Tuesday Afternoon Assessment – Reviewing the State of NEC Football Following Week 5

What to Take away from the Weekend
It’s early, only one-quarter through the conference schedule, but as expected Albany and Duquesne are right out in front in the title hunt.

Last year’s co-champions are the lone remaining teams yet to have incurred a NEC loss.

They won’t meet until November 10 in a game that could ultimately decide the NEC’s champion. Of course that is assuming (and we know what happens when we assume) that neither Albany nor Duquesne stumble at all along the way until that point.

So far, so good in the quest for a repeat though.  

In Week 5, Duquesne survived a close call against rival Saint Francis (PA), which appears to be a dramatically improved program in Chris Villarrial’s third season at the helm.

Meanwhile, Albany moved to 4-1 overall by handily defeating Monmouth, which had also won three of its first four games entering the Week 5 matchup.

It’s too early to exclude anyone from the title hunt yet, but two-loss teams have rarely won the league title (it has happened though).

Monmouth and Wagner are both 2-1 in league play, and, although both have suffered discouraging NEC defeats, they are both dangerous and very much in the race. Wagner has won back-to-back NEC games following a setback in its conference opener, and the Seahawks’ tandem of Nick Doscher and Dominique Williams is healthy and performing at a high level.

 

Who Gets Game Balls?
Every Week, the Overtime! Blog staff convenes and awards three game balls for outstanding effort and achievement.

Bob Ford
His team was well-prepared for its hyped-up matchup with Monmouth and it showed. The Danes looks liked All-Stars in every phase of the game and rolled to a 55-24 victory, Ford’s 259th win as a college head coach.  Ford, the wins leader amongst all active Division I coaches, hasn’t lost any creativity at age 75. The Architect of Albany Football made a gutsy call for a fake punt with his team facing a 4th-and-10 from its own 23 in the first quarter. The result? A 77-yard touchdown run!

Jordan Harris
Handing out game balls to those involved in a losing effort doesn’t happen often, if at ever here at the Overtime! Blog. With that said, Bryant receiver Jordan Harris’ numbers from Saturday’s 31-21 setback at Wagner are impossible to overlook. The Bulldogs completed 12 passes in the game and nine of them went to the 6-foot-2 Harris who racked up 201 yards and two touchdowns.  It was the first 200-yard receiving game by a NEC player since last season when Harris himself went for 224 yards in a 31-17 win over eventual FCS playoff participant Albany. Fewer than 10 players in NEC history have had 200-yard receiving games. Among them, current Dallas Cowboy Miles Austin (Monmouth) and former NFL Draft pick DeVeren Johnson (Sacred Heart). If you’re wondering, former Saint Francis (PA) pass-catcher Michael Caputo has the league’s single-game record of 294 yards on Oct. 29, 2005.

The entire Sacred Heart program
No team should have to incur what the Pioneers were forced to cope with this offseason when their head coach was in a fight for his life. With Paul Gorham on the road to recovery, but on medical leave from the University, longtime assistant Mark Nofri has stepped in as Sacred Heart’s interim head coach. The Pioneers endured a four-overtime defeat on the road in Week 1 and losses at Colgate and Monmouth followed. On Saturday, though, Sacred Heart scored an impressive victory over Constitution State rival Central Connecticut before a Homecoming crowd. It was a well-deserved win for a bunch of folks who have endured hard times and haven’t stopped working hard through it all.

Here are highlights from the Pioneers’ victory…

 

Pigskin Tweets of the Week

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Layton makes our list for the second week in a row. The local Albany news anchor, who happens to have an all-NEC punter for a brother, has spent the last few Saturdays sending out entertaining and informative updates about UAlbany football via Twitter. She’s been as good on the social medium as the Danes have been on the field this season.

 

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As it turns out, Mr. Cappella was right on point. Robert Morris downed previously undefeated Lafayette before a standing room-only crowd at Joe Walton Stadium.  The Colonials led 28-7, but the visitors stormed back to pull even at 28-28 in the fourth quarter. There was “no way” they were losing though. The defense forced a Lafayette punt with just over 2:00 remaining and the offense proceeded to set up Greg Langer’s game-winning field goal.

 

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Drew Smith and his Great Danes won the highly-anticipated Week 5 matchup with Monmouth by a convincing margin, but gloating is not something Bob Ford’s teams do. In an act of class that embodies the spirit of his legendary head coach, the senior tailback tweeted the ultimate compliment at Monmouth’s linebacker Dan Sullivan. File this one under #NECbrethren and #NECpride.

 

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Akeem Moore and his Dukes teammates appeared focused on the prize and have taken two successful first steps in defending their 2011 NEC co-championship.

 

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Although it wasn’t exactly Southern California weather, Sacred Heart turned up the heat on Homecoming Weekend. The Pioneers made this fan happy by topping Central Connecticut for a second year in a row.

 

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The NEC-TV Featured Game of the Week had football fans talking from Southern California to Alabama.

 

 

Three Points of Prep for the Week Ahead
First-Place Danes Highlight Game of Week: If you want to see the preseason favorite Great Danes go for four in a row on Saturday, then make sure your cable/satellite TV provider offers Fox College Sports. Albany will visit Bryant on Saturday, October 6 for a game that will air live on FCS beginning at 12:00 pm. Internet/mobile-based ESPN3 will also air the feed.

Lightest Week of the Season: With three teams idle, Week 6 will be the least active of the 2012 season. Central Connecticut, Duquesne and Monmouth will take a breather while the league’s six other teams engage in Northeast Conference play.

It’s Not a Cliché: It’s hard to win games when you don’t win the turnover battle. You’ll hear such a phrase from coaches on occasion, and there is no denying the connection between turnover margin and wins.  The top-two teams on the NEC leader board in turnover margin thus far? Well, that would be Albany (+7) and Duquesne (+4).

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