Four #NECFB representatives have made the final cut.
Kyle Harbridge, RJ Noel, Dillon Buechel and Mark Nofri are all finalists in The Sports Network’s major FCS awards program.
Harbridge is a candidate for the most-prestigious FCS honor of them all – the Walter Payton Award. Named in the memory of Sweetness, the award goes to the top player in FCS annually. The fifth-year running back for Saint Francis has certainly made a case for the Payton Award. Harbridge was not on the preseason Watch List, but forced his way into the mix with 100-yard rushing games against James Madison, Georgia Southern and Fordham in September.
Noel and Buechel, both first-year starting quarterbacks, are candidates for the top rookie honor in FCS – the Jerry Rice Award.
After leading Sacred Heart to an 8-game turnaround, Nofri should be amongst the top vote-getters for the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year award.
Here’s why The Sports Network voters should list the NEC’s candidates on their ballots…
Kyle Harbridge, RB, Senior – Saint Francis
- The four-time NEC Offensive Player of the Week stands tied for second in FCS, and eighth in NEC single-season history, for rush yards (1,509).
- Produced seven runs of 50 yards or more, including six of the 10-longest runs by a NEC rusher this season.
- Responsible for the NEC single-game rushing high (291) in a near-upset of No. 12 Fordham. Harbridge had touchdown runs of 67, 2 and 71 yards, the last of which gave Saint Francis a 20-17 lead.
- Reached the 100-yard mark in non-conference road games against Georgia Southern and James Madison, both of whom were ranked in Top 25 at the time.
- Carried Saint Francis to a 24-10 win over NEC champion Sacred Heart, rushing for 190 yards and two touchdowns against a run defense that ranked fourth in FCS at the time.
RJ Noel, QB, R-Freshman – Sacred Heart
- The redshirt freshman led his team to a 10-2 overall record and its first NEC title since 2001.
- The dual-threat threw a NEC-best 23 touchdown passes to only 7 interceptions. He also ran for 7 touchdowns, including a 66-yarder in a road win at Patriot League member Lafayette.
- He leads the NEC in total offense (2,702). His 2,037 pass yards rank third and his 665 rush yards are sixth.
- Noel, who displayed great ability to effectively manage the game, was responsible for 30 touchdowns, while committing only 10 turnovers (7 INT, 3 fumbles lost). He has not lost a fumble in his last six games.
- Noel was only sacked nine times this season and was not sacked in any of his last four games.
Dillon Buechel, QB, R-Freshman – Duquesne
- Leads all NEC quarterbacks in pass yards (2,346) and completion percentage (58.7) this season.
- Started all 10 games for Duquesne as a rookie, posting a 6-4 overall mark and helping the Dukes capture a share of the Northeast Conference crown.
- His 234.6 pass yards per average ranks second amongst FCS freshmen and 25th overall.
- The two-time NEC Rookie of the Week eclipsed the 300-yard passing mark in a win over CAA member Albany (309) and a setback at No. 15 Youngstown State (362).
Responsible for 70 percent of Duquesne’s offensive output.
Mark Nofri, Sacred Heart
- In his second season on the job, Nofri presided over the top turnaround in Division I FCS. After finishing 2-9 in 2012, SHU went 10-2 and earned the program’s first-ever FCS playoff bid this season.
- Despite being picked last in the NEC preseason poll, and starting a rookie quarterback, Nofri’s team delivered Sacred Heart’s first conference title since 2001.
- Sacred Heart was a perfect 6-0 in non-conference play, including road wins over Marist, Lafayette and Bucknell.
- Pioneers lead FCS in turnover margin (+22), while ranking 11th in run defense () and 13th in rushing offense (235.8 ypg).
- Sacred Heart is the NEC’s top-ranked team in both scoring offense (35.5 ppg) and defense (20.0 ppg allowed). Their 432 points scored are second-most in program history.