Five Reasons Why Each of the #NECFB’s National Awards Candidates Should Win

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.

Kyle Harbridge, SFU's all-time leader in all-purpose yardage, scored his program-record 21st rushing touchdown on a 50-yard sprint in Week 3 at JMU.

Kyle Harbridge, SFU’s all-time leader in all-purpose yardage, scored his program-record 21st rushing touchdown on a 50-yard sprint in Week 3 at JMU.

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.
In his second season at the helm, Mark Nofri has watched the Pioneers go from worst to first.

In his second season at the helm, Mark Nofri has watched the Pioneers go from worst to first.


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