Of course, Christian Kuntz and his Duquesne teammates would rather be preparing for a FCS playoff game instead of preparing turkey this week.
At least for the Dukes, the turkey will taste rather juicy this year.
Duquesne closed out its season, celebrating its second NEC co-championship in three years by downing FCS independent Monmouth on the road.
Kuntz, who played like a man possessed for much of the afternoon at the Jersey Shore, made 4.5 tackles for loss, including 3.5 sacks, in the 33-23 triumph. The stellar effort earned the sophomore a share of The Sports Network’s National FCS Defensive Player of the Week award.
Kuntz joins a list of three Sacred Heart Pioneers as NEC athletes who have earned national weekly honors from The Sports Network this season.
Click here for The Sports Network’s complete list of weekly winners.
Here’s a look at the NEC’s Sports Network national weekly winners this season…
Week 13 – Christian Kuntz, Duquesne
The sophomore linebacker spent a lot of time in Monmouth’s backfield during Duquesne’s 33-23 road win in Week 13. Harassing Hawks’ signal caller Brandon Hill for much of the afternoon, Kuntz recorded a NEC single-game season high 3.5 sacks. Kuntz totaled 10 tackles (9 solo) and made 4.5 hits for a loss. Kuntz was active during crunch time. After a Dillon Buechel touchdown pass broke a 23-23 tie early in the fourth quarter, Kuntz and Co. responded by halting Monmouth on the ensuing possession. He broke up a 2nd-down pass intended for Monmouth receiver Neal Sterling and his half-sack on a 3rd-and-18 play forced the Hawks to punt. The second-year Duke stunted a potential first-quarter scoring drive by sacking Brandon Hill for a 10-yard loss on a 3rd-and-8 play from the Duquesne 26-yard line. He delivered another key hit with Duquesne protecting a 13-7 lead in the second quarter. With Monmouth facing a 2nd-and-8 from the Duquesne 20, Kuntz dropped Hill for a 9-yard loss and essentially forced the Hawks to settle for an unsuccessful field goal try. He finished the season with team highs for both tackles for loss (19.5) and sacks (9.0).
Week 8 – Troy Moore, Sacred Heart
The defensive tackle was an absolute menace during Sacred Heart’s 56-28 road win over NEC rival Bryant. Spending much of the day in Bryant’s backfield, Moore logged 6.0 tackles for loss in helping Sacred Heart move to 7-1 overall. Moore, who finished with eight total tackles, levied 3.0 sacks on the Bryant quarterback and produced another 3.0 loss-incurring hits as part of SHU’s stout run defense. The Pioneers limited Bryant to only four (4) yards rushing, the lowest total in a Northeast Conference game since 2006 and the 15th-lowest total in league single-game history. Moore’s hits for a loss helped force Bryant into 3-and-out situations on four occasions. Only two of Moore’s eight stops did not result in a loss, but both tackles were difference-makers. He stopped the Bryant ball carrier for no gain on a 2-and-8 play on the Bulldogs’ opening possession of the game and the potential scoring drive ended on downs two plays later (Moore’s quarterback hurry forced an incompletion on 3rd down). With SHU protecting a 21-0 lead late in the second quarter, Bryant’s Michael Perry gained two yards before Moore jarred the ball loose and SHU recovered at the Bryant 42-yard line. Moore forced a quick Bryant punt on the opening possession of the second half when he sacked Mike Westerhaus for a 9-yard loss on 2-and-9.
Week 7 – RJ Noel, Sacred Heart
The redshirt freshman signal caller was responsible for five touchdowns and 310 yards of total offense in Sacred Heart’s bounce-back win over Nutmeg State rival Central Connecticut. Noel rushed for one score and finished the game 17-of-25 passing for 297 yards and four touchdowns. The five touchdowns that Noel was responsible for are the most by a NEC player in a single game this season and the 310 yards of offense stand as the second-highest total in a 2013 conference contest. By the early minutes of the second quarter, Sacred Heart held a 28-6 lead over CCSU and Noel already had three touchdowns to his credit. His 16-yard touchdown pass to Moses Webb opened the game’s scoring 3:49 into the first quarter. Noel scored on a 1-yard rush with 00:11 remaining in the opening period and added a 30-yard scoring strike to Greg Moore with only 2:11 having gone by in the second.
Week 2 – Stephan Thomas, Sacred Heart
The third-year Pioneer cornerback thwarted four Lafayette drives in Sacred Heart territory during Saturday night’s final-second road win over the Patriot League member. Thomas came up with eight tackles, two interceptions and one forced fumble (which was recovered by SHU) to help the Pioneers achieve a 2-0 season start for the first time since 2008. Both interceptions came with Thomas defending Preseason All-Patriot League receiver Mark Ross. Thomas’ first pick came on a 2nd-and-6 from the SHU 34-yard line with 5:07 left in the first quarter of a 7-7 game. He again went up and took the ball away from Ross midway through the third period, making the interception at the goal line as the Leopards threatened to erase a 14-10 SHU lead. Thomas cancelled out a long gain on Lafayette’s first drive of the second half when he forced a fumble inside the SHU 35-yard line after a 21-yard gain by Justin Adams. Thomas also made a huge contribution on run defense, making a touchdown-saving tackle on 3rd-and-Goal from the SHU 2 on the final play of the first quarter.
Roussel Tabbed Top DB by CFPA
Following his Week 5 performance at Bucknell, Sacred Heart cornerback JD Roussel was named College Football Performance Awards‘ National Defensive Back of the Week.
Roussel made three interceptions to lead a swarming Sacred Heart defense that blanked Bucknell, 16-0. The cornerback made three tackles and became the first player in Sacred Heart’s Division I history to pick off three passes in the same game. With his help, Sacred Heart limited the Bison to 164 yards and blanked an opponent for the first time since October 5, 2002. Roussel’s first interception came with Bucknell driving late in the first half. On a 1st-ando-10 play from Sacred Heart’s 40-yard line, Roussel pulled in Trey Lauleta’s pass at his own 25. The senior denied Bucknell again on its first possession of the second half, picking off a deep ball in the end zone. His final interception allowed SHU to set up in victory formation and ice their fifth straight win.