Football Drops Thriller to Union 25-17 on Homecoming

Christopher OConnor

Worcester, MA --- Running back Chris Coney (Ft. Lauderdale, FL) rushed for 197 yards and combined with quarterback Drew Connolly (Foxboro, MA) for four second half touchdowns to help Union rally from a 14-0 deficit to defeat host WPI 25-17 in a key Liberty League football matchup on Saturday afternoon.  Union is 2-1 overall and tied atop the conference standings with St. Lawrence at 2-0 while WPI slides to 3-2 on the season and 1-1 in Liberty League play.

The Engineers, playing in front of announced crowd of 3,110 on homecoming, jumped out to a 14-0 advantage on a pair of defensive touchdowns.  Christopher O'Connor (Bellerose, NY) returned an interception 12 yards for a score early in the second quarter after Brendan Gove (Rutland, MA) hit the quarterback as he was throwing the ball.  The Crimson and Gray doubled its advantage in the opening minutes of the third quarter when Kevin White (Worcester, MA) stripped the Union runner of the ball and returned it 30 yards to extend the lead to 14-0.  

Union answered right back after getting good field position on the ensuing kickoff, Coney ran 48 yards on the next play for Union's first points of the day.  The score was 14-6 after a missed PAT.  After the teams traded punts, the Dutchman took advantage of a WPI fumble in its own territory and went 31 yards in 8 plays capped by a Coney 2-yard touchdown plunge to cut the deficit to 14-12.

WPI extended its lead to 17-12 when Cody Beckel (Jupiter, FL) drilled a 22-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter. Union quickly countered, using a 39-yard kickoff return to set up shop at the WPI 36.  Seven plays later Connolly snuck in from 2-yards out to give the Dutchman its first lead of the day at 18-17 with 10:14 left.  After its defense held the Engineers to a three-and-out, the visitors chewed up 4:17 of the clock, culminating in a Connolly 6-yard touchdown scamper with 4:26 remaining to make it 25-17.

The Engineers would have one last crack and used a 36-yard diving reception by Nick Bean to get deep in Union territory.  Later in the drive with just a minute remaining, the Engineers were faced with a 4th-and-goal from the Union 15.  Quarterback Pat McAuley (Hingham, MA) was forced to scramble and got to the 1 yard line before he was stopped by Anthony Cassese (Wickliffe, OH) and a host of Dutchmen before the goal line. Union would take over on downs and run out the clock to secure the win.

Red zone conversions keyed Union as they produced touchdown all three trips inside the 20 and limited WPI to just a field during its three attempts inside the 20.

Cassese paced the Dutchmen on defense with eight solo tackles while AJ Rocchio (Glen Rock, NJ) added seven tackles, including a sack.  O'Connor and Jack Mulhern (Worcester, MA) paced WPI with 10 stops apiece while Peter Gill (Franklin, MA) chipped in with a pair of tackles-for-loss, including a sack.

Coney earned his 197 yards on 32 carries.  It marked the 15th time in his standout career the senior has rushed for 100 or more yards.

O'Connor took home the Robert Pritchard Award as the Most Outstanding Lineman while White won as the Most Outstanding Back.

Both teams continue Liberty League play next Saturday with road contests.  WPI heads to Kings Point, NY to take on the United States Merchant Marine Academy at 4pm while Union makes the trek to Geneva, NY to play Hobart at noon. 

Story by Mark Therrien - WPI Athletics