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College football: Union showing improvement, but problems still exist

Saturday, October 5, 2013
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The problems have been ident­ified for the Union College football team. Now, they need to be rect­ified.

When the Dutchmen travel to Springfield, Mass., today at noon to take on the Springfield College Pride, Union must shore up its offensive line and special-teams play to be effective.

The Dutchmen are off to an 0-3 start for the third consecutive season, and they are 0-1 in Liberty League competition. Springfield is 0-1 and 3-1.

Although Springfield leads the all-time series, 9-7, Union won last year’s game, 49-21, at Frank Bailey Field.

Union outgained St. Lawrence in last week’s Liberty League opener, but costly fumbles on the center-quarterback exchange, coupled with two major miscues on special teams, cost the Dutchmen severely in a 30-20 setback.

“I was impressed with the way we began to move the ball against St. Lawrence,” said veteran Union head coach John Audino. “We’re moving in the right direction, and we’re beginning to find the right pieces to the puzzle. We’re moving the ball between the 20s, but we need to take advantage of our red-zone opportunities.”

One of the biggest problems for Union in last week’s game was turnovers. Junior quarterback Connor Eck and freshman center Thomas Grimmer, making his first collegiate start, weren’t on the same page when it came to snapping the ball. The result was three fumbles.

“It was our center’s first start, and they had some problems on the exchange,” said Audino. “Part of the problem was that St. Lawrence’s defensive signals were very much like our offensive signals. When the center heard the St. Lawrence defensive captain call out the signals, twice he thought they were our signals, and he snapped the ball too soon.

“We’re using a lot of younger players in our lineup because of injuries We especially have some new faces up front.”

Offensive lineman Pete Miele was injured last week and might not be able to play this week, Audino said. The Dutchmen are already playing without star wideout Kyle Reynolds and versatile tailback/fullback Dylan Schuck, who are both out for the season with injuries.

“Besides our problems on the offensive line, our other main concern so far is the special teams,” said Audino. “We gave up two big touchdowns because of breakdowns on special teams last week. This is a complementary sport, and all three parts of the game need to be working together. Right now, only the defense is really playing well.

“We’re still a very young football team, though, and we still have seven games left. We’ve been through this kind of stretch before, and I know we will come out of it.”

The top offensive player last week for Union was tailback Darnel Thomas, who ran for better than 120 yards, all in the first half. Eck, who was sacked five times last week, has completed 52 of 104 passes for 549 yards and one touchdown. He’s been intercepted four times. Joe Vito is his favorite target so far with 16 catches for 141 yards.

Springfield’s option attack averages 393.5 rushing yards a game. Quarterback Jonathan Marrero is a double threat. He’s run for 575 yards with seven touchdowns and has also completed nine of 29 passes for 102 yards and two scores.

DANES HOPE TO REBOUND

After suffering through one of the worst defeats in program history — a 66-10 drubbing at Old Dominion — the University at Albany Great Danes head back to Virginia to take on 21st-ranked James Madison at the 24,877-seat Bridgeforth Stadium.

The game is already a sellout, meaning the Danes are slated to play in front of the largest crowd in team history.

In its inaugural season of Col­onial Athletic Association competition, UAlbany is struggling with a 1-4 overall record, 0-1 in CAA play. Quarterback Will Fiacchi has completed 84 of 152 passes for four touchdowns, while junior tailback Omar Osbourne tops the ground game with 599 rushing yards and six touchdowns on 120 carries.

James Madison (0-1, 3-2) is paced by senior running back Dae-Quan Scott, who is averaging 122.8 rushing per game, second in the CAA.

Sophomore quarterback Michael Birdsong has completed 88 of 147 passes for seven scores.

RPI GAME PPD.

The RPI vs. United States Merchant Marine Academy game at East Campus Athletic Village, originally scheduled for today, was postponed because of the government shutdown and is tentatively rescheduled for Nov. 2.

 
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