#NECFB: Dukes, Pioneers in Early Lead with Rookie Signal Callers at the Controls

There is a lot of football to play before then, but that November 9 between Duquesne and Sacred Heart (slated to air on ESPN3) is becoming more meaningful by the week.

At the least, the game will showcase the NEC’s two talented rookie quarterbacks, who have each taken a turn at making national headlines.

Duquesne and Sacred Heart both have winning records and have both been beneficiaries of productive play at the quarterback position.

The Dukes, who are the lone remaining NEC unbeaten, moved to 2-0 in conference play by spoiling Homecoming Weekend at Steel City rival Robert Morris.

One week after being named to the Jerry Rice Award Watch List, Duquesne QB Dillon Buechel threw for 202 yards and two touchdowns in the razor-thin win over RMU.  He leads the NEC in passing yards (1,550) and completion percentage (62.3).

Sacred Heart separated itself from Bryant with a 28-point fourth quarter.  The Pioneers, who lead the nation in turnover margin (+19), came up with five takeaways and redshirt freshman QB RJ Noel was responsible for five touchdowns.  Noel has been one of the reasons for SHU’s stellar turnover margin.  The rookie has thrown a league-high 18 touchdown passes and has been intercepted only three times.

There are still two more weeks of football to be played before the two rookie quarterbacks collide at Sacred Heart’s Campus Field.

Duquesne’s next challenge comes on Saturday, October 26 in Smithfield.  Making their longest NEC road trip on the schedule, the 2-0 Dukes will face a 1-1 Bryant team that will be looking to give its title hopes a boost after last week’s loss.

Duquesne will attempt to do something that few NEC teams have been able to do in recent years – contain Bryant WR Jordan Harris.  The Walter Payton Award candidate caught 10 passes for 163 yards and three touchdowns against a formidable Sacred Heart secondary in Week 8.  With 3,403 career receiving yards, Harris enters the Week 9 matchup needing only 62 more yards to break the all-time NEC record.

While Duquesne has its hands full with Harris, Sacred Heart takes a dangerous trip to Saint Francis.

Despite the fact that the Pioneers carry a 7-1 (2-1 NEC) record into the game while Saint Francis sits at 2-4 (0-1 NEC), this one promises to be an ultra-competitive matchup.

First, Sacred Heart will be playing on the road for a second straight week while Saint Francis comes off a bye.  Next, one must consider that SFU’s DeGol Field has been a house of horror for Sacred Heart in its last two visits.  SHU has lost both contests, being outscored by an 85-24 margin.

Sacred Heart is a perfect 4-0 on the road (wins over Marist, Lafayette, Bucknell, Bryant), but that number won’t be enough to intimidate Saint Francis.  The Red Flash went toe-to-toe with nationally-ranked Fordham and James Madison already this season, and were either tied or ahead at some point in the fourth quarter of both games.

With their Week 8 triumphs now history, the top-two teams in the NEC standings and their rookie quarterbacks will face tough road tests in Week 9.

Should they pass, that November 9 game will become even more meaningful.

Postgame Tweet Sheet

#NECFB Headlines

Wagner running back Williams at 4,000 yards and counting – Staten Island Advance (Jim Waggoner)

http://www.silive.com/colleges/index.ssf/2013/10/wagner_college_running_back_wi.html

Sacred Heart beats Bryant, keeps rollingConnecticut Post (Bill Paxton)

Safety first propels Dukes to winPittsburgh Post-Gazette (Nick Veronica)

Duquesne edges Robert Morris, 21-20Pittsburgh Tribune Review (Bill West)

Duquesne dodges bullets, edges Robert MorrisYahoo! Sports (AP)

Noel leads Sacred Heart to win over BryantYahoo! Sports (AP)

 

#Week8 Highlights

 

 

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