Tuesday Afternoon Assessment – Reviewing the State of NEC Football Following Week 6

What to Take away from the Weekend
Albany and Duquesne are the lone teams still carrying a blemish-free conference record, but they are hardly the lone two teams with their sights set on the Northeast Conference crown.

WARNING:  Wagner and Saint Francis are not to be ignored.

Despite the preseason coaches’ poll that pegged them to finish in the lower third of the league standings, the Seahawks and Red Flash are in the hunt for the NEC title and coveted FCS playoff bid that comes along with it.

After a disappointing result in its NEC opener, Wagner has responded by winning three consecutive conference contests.  The Seahawks most-recently won on the road at Sacred Heart, a place where they had been 0 for their last 6.

The victory kept Wagner (3-1) within one-half game of league-leader Albany (3-0), which won at Bryant in Week 7.

Then, there’s the resurgent Red Flash. Saint Francis totaled only five wins combined over the prior four seasons, but the Flash are on pace to eclipse that entire total in 2012.

Saint Francis, which is 3-3 overall, has won two of its first three NEC games, and has done so against teams it had trouble beating in the past. The Red Flash beat Bryant for the first time ever back in Week 2 before posting their first win over Robert Morris in their last seven tries this past Saturday.

The unexpected emergence of Wagner and Saint Francis (PA) means that the race for the 2012 title will take on even more excitement.  Also, Gallup or Scott Rasmussen probably won’t be calling NEC coaches for polling advice anytime soon.

 

Pigskin Tweets of the Week

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Although she couldn’t be on the sidelines, all was not lost for Queen Elisa on Saturday because her Great Danes happened to be playing in the NEC-TV Featured Game of the Week, which aired live on FCS Atlantic and ESPN3. We’re not sure if she found the time to watch while being out in Kansas City, but there is no doubt the final result made the Queen and the rest of the #purplefam smile.

 

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As Whitney’s tweet indicates, Albany fell behind 14-7 in the second quarter of Saturday’s game at Bryant, but the score didn’t stay that way for long. Two minutes and 18 seconds after Drew Smith’s one-yard run tied it up, the Great Danes took the lead for good on a 75-yard interception return for a touchdown by Justinian Mason.  As for as the Top 25 goes, only half of Whitney’s wish was granted. Albany cracked the FCS Coaches’ Poll, coming in at No. 24, but are still on the outside looking in at the Sports Network’s Top 25.

 

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Wagner and quarterback Nick Doscher picked up a “dub” against Sacred heart in Week 6, making it three in a row for the Seahawks. They’ll roll into a bye week before traveling to Saint Francis on Oct. 20. 

 

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Anthony Abeid’s first career touchdown was a big one. In fact, the rookie running back’s 50-yard catch-and-run was the ONLY touchdown scored in the Week 6 Keystone Clash between Abeid’s Red Flash and rival Robert Morris. Saint Francis’ 10-3 win snapped a six-game losing streak in its series with Robert Morris.

 

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Former Albany defensive end Eddie Delaney watched Ryan Kirchner surpass Tim Bush for the Great Danes’ all-time receptions record on National TV.  Delaney, who was a teammate of both Bush and Kirchner at one point, sent out this congratulatory tweet during Albany’s 31-14 win over Bryant. #SorryBushy

 

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

Ryan Kirchner
The sure-handed receiver has been just that since he stepped onto Albany’s campus in 2009. Now, halfway through his senior season, Kirchner has claimed the No. 1 spot on the Great Danes’ all-time receptions list.  The blue-collar Kirchner, who has never been afraid to go over the middle, made seven receptions for 103 yards in Albany’s Week 6 win at Bryant. The performance pushed him past friend, and former teammate, Tim Bush for the program’s all-time lead. On a side note, Kirchner hails from Rumson, NJ, the same Jersey Shore town where Bruce Springsteen resides. Sorry, Tim Bush. When it comes to catching passes for Albany, Kirchner is The Boss.

Chris Villarrial
There’s no doubt Villarrial picked up a game ball somewhere along the line during his tenure as an NFL guard with the Bills and Bears, but now he gets one for the job he’s done as a college coach. The central Pennsylvania product took over at Saint Francis (PA) in 2010. Facing the task of rebuilding a program that had never won more than three games in a season since the inception of NEC football in 1996, the burly Villarrial did not back down. Six weeks into his third season at the helm, the Red Flash are 3-3 overall and have won two of their first three NEC matchups. They nearly spoiled Duquesne’s Homecoming Weekend before falling, 24-21, in Week 5, but bounced right back to beat rival Robert Morris for the first time in six years this past Saturday.

The Wagner Defense
Malik Hall must have slept extremely well on Saturday night. Earlier in the day, the defensive coordinator watched his Seahawks limit Sacred Heart, which featured the NEC’s top-ranked passing attack in 2011, to a mere 67 yards through the air. The stifling effort propelled Wagner to a 12-3 victory, the team’s third consecutive win in NEC play. The Seahawks have allowed just 12.3 points per game over that stretch and, outside of a disappointing Week 3 performance against Monmouth, have played outstanding defense throughout the entire season thus far. Flash back to Week 1 when they held FBS member Florida Atlantic scoreless into the fourth quarter.

 

Three Points of Prep for the Week Ahead
Time to Trim the Ivy: Two NEC teams will step out of conference play in Week 7. Monmouth (at Cornell) and Sacred Heart (at Dartmouth) will both take one Ivy League members.  It will be the first, and only, meetings between the NEC and Ivy League this season. In 2011, NEC teams took three out of four games against Ivy Leaguers with SHU accounting for two of those victories.

The Real McCoy:  This could be the week that Larry McCoy becomes the all-time leading rusher in Duquesne’s history. The all-NEC running back (4,099), who is one of of just six NCAA players (all levels) with over 4,000 career rushing yards, stands 162 yards shy of Donte Small’s program record. McCoy and the Dukes will be at Central Connecticut for a Week 7 matchup that can be seen live on NECFrontRow.com (FREE).

Winning Recipe in NEC:  Teams who succeed at both running the football and stopping their opponent from running the football are going to win more often than not.  Bob Ford’s Albany Great Danes are a prime example. Sitting at 3-0 on their quest for a repeat conference crown, the Danes are one of the NEC’s top teams in both rushing offense and rushing defense. Albany is averaging 5.2 yards per carry and has scored 18 rushing touchdowns thus far, both NEC highs. Defensively, the Danes have limited their opponents to a league-low six rushing touchdowns and a 3.3 ypc average.

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