EXCERPT: “It’s new for us to go up to that part of the country, but a couple years we opened against Old Dominion, they put 25-30,000 people in their seats and two years ago, we went up and playing Buffalo and actually were leading that game in the 4th quarter at one point in time,” said Schmitt.
EXCERPT: The Dukes are the first team to get a shot, and while they’ll be decided underdogs against the defending Missouri Valley Football Conference champions, they are not an early-season sacrificial lamb. This is an FCS team with some momentum of its own.
The game was littered with prime plays and had its share of dramatic twists and turns, but none of it seemed to surprise Central Connecticut’s Jeff McInerney in the slightest.
After coaching the Blue Devils to a 38-29 win over upstart Saint Francis in his eighth career NEC opener, McInerney said, “We’re going to have to win games like that and it was good to see.”
He couldn’t be more right. If Central is going to capture the Northeast Conference crown, then they’ll need to win at least a few more “games like that.”
Conference play is here. The stakes are raised, and anyone who was at CCSU this past Saturday can vouch for the intensity that comes along with Northeast Conference football.
“This league is so tight and competitive,” said McInerney, who coached the Blue Devils to NEC title in 2009 and 2010.
Tyrell Holmes (21) made 5 receptions for 153 yards during Central Connecticut’s triumphant NEC opener against SFU.
Wagner and Sacred Heart know what McInerney means when he talks about “games like that.” While CCSU was slugging it out with Saint Francis, the Seahawks and Pioneers were engaged in a thriller 50 miles away in Fairfield, CT.
Just as Central Connecticut did to SFU on that same afternoon, Wagner jumped out to a healthy lead over Sacred Heart in Week 6. And just like Saint Francis did after it fell behind, Sacred Heart came storming back.
Hoping to keep its undefeated record intact, Sacred Heart erased a 20-3 fourth-quarter deficit to tie the game with under 2:00 remaining.
A 17-point fourth-quarter comeback is far from impossible, but certainly an improbable occurrence. Still, it may not be as improbable as what happened over the final 1:54 of that game.
With rookie quarterback Chris Andrews having played the first 58:00 of the game for Wagner, head coach Walt Hameline decided to send in a different signal caller for that final drive.
Kramer Berg was the third quarterback listed on Wagner’s Opening Day the depth chart, but there he was in a tie game, on the road, trying to prevent the defending league champions from falling to 0-2 in league play.
Well, Berg did just what the doctor ordered, driving the Seahawks down the field to set up a game-winning field goal attempt. The only problem was preseason all-NEC placekicker David Lopez wasn’t available to take it.
Lopez, who ranks second on the NEC’s all-time list for field goals made, was inactive due to injury, meaning the game would fall on backup kicker Bryan Maley.
Just as fellow backup Kramer Berg did, Maley came through in the clutch. Wagner notched its first conference victory of the season with a backup quarterback and second-string kicker leading the way.
It wasn’t exactly a conventional way to win a ballgame, but when a conference championship is at stake, teams must do whatever it takes.
The Week 7 docket consists of two NEC matchups along with a pair of non-conference contests, and all four games will likely be over-loaded with intensity.
First, let’s look at the non-league matchups.
Bryant will host Brown in what is the lone “NEC vs. Ivy League” game on the 2013 season schedule. The Bulldogs may be playing this one with a bit of a chip on their shoulders. Why? Well, consider the fact that state of Rhode Island is home to three Division I football teams, but only TWO of them – URI and Brown — are recognized by the Governors’ Cup.
Then, there’s Saint Francis against FCS Independent Monmouth. First, Saint Francis will be looking to regain its footing following back-to-back losses to Fordham and CCSU. Then, there’s the fact that Monmouth used to be a NEC member. Saint Francis had dropped 17 of 18 games to Monmouth before posting a double-digit win over the Hawks last November at the Jersey Shore.
Moving onto Northeast Conference play in Week 7, the Steel City will host a matchup featuring the top-two teams from the NEC preseason coaches’ poll. Duquesne, which has yet to kick off its league slate, will host preseason favorite, and defending league champ, Wagner. These two last met in the 2012 regular season finale on Staten Island, and the Dukes nearly spoiled the Seahawks’ championship plans.
Nick Floyd was responsible for one of Duquesne’s three defensive touchdowns during the Week 6 win over West Liberty. Next up for the Dukes? The #NECFB opener vs. Wagner on Oct.12.
The other league game will be an intrastate battle between Sacred Heart and Central Connecticut. This Nutmeg State rivalry game has made for a lot of fun times in previous years, and the 2013 edition should be no different. There’ll certainly be a lot at stake. Sacred Heart certainly does not want to fall to 0-2 in league play, while a second consecutive conference win would sure serve CCSU well.