The final results were mixed and there was an abundance of prime plays. Such is the summary of the NEC’s second week of non-conference play on the gridiron.
There was no shortage of scoring in Week 2. #NECFB teams averaged 30.4 points per contest over the seven-game slate. The highest point total by a NEC team actually came in a loss. Central Connecticut totaled 44 points, 37 of which came in regulation, during a double-overtime defeat at No. 19 Lehigh.
CCSU and Duquesne both received prime performances from their preseason all-NEC selections. RB Rob Hollomon totaled more than 200 yards from scrimmage and scored three touchdowns as CCSU built a 37-17 lead over the nationally-ranked mountain Hawks. Going over the 100-yard mark for the second week in a row, Duquesne receiver Gianni Carter made seven catches (six in the 1st half) for 136 yards and two touchdowns.
The Blue Devils and the Dukes held halftime leads on the road, but both wound up on the wrong side of razor-thin decisions.
Sacred Heart’s Alec Finney delivered what was arguably the top play of the day under the lights at Lafayette. The freshman kicker capped a successful 2:00 drill by connecting on a 42-yard field goal to give the Pioneers a 26-24 win as time expired. It was the rookie first career field goal attempt as he primarily handles the punting and kickoff duties.
The Pioneers are off to their first 2-0 season start since 2008, and couldn’t have gotten there without the play of their secondary. Deemed a strong suit by head coach Mark Nofri before the season, the unit has delivered. Gordon Hill won the Overtime! #NECFB #FanPoll for his Week 1 performance at Marist, and cornerback Stephan Thomas did his best to top that effort at Lafayette. The 5-foot-18 defensive back thwarted FOUR Lafayette drives in Sacred Heart territory. He made two interceptions going up against Preseason All-Patriot League receiver Mark Ross, forced a second-half fumble at the SHU 34 and made a touchdown-saving tackle on a goal line stand.
SHU fans have to be excited about rookie QB RJ Noel. After accounting for more than 300 yards of offense in his collegiate debut, Noel, a dual threat, produced 273 yards of total offense and a pair of touchdowns at Lafayette. RB Keshaudas Spence’s performance has helped take some pressure off Noel. Spence barreled over the Leopards defense for 168 yards on 18 carries.
Earlier on Saturday, Robert Morris opened its home schedule with a dominant performance against Morgan State in Moon Township. Quarterback Paul Jones produced plenty of big plays during his Joe Walton Stadium debut, tossing three touchdown passes and efficiently managing the attack.
The defense did its share, too, rebounding from the Week 1 defeat at nationally-ranked Eastern Kentucky and holding Morgan State off the scoreboard for the first three quarters of the 31-14 win. Defensive back Antwan Eddie, who set up two touchdown drives with punt returns, intercepted a pass at midfield in the opening quarter. Linebacker Mike Cook made nine stops, eight of which limited MSU to a 3-yard gain or less, forced a fumble in RMU territory that the Colonials recovered, and added a PBU in coverage.
Bryant took care of business at home from second week in a row. Following up their Opening Day win over Patriot League member Holy Cross, the Bulldogs handled Division II member Assumption (yes, that’s the same Assumption program that spoiled Fordham’s Homecoming in 2010). Wide receiver Jose Depadua gave Bryant an early 7-0 lead when he returned a blocked punt 35 yards for a touchdown and later added a 20-yard TD reception. Ricardo McCray put forth his second straight 100-yard day running the football as Bryant was in control throughout.
Week 2 began with defending NEC champion Wagner suffering a shocking 42-41 upset loss to Division II Merrimack on Friday night. The dynamic Dominique Williams went over 100 yards on the ground for the 22nd time in his career, but Wagner couldn’t stop Merrimack QB Joe Clancy who went for over 300 yards and four TD passes. The Seahawks can make the setback a distant memory by pulling an upset of their own when they visit the Carrier Dome for a Week 3 bout with Syracuse.
Saint Francis, the lone team idle during Week 1, opened its season at Georgia Southern and produced some positive results. While the GSU offense appeared as good as advertised during the 59-point eruption, the Red Flash offense was far from anemic. Saint Francis, which again appears to have a strong rushing attack, gained 324 yards against the six-time FCS national champion Eagles, who are transitioning to the FBS. Sophomore RB Khairi Dickson gained 76 yards on 16 carries and was responsible for both SFU touchdowns. Meanwhile, Kyle Harbridge performed admirably during his highly-anticipated season debut after being sidelined for the entire 2012 campaign. Harbridge racked up 125 yards on 32 carries.
#NECFB Week 2 Fan Vote
Postgame Tweet Sheet
— Justin Embler (@JustaBler50) September 8, 2013
— West (@WestQB) August 31, 2013
— MVC (@mike_croce) September 7, 2013
Great win today for RMU COLONIALS FOOTBALL! DAYTON is next! WE have to get better and eliminate mistakes this week!
— Alex DiMichele (@Coach_DiMichele) September 7, 2013
— NEC Football (@NECFootball) September 8, 2013
#NECFB Week 2 Headlines
Jones leads Robert Morris to win in home debut – Pittsburgh Tribune Review (Bill West)
CCSU football leads by 20, but loses to Lehigh – New Britain Herald (Matt Straub)
Finney’s FG as time expires lifts Sacred Heart – Connecticut Post (Staff Report)
Dayton’s 3 second-half FG stop Duquesne, 23-20 — Yahoo! Sports (AP)
Bryant rolls over Assumption – Yahoo! Sports (AP)
Eagles top Red Flash – Statesboro Herald (Matt Yogus)
Wagner misses the point in stunning 42-41 loss to Merrimack — Staten Island Advance (Jim Waggoner)