SCHENECTADY — Union College’s explosive passing attack was ranked 16th in the nation entering Saturday’s game with Curry, but head coach Jeff Behrman wanted to emphasize his running game a little bit more against the Colonels.
Freshman tailback Ike Irabor took advantage of his team’s slight shift in focus, breaking loose for three touchdowns and 125 yards rushing, to power the Dutchmen to a convincing 49-6 victory in a non-conference game at Frank Bailey Field.
The 4-0 Dutchmen didn’t forget about their passing prowess, though, as sophomore quarterback Will Bellamy still completed 17 of 26 passes for 217 yards and three TD strikes. Sophomore linebacker Colin Lama also grabbed a share of the spotlight, returning a fumble recovery 5 yards for another score as the Dutchmen dominated on both sides of the ball.
“Ike is a tremendous talent,” Behrman said of the 6-foot running back from Braintree, Mass. “He’s got a lot of ability and he’s still learning the college game. When he runs straight ahead, a lot of good things can happen. He’s a very talented player.”
Two of Irabor’s three scores were on big plays. He scored on a 27-yard run midway through the first quarter to give the Dutchmen a 7-0 lead, and later erupted for a 57-yard run when he broke through the line and dashed untouched into the end zone.
“I felt pretty good running the ball,” Irabor said. “I just took what the defense gave me. On that big run, I saw the open field and went for it. Once I made that burst, I knew I was going to score. It feels pretty good right now, but I have to thank my offensive line. Without them, I wouldn’t be running this way.”
Bellamy said adding Irabor’s to his talented receiving corps makes the Dutchmen even tougher to defend.
“Once we can establish our running game, we are very tough,” he said. “Our offensive line stepped up today. The fact that we established our run loosened up their defense and made it easier for us to be a complete offense.”
Behrman said the coaching staff made it a point of emphasis to run the ball early and often against Curry.
“We have a lot of talented receivers, but they’ve got to look at the run game, too,” Behrman said. “It’s been productive the last two weeks especially, and that was our goal coming into today. Our goal is to be as balanced as we can be. I thought we were a little unbalanced the first couple of weeks. We’re more of a balanced offensive team now.”
Although Irabor provided a strong rushing attack, Union’s passing game was still extremely effective. Art Ross Jr., who earned three straight Liberty League Rookie of the Week honors, caught 7 passes for 119 yards, including a 63-yard touchdown reception. Griffin Beal and Pat Ryan also caught TD passes from Bellamy.
“They [his receivers] are all over the field,” Bellamy said. “It makes my job easy. I can throw it up and let them go and get it.”
“We have a lot of talent on this team,” Ross said. ‘It’s all about waiting your turn and being happy for the other guys. We know we have a lot of other guys who can catch the ball. You can’t do everything by yourself all the time. We have so many weapons that we can spread it around and score the same. It’s all about being happy for your teammates. To me, it excites me if they try to double-team me, because if I’m doubled, I’m opening it up for my teammates.”
Union’s high-powered offense was once again all the rage, but its defense, ranked 15th in the nation, also played well. The Dutchmen limited the Colonels (2-2) to 207 total yards, including just 75 on the ground. They also forced three turnovers.
“It’s exciting to be a part of this team,” said junior defensive end Vince DiCaterino from Broadalbin-Perth High School. “We have a lot of energy all the time. Everyone is always ready and hungry. There is no relaxing on this team. Curry is a very good team, but we owe it to our coaches’ game plan. We follow it from first page to last page.
“Coach was telling us not to focus on the media or let all the outside talk get into our heads. What matters is the family we have on this team. This is an awesome group. I’ve never been with a group of guys that is this close and this committed to football, ready to take the next step.”
Curry 0 0 6 0 – 6
Union 7 21 21 0 – 49
U – Irabor 27 run (Rodriguez kick)
U – Beal 23 pass from Bellamy (Rodriguez kick)
U – Ryan 3 pass from Bellamy (Rodriguez kick)
U – Irabor 1 run (Rodriguez kick)
U – Lama 5 fumble return (Rodriguez kick)
U – Irabor 57 run (Rodriguez kick)
C – DelGais 47 pass from Juvelier (kick blocked)
U – Ross 63 pass from Bellamy (Rodriguez kick)
Reach Bob Weiner at [email protected].