Category Archives: NEC Football

Septet Represents #NECFB on STATS Legacy Awards Ballots

They are the most prestigious individual honors in FCS football and seven of the STATS Legacy Awards finalists hail from the Northeast Conference.

Central Connecticut QB Aaron Winchester and Sacred Heart RB Julius Chestnut are up for the Walter Payton Award, presented annually to the top offensive performer in the FCS.

Wagner LB Cam Gill and Saint Francis LB Da’Jon Lee are two of 26 national finalists for the Buck Buchanan Award, which goes to the top defensive performer in the FCS.

Sacred Heart redshirt freshman WR Tyrese Chambers joined 19 others on the ballot for the Jerry Rice Award, which annually honors the top freshman performer in the FCS.

One of only two conference with multiple finalists for the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award, the NEC has placed Robert Morris’ Bernard Clark, Jr. and Central Connecticut’s Ryan McCarthy on the ballot.

On Monday, December 9, the voting results will begin to trickle out starting with the top-three vote-getters from the Walter Payton Award balloting. STATS will present the honors at its pre-championship game banquet in Frisco, TX on January 10, 2020.

Entering its 33rd season, the FCS legacy awards program continues to celebrate the high quality of play in the Football Championship Subdivision as well as some of the sport’s most-recognizable historical figures. The recipients of four major awards will be chosen by a voting panel that consists of sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries.

Here are plenty of reasons why the NEC’s finalists deserve to WIN (only regular season statistics/accomplishments are shown)…



Aaron Winchester, QB (CCSU)

  • The Unanimous NEC Offensive POTY’s 3,204 yards of total offense rank in third in league history
  • Ranked fourth amongst national FCS leaders in pass efficiency (170.7)
  • NEC pass completion pct. (67.1) leader ranked third amongst league leaders in rush yards (782)
  • The dual-threat QB has eight rushing touchdowns and averaged 5.3 yards per carry for the NEC champions
  • Threw at least one touchdown pass in all 12 games, including a 68-yard go-ahead score w/ 2:05 left at FBS member Eastern Michigan
  • Contributing to first 11-win season in program history, he has 19 TD passes to only 4 interceptions
  • More than 90 rush yards in four different games, including 108 in season-opening win at Fordham and 161 in a NEC win over Bryant
  • 4 TD rushes in title-clinching Week 12 win over Robert Morris


Julius Chestnut, RB (Sacred Heart)

  • The former NEC Offensive ROTY ranked second overall amongst FCS leaders in rush yards (1,495)
  • More than 110 rush yards in nine different games
  • 366 rush yards and 5 TD rushes in three wins over Patriot League members (Lehigh, Lafayette, Bucknell)
  • Led NEC in rush attempts (293) and rushing touchdowns (11)
  • Made at least one reception in eight games; two TD receptions in win over Bucknell
  • More than 50 rush yards in all 12 games
  • Set NEC single-game season high with 203 rush yards in win over Bryant on Nov. 2
  • 128 scrimmage yards (111 rush, 17 rec) vs. NEC champion CCSU (FCS leader in rushing defense)



Cam Gill, LB (Wagner)

  • Two-time NEC Defensive POTY (2019, 2018)
  • Unanimous All-NEC First Team
  • Led circuit with 9.5 sacks
  • Tied for second amongst active FCS careers sacks leaders (34.0)
  • Tied for fifth overall amongst national FCS season leaders in tackles-for-loss (20.0)
  • At least 1.0 TFL in 11 consecutive games, including 2.5 TFL at FBS member UConn
  • Three forced fumbles are second most in NEC
  • Set NEC career sacks record with his first of two QB takedowns against NEC champion Central Connecticut in Week 10
  • Team-leading eight QB hurries to go with two fumble recoveries and two pass break-ups
  • At least 1.0 sack in seven of last eight games

Da’Jon Lee, LB (Saint Francis)

  • Led all FCS players w/ 24.5 tackles-for-loss
  • Made 4+ tackles in nine games, including double-digit totals against James Madison, Sacred Heart and Wagner
  • His team-leading 93 total tackles are fifth most amongst NEC leaders
  • Second amongst FCS active career leaders with nine forced fumbles
  • At least 3.0 TFL in five different games, including a season-high 4.5 hits behind the line in a win over Wagner
  • 5 TFL, including 1.0 sack, and one fumble recovery at No. 2 James Madison in Week 2
  • At least 0.5 TFL in all seven NEC games this season




Tyrese Chambers, WR (Sacred Heart)

