SCHENECTADY — Joseph Ferreira’s name doesn’t typically come up when discussing Union College’s offensive impact players, but that is quickly changing.
The 5-foot-10, 175-pound sophomore running back from Rocky Hill, Connecticut, is turning himself into a valuable force in the Dutchmen’s backfield, even though Union’s No. 1 runner, Ike Irabor, is one of the best players in the Liberty League.
Ferreira ran for 52 yards, scoring twice, and he nearly matched Irabor’s carries in a sloppy 27-17 Union victory over Springfield in a non-league game Saturday on Frank Bailey Field that improved the Dutchmen’s record to 3-0. Irabor, the shifty tailback who led Union in rushing last year, still had 88 yards on 18 carries and scored a touchdown, but Ferreira nearly split the playing time from beginning to end.
“I’m just one of the 11 guys on offense. Without the other 10 guys, I’m nothing,” said Ferreira, who also scored a pair of touchdowns in Union’s season opener against Westfield State. “I don’t know anything about sharing playing time. I go in when I’m called.”
“Joe’s had a terrific camp and early season. He deserves to play,” Union head coach Jeff Behrman said. “In my time as a head coach, I never just have one tailback. I definitely like to have a couple, depending on the matchups and the scheme.”
Springfield shut down Union’s running attack early, but Ferreira and Irabor gradually shook loose, as Union compiled 300 yards in total offense.
“Springfield is a very good defensive team, and they had a lot of guys in the box,” Ferreira said. “We knew that would be the case, and the coaching staff did a good job of making adjustments. All I do when I come into the game is play as hard as I can.”
The Dutchmen didn’t look as impressive on offense as they did in their first two lopsided victories, and they left plenty of points on the table in the second half. Union moved the ball down to the Springfield 19-yard line midway through the third quarter before its offense stalled, forcing a 36-yard field goal attempt. But the snap was fumbled, and Springfield recovered.
Union also moved the ball deep in Springfield territory early in the fourth quarter, but Irabor fumbled on the 11-yard line, and Tim Callahan scored on a 1-yard run two plays later.
“We won the game, but not in the way we normally like to do it,” Behrman said, referring to some of his team’s sloppy play. “We didn’t play as well as we could have, and we had too many penalties. But Springfield is a very good team. They have a very good defense, and their offense is always very hard to stop.”
After punting the ball away on its first possession, Union took an early lead when Springfield QB Chet Shade’s pitch deep in his own territory was fumbled, and Evan Gilland pounced on it in the end zone for the touchdown. Marcos Rodriguez tacked on one of three PATs on the day.
A Union turnover led to Springfield’s first score, when Irabor fumbled on his 7-yard line. Defensive tackle Joe Burke recovered for Springfield on the Union 12-yard line, leading to a Christian Hutra 26-yard field goal that cut Union’s lead to 7-3.
Irabor scored on a 10-yard sweep early in the second quarter to expand Union’s advantage to 14-3. Springfield threatened on the next series, driving to the Dutchmen’s 32-yard line, but George Reed intercepted a Shade pass and returned it to the Union 46. Ferreira then broke free from 10 yards out to make the score 21-3 at the half.
Ferreira’s 1-yard run in the third quarter stretched Union’s lead to 27-3. Springfield once again threatened, moving to the Union 17-yard line at the beginning of the fourth quarter, but Joe Vanderhoof recovered a fumble to thwart the drive.
But Springfield returned the favor, taking advantage of another Irabor fumble after catching a pass to set up a 1-yard run by Callahan.
Springfield’s final score, a 4-yard TD pass from Shade to Nick Kneski, was helped by a targeting penalty on a Union defender, as well as a 40-yard pass from Shade to Andrew Smith. Springfield, which uses a triple-option attack, only passed the ball eight times in the game, completing three for 63 yards.
Union QB William Bellamy completed 19 of 30 passes for 180 yards. His favorite target, Andre Ross Jr., was held in check with just one catch for 15 yards, but his would-be 30-yard TD reception late in the fourth quarter was nullified because of a Union holding penalty.
Union is idle next weekend and begins Liberty League play against visiting Hobart Oct. 5.
Springfield 3 0 0 14 — 17
Union 7 14 6 0 — 27
U — Gilland fumble recovery in end zone (Rodriguez kick)
S — Hutra 26 FG
U — Irabor 10 run (Rodriguez kick)
U — Ferreira 10 run (Rodriguez kick)
U — Ferreira 1 run (kick failed)
S — Callahan 1 run (Hutra kick)
S — Kneski 4 pass from Shade (Hutra kick)