By Kirti Chakote
Coming into the 2014 Season, Dutchmen football (0-5 overall, 0-3 conference) had the same expectations as always. The team wanted to be very competitive, pull out as many wins as possible and challenge for the Liberty League title.
The team also wanted to make sure last year’s losing season, only the second in Coach Audino’s 22 years as head coach, was a thing of the past.
The play-making ability and veteran experience of the team is certainly there.
The team is led by senior captains: starting quarterback Conner Eck ’15, starting running back Darnell Thomas ’15, starting running back Dylan Schuck ’15, linebacker Nick Pearce ’15 and defensive back Andrew Luzzi ’15.
Eck and Thomas are both returning as all-Liberty League second team.
The team also has defensive end Casey Muse ’15 and linebacker Thomas Hayes ’16 returning on the same all-Liberty League team.
Despite the team’s dominant performance in individual statistics, Union has struggled to close out in its past four games to start the season.
Particularly against Utica and Ithaca, the team was in the red zone in the final minutes of the game and failed to convert go-ahead scores.
Going into Saturday’s game against Worchester Polytechnic Institute (2-4 overall, 1-2 conference), Union was 0-9 in plays leadings to ties or wins of games.
The week of practices leading up to WPI was met with intense effort. The team understood it would need to focus on reducing its mental mistakes.
The Dutchmen’s practices consisted of situational football, such as running through 2-minute drills, “looking to tie the game” plays or practicing goal-line stops.
If it just simplified the game as much as possible, Union knew the wins were within its reach.
“This is first time in my 40 years of being head coach that my team has lost its first four games by an average margin of 5-8 points,” said head coach Audino. “The wins are right there. We just need to execute and finish strong.”
Union looked to get its first win of the season this past weekend against the WPI goats. Unfortunately, the Dutchmen failed to put any points on the board until the second half, but by then, WPI was already riding a comfortable lead.
Union started with the football. However, after a fumble in its first drive, WPI scored on a 44-yard, seven-play drive, to put the Goats up 7-0.
In the next series, the Dutchmen again turned over the football with an interception that led to another scoring-drive for WPI. The score was 9-0 going into the second quarter.
For the second quarter, it was all WPI Goats. The score ballooned up to 23-0 after WPI took a drive into the end zone and converted another interception for points.
Finally, in the third quarter, Union converted on a fourth and goal after a pass from Eck to starting wide receiver Kyle Reynolds ’15. Unfortunately, Union’s touchdown ended all of the scoring for either team for the rest of the game.
On paper, Union looked dominant. They had nine more first downs than WPI, 100 total offensive yards more than WPI and a much greater time of possession (34:47 vs. 25:13).
Unfortunately, the six turnovers were very costly for the Dutchmen.
The Dutchmen did have some notable performances. Starting quarterback Connor Eck and back-up quarterback Blake Geller ’15 each went 11 for 21 under center, combining for 233 yards in the air.
Starting running back Darnel Thomas rushed 22 times for 89 yards.
Starting wide receiver Kyle Reynolds caught seven passes for 103 yards and Andrew Barker ’16, a wide receiver, grabbed six receptions for 76 yards.
Tim Lucey ’15, a senior on the defensive line, led the Dutchmen with five tackles.
With these past five games, the football team knows it is not playing to its full potential.
The team is hoping to turn things around in the second half of the season.
“Right now we’re just not executing consistently in crunch time. Four of our five losses have been by one score and have gone down to the final minute,” said running back Kyle Kalanta ’15.
“I’m confident that our team has learned from these hard losses and will use them to turn things around in the second half of the season.”