  • The four-time NEC Rookie of the Week owns team highs in receptions (50), receiving yards (811) and TD receptions (8) in 11 games
  • His 73.7 receiving yards per game are fourth most amongst NEC overall leaders
  • At least 33 receiving yards in each of his last 10 appearances
  • Made a TD reception against six different opponents
  • Eclipsed 130-yard receiving mark three times in a four-week span
  • Made season-high 9 catches for 133 yards and 2 TD in road win over Patriot League member Lafayette
  • Went for 139 yards on 7 catches at Ivy League member Penn
  • Rushed seven times for 32 yards this season




Bernard Clark, Jr. (Robert Morris)

  • Former Miami Hurricanes linebacker (and Orange Bowl MVP) has led a renaissance at RMU with a second-place NEC finish
  • Robert Morris increased its win total by five (5) during his second season at the helm
  • Picked next-to-last in the NEC Preseason Poll, RMU won its first five conference games before falling to nationally-ranked Central Connecticut
  • The team’s seven DI wins are its most in a single season since 2010 when it made the FCS playoffs
  • Colonials captured team’s first road win since the 2015 season when they posted a 31-21 victory over SoCon member VMI in Week 4
  • RMU has six conference wins this season after only one NEC victory in the prior three seasons combined


Ryan McCarthy (CCSU)

  • First-year head coach has presided over first 11-win season in program history
  • Secured NEC’s automatic FCS Playoffs bid by dealing Robert Morris its first league loss in Week 12
  • Blue Devils have been ranked in Top 25 for seven weeks – longest stretch by a NEC team in league history
  • CCSU owned 11-0 record vs. FCS teams; lone loss came in the final seconds at FBS member Eastern Michigan
  • 8 yards per play are fifth most in FCS; Pass Efficiency Rating is nation’s fifth highest
  • 3 rushing defense (71.3 ypg) in the FCS
  • FCS’ No. 2 total defense (273.3 ypg)

CCSU Celebrates Triumph on Special Day at Arute Field

Mike Mushaw’s selfless act saved a baby girl’s life.

Prior to Central Connecticut’s NEC football home game on November 9, Mushaw had the opportunity to meet that child face to face for the first time.

Accompanied by her family, young Eleanor joined Mushaw for the game’s opening coin toss.

A little more than two years ago, Mushaw entered a bone marrow donor registry and submitted a DNA sample through the “Be The Match” program. After discovering he was a perfect match with someone in need, Mushaw donated marrow in July 2018.

More than one year later, the recipient of that donation is doing well and has become a loyal supporter of CCSU football.

With the recipient and her family in attendance at Arute Field, Mushaw, fittingly, tackled SFU quarterback Jason Brown on the last play of overtime for a victory-clinching sack.

Hartford Courant columnist Mike Anthony recently provided an inspiring recount of the entire story that you can read here — Central Connecticut football celebrates life of young girl that junior linebacker Mike Mushaw saved by becoming a donor 📰




Blue Devils Rising; Mack Kicker Snags National Honor

Central Connecticut cracked the STATS FCS Top 25 for the first time since 2006 and the Blue Devils did not falter in their first game since earning the ranking.

CCSU jumped out to a 21-0 lead and rolled to a 52-14 win over NEC rival Bryant while piling up 555 yards in the process. The impressive performance resonated with STATS poll voters, allowing the Blue Devils to move up two spots from their initial No. 25 ranking.

CCSU, which was the top “receiving votes” team last week, also broke into the AFCA Top 25 Coaches Poll this week. Central made its debut at No. 24.

Central Connecticut became the first NEC program to occupy spots in both major polls simultaneously since Duquesne achieved the feat following the conclusion of the 2018 season. The Dukes were ranked No. 21 in the STATS Poll and No. 24 in the AFCA Top 25.

Meanwhile, CCSU quarterback Aaron Winchester picked up the NEC Offensive Player of the Week honor for the third week in a row. He is the first athlete to win three straight NEC OPOTW honors since Albany running back David McCarthy in 2007.

Winchester was also a candidate for the STATS National Offensive Player of the Week Award, proceeding to earn “Honorable Mention” status from the newswire/analytics organization.


When it comes to Merrimack’s Corey Resendes, however, the veteran placekicker (and punter) claimed sole possession of the STATS National Special Teams Player of the Week award.

Resendes scored the last nine points in Merrimack’s 30-21 road win over MEAC member Delaware State – the Warriors’ first win over a DI FCS opponent since kicking off their NCAA reclassification from Division II.

