College football: Union can’t get distracted
In football, individual game scouting reports are seldom simple, but general winning philosophies always are.
“You’ve got to stop the run on defense and be able to run the ball on offense,” said Union head coach John Audino, whose Dutchmen face Rochester today at 1:30 p.m. in the annual homecoming game on Frank Bailey Field.
“It’s like the old adage says. You’ve got to be strong up the middle and be good defensively. I think we are at a point right now where our offense, defense and special teams are complementing each other.”
After an 0-3 start, Union (3-0, 3-3) has bounced back with three straight Liberty League wins. That puts the Dutchmen in a first-place tie with Hobart, which takes on RPI in another crucial league game today.
“Our goal is to win our game and still be in first place at the end of the day,” said Audino. “We control our own destiny.
“I like the way the kids dug themselves out of a hole early in the season. I’m really proud of the way our guys settled in and settled down. But the problem is that this league is very strong this year, and every game is a battle. Although we didn’t win our non-conference games the way we wanted to, they did prepare us for a very tough conference schedule where we are playing a strong team every week.”
Rochester appears to be another solid opponent for the Dutchmen. Coached by former Carolina Panthers and Indianapolis Colts running back Scott Greene, the Yellowjackets are 2-1 in the Liberty League and 3-2 overall. Rochester averages 118.7 yards rushing and 267.2 yards passing per contest. That passing attack could put plenty of pressure on Union defensive backs
Jafar Johnson, Cam Johnson, Kevin Calello and Brian Reigle.
Quarterback Dean Kennedy has completed 105 of 174 passes for 1,486 yards and eight touchdowns. He also has 243 yards rushing and three more scores. Chris Lebano is Rochester’s top runner with 286 yards and two TDs.
But Union’s defense has held its last three opponents to under 300 total yards, and a similar performance would give the Dutchmen another chance to win.
Union defensive coordinator Peter Brown believes that this year’s unit is one of the best he’s seen.
“We have been healthy and have a lot of experience on defense,” he said. “The defense is very confident. We are good against both the run and the pass. We get some turnovers and get decent pressure.”
But the bottom line is that this group wraps up runners as well as any Brown has ever coached.
“This may be the best tackling defense in my 20 years of coaching our defense at Union,” he said.
Offensively, Union has the kind of balance that the Dutchmen featured during their many playoff runs. Although only a sophomore, quarterback Connor Eck has matured quickly and has converted 74 of 130 pass attempts for 1,001 yards and 10 TD strikes. Most important, however, is he has thrown just one interception.
Although Union lost its top three receivers to injury, Kyle Reynolds has stepped up to be the No. 1 threat with 17 catches for 201 yards and six scores.
Union spreads the wealth on the ground, with T.J. Franzese (504 yards), Tim Hersey (210 yards), Darnell Thomas and Dylan Schuck also contributing. Eck is also a running threat with 205 yards.
Union averages 128.5 yards rushing and 173.8 yards passing. Perhaps the most important statistic for the Dutchmen is turnover margin (plus-9). Union has intercepted seven passes and recovered nine fumbles to date.
“We still have a very tough road ahead of us,” said Audino. “Rochester is well coached, and they have played very well this year. They almost beat RPI, and played St. John Fisher very well. We can’t afford to take any team for granted.”
Union has won 19 of the last 21 games with Rochester.
KEY GAME FOR RPI
RPI attempts to stay in the title chase with a do-or-die game against seventh-ranked Hobart at noon at East Campus Stadium.
RPI is 3-1 in the league and 5-1 overall, but if the Engineers lose to 3-0, 6-0 Hobart, their playoff hopes might be dashed.
Senior quarterback Mike Hermann, the reigning Liberty League Offensive Player of the Year, is perhaps the most feared player in the conference, because the 6-foot-5 signal caller is a two-way threat. He has completed 66.7 percent of his passes (124-for-186) for 1,700 yards and 18 touchdowns against just four picks. Hermann has thrown for at least 300 yards twice and has multiple touchdown passes in all six games.
But Hermann, who is eighth in the nation in total offense at 348.2 yards per game and 10th in passing efficiency (171.1), is also RPI’s top rusher with 389 yards and six scores.
RPI averages 37.8 points, 152 yards rushing and 302 yards passing per game. The Engineers are a plus-6 in turnover margin.
Hobart’s balanced offense features quarterback Nick Stang (61. percent completion for 1,081 yards and eight TDs) and running back Bobby Dougherty (95.2 yards per game, 11 TDs).
RPI holds a 28-26-1 edge in the all-time series.