It has only happened twice in the first 17 years of Northeast Conference football, and, three weeks into the 2013 campaign, it remains a possibility for only one NEC team.
Standing at 3-0 following Saturday night’s clinic against Division II member Lincoln, Sacred Heart is the lone undefeated NEC team. Coincidentally, the Pioneers were the last NEC team to produce a perfect season when they went 11-0 in 2001 and earned the moniker of FCS “mid-major” national champion.
Only one year earlier, Robert Morris finished its schedule a perfect 10-0.
In those days, however, the NEC champion did not receive an automatic bid into the FCS playoffs and neither RMU (2000) nor SHU (2001) were awarded an at-large berth. Hence Robert Morris didn’t play beyond its regular season finale against Stony Brook in 2000, and Sacred Heart settled for a 2001 ECAC Bowl appearance during which they dismantled then-MAAC member Duquesne.
With the NEC champion set to contest the FCS championship tournament for the fourth consecutive season, the 2013 SHU Pioneers would likely need to win the national title in order to match the feat of the 2001 club.
An undefeated season is probably the last thing on the minds of Sacred Heart players at this stage in the season. Mark Nofri’s Pioneers have two more chances to continue their improvement prior to the start of Northeast Conference play. SHU hosts Chowan this upcoming Saturday (Sept. 21) followed by a Week 5 visit to Bucknell (Sept. 28). On October 5, Sacred Heart will lift the lid off its league slate by welcoming NEC preseason favorite Wagner to Campus Field.
Bryant was the other NEC bidding for a 3-0 start on Saturday. The Bulldogs built a 16-7 lead on the road in Maine, but wound up on the wrong side of a 35-22 decision despite 182 yards receiving from All-American Jordan Harris.
Bryant’s loss to Maine was one of two that NEC teams experienced at the hand of CAA members in Week 3.
Playing a nationally-ranked team on the road for the second straight week, Saint Francis nearly orchestrated an upset of James Madison. The Red Flash took a 14-3 lead when Kyle Harbridge ripped off a 50-yard scoring scamper 2:28 into the second half. Saint Francis eventually fell, 24-20, but had the ball at the James Madison 36-yard line in the game’s final minute when they turned it over on downs.
Saint Francis is the lone NEC team to have yet to play a home game in 2013, but that will change in Week 4 when the Flash host Lincoln, which is licking its wounds following the 42-3 loss at Sacred Heart. SFU will also be home in Week 5 when nationally-ranked Fordham visits DeGol Field.
Central Connecticut (Lehigh) and Robert Morris (Dayton) both lost Week 3 home contests. Like Saint Francis, the Blue Devils opened their season with back-to-back road games against nationally-ranked opponents.
As for Wagner’s loss at ACC member Syracuse (the first-ever game between a NEC team and a BCS conference member), Jim Waggoner’s lede in his Staten Island Advance story summed it up best.
Wagner College’s football team had never traveled down this road before and it showed in Saturday afternoon’s 54-0 loss to Syracuse.
Seahawk head coach Walt Hameline said he has no regrets, however, for scheduling the Atlantic Coast Conference opponent.
“If I had to do it again, and if we asked the kids, I think we’d all say, ‘Hey, let’s go,’¤” said Hameline.
#NECFB Week 3 Fan Poll
Postgame Tweet Sheet
— Jenn Toothman (@toothirae) September 15, 2013
One of the greatest Running Backs in the history of South Jersey …….. Sean Bell, he had a great game last night pic.twitter.com/CRLaezlJrN
— Gordon Hill (@G_Hill28) September 15, 2013
— Frank Cardello III (@Fmc3III) September 15, 2013
just saw one of best TDs of the season thus far. awesome 51-yard run by @SFUathletics RB Kyle Harbridge. Even BETTER BLOCK BY THE QB!!!
— Ralph S. Ventre (@NECralph) September 14, 2013
Tough loss for my Bulldogs on the road playing Maine Black Bears today. I’m a proud mascot, though. They never gave up! #GoBulldogs
— BryantMascot Tupper® (@BryantTuppy) September 14, 2013
— Derek Turner (@DCTViper89) September 15, 2013
Week 3 Headlines
James Madison survives Saint Francis – Yahoo! Sports (AP)
UMaine football adjusts, beats Bryant to go 3-0 – Bangor Daily News (Pete Warner)
CCSU struggles to defend run in loss to Holy Cross – New Britain Herald (Matt Straub)
Wagner College gets an Orange crushing – Staten Island Advance (Jim Waggoner)
Dayton holds off Robert Morris – Yahoo! Sports (AP)
CCSU football team needs answers soon – New Britain Herald (Matt Straub)