Resendes is the second NEC athlete to win the STATS Special Teams honor this season. CCSU placekicker Francis Cole earned the spotlight for his game-winning field goal in a Week 2 win over Merrimack.






Forks Up! CCSU Blue Devils Earn Top-25 Status


Central Connecticut has cracked the STATS FCS Top 25.

Following their fourth road win over a FCS team, the CCSU Blue Devils popped into the No. 25 slot in the latest edition of the weekly national poll. They are the first NEC team to achieve top-25 status since Duquesne earned the No. 21 ranking on last season’s final list.

Central Connecticut’s lone loss of the season came in the final seconds at FBS member Eastern Michigan. Since the heart-breaking defeat due to a blocked punt, CCSU has gone on to post double-digit wins over Nutmeg State rival Sacred Heart and Ivy League member Columbia.

After opening the season with five of their first six games on the road, the Blue Devils will play back-to-back league games at Arute Field beginning with a visit from Bryant in Week 8.

CCSU, which scores a league-leading 32.5 points per contest, averages 6.96 yards per offensive snap – the eighth-highest mark in the FCS. The Blue Devils’ defense has intercepted 11 passes through six games – tied for second most in the nation.






NEC IN NFL (Post-Preseason Update): Dolegala, Stanford and Senat Secure Coveted Roster Spots

Jacob Dolegala (PHOTO: @Bengals)

Rookie Jacob Dolegala became the first former NEC quarterback to make a NFL team’s post-preseason 53-man roster.

CCSU’s all-time leading passer, who signed as an undrafted free agent following the draft, was one of four quarterbacks kept by the Bengals. It’s rare to see an NFL team carry four quarterbacks, but, the Bengals were clearly worried about the possibility of Dolegala hitting the waiver wire. Earning rave reviews since rookie camp, the rookie signal caller’s preseason production made him an appealing developmental option for a number of teams throughout the league.

Two former Wagner ballers found their way onto 53-man roster as well.

Veteran Julian Stanford, who was a virtual lock to survive cut-down day in Buffalo, is set for his seventh season in the NFL. Entering his second season with the Bills, the former all-NEC linebacker is highly valued on special teams and has owned the second-string reps at middle linebacker behind starter Tremaine Edmunds. Stanford saw time backing up Edmunds last year and it appears as if Buffalo’s coaching staff is comfortable with him there.

Former Wagner offensive tackle Greg Senat, a 2018 sixth round draft pick, snagged a spot on the Baltimore Ravens’ 53-man roster following a preseason battle. Senat, who possesses exciting athleticism at the position, spent his entire rookie year on Injured Reserve after sustaining an injury in a preseason game.

Five NEC alumni were not as fortunate as the aforementioned three.

Former all-NEC defensive backs Jermaine Ponder (Saint Francis) and Marcelis Branch (Robert Morris) were released and will hit the waiver wire. Both Ponder (Texans) and Branch (Steelers) came up with interceptions during their teams’ preseason finales. Ponder played in preseason games with three different NFL teams (Browns, Steelers, Texans) this summer. Branch had spent time on the Falcons’ practice squad before signing a futures/reserve contract with Pittsburgh this past winter.

Christian Kuntz, a former two-time NEC Defensive Player of the Year at Duquesne, joined Branch on the Steelers’ cut list. Kuntz, who doubles as a long snapper, signed with Pittsburgh after being released by the Jaguars in June.

Bryant alumni Tom Kennedy (Lions) and Thomas Costigan (Chargers) were both placed on waivers Saturday.

Costigan signed with the Chargers on August 12 after participating in the organization’s spring rookie camp.

Showing up in the Lions’ preseason finale, Kennedy caught two of four targets for 24 receiving yards and logged four punt returns. He averaged 14.0 yards per runback with a long of 28. He totaled five rceptions for 76 yards during the NFL Preseason.

Ponder, Kennedy, Kuntz, Costigan and Branch can all be claimed by another NFL team (and subsequently placed on the 53-man roster) and all have practice squad eligibility.


Jacob Dolegala (Central Connecticut)Bengals’ 53-man Roster


Julian Stanford (Wagner) – Bills’ 53-man Roster


Greg Senat (Wagner) – Ravens’ 53-man Roster


Marcelis Branch (Robert Morris) – Released by Steelers


Jermaine Ponder (Saint Francis) – Released by Texans


Christian Kuntz (Duquesne) – Released by Steelers



Tom Kennedy (Bryant) – Released by Lions



Thomas Costigan (Bryant) – Released by Chargers

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