire (4-2, 5-4) is spearheaded by quarterbacks Andy Vailas (115-for-189, 1,234 yards, six TD passes) and Sean Goldrich (79-for-120, 973 yards, eight TD passes). Running back Nico Steriti has produced 668 rushing yards and six scores.
Today’s game will also be military appreciation and Pop Warner day. All servicemen and servicewomen, active or retired, will be admitted free. Pop Warner players wearing their team jersey will also be admitted free.