Great Danes Run It Well
The dual ability to run the ball effectively while preventing the opponent from doing the same usually translates into victories. Albany has provided supporting evidence for that statement thus far this season. The Great Danes boast both the best overall (5-1) and league (3-0) records of all nine NEC teams. While Bob Ford’s team ranks second amongst their conference colleagues in both rushing offense and rushing defense, they gain a NEC-high 5.2 yards per carry while limiting the opponent to a league-low 3.3 ypc. Eleven of Albany’s 18 rushing touchdowns, which are five more than any other NEC team, have come courtesy of senior tailback Drew Smith. The versatile veteran (605 yards in 6 games) is the league’s second-leading rusher behind Duquesne’s Larry McCoy and his 5.8 ypc average leads all ball carriers.
Can Pioneers Prune the Ivy again?
The Northeast Conference won the 2011 season series against the Ivy League, and Sacred Heart was the difference. The Pioneers won both of their contests against Ivy Leaguers last season. Sacred Heart topped Dartmouth on a last-minute field goal from Chris Rogers, and went onto to post a 34-25 win at Columbia two weeks later. Albany also downed Columbia, but Wagner fell to Cornell. In all, the NEC took three of the four meetings. There will be only two bouts between the NEC and Ivy this year and the Pioneers will look to do their part on Saturday at Dartmouth. It’ll be the third year in a row the Pioneers have played the Big Green. Dartmouth posted a two-point win in 2010.
Hawks, Big Red to Battle through the Air
Two top-tier quarterbacks will face each other in central New York this Saturday when Monmouth visits Ivy League member Cornell. The Hawks will close out the non-conference portion of their schedule against a team that features the sixth-best passing attack in all of FCS (358.8 ypg). Cornell quarterback Jeff Mathews (28.8/game) ranks sixth overall amongst the leading FCS passers, which the NCAA measures in “completions per game.” Meanwhile, Monmouth’s Kyle Frazier (25.6/game), a two-time NEC Offensive Player of the Week, ranks 10th in the nation in that category. While Cornell has faced Wagner each of the past two years, the Big Red have never before played Monmouth. In fact, Saturday’s meeting will mark the first-ever for Monmouth against an Ivy League member.
Surging Saint Francis Looking for No. 1
Saint Francis has not looked anything like a team that was pegged to finish in last place by the NEC coaches in their annual preseason poll. In Chris Villarrial’s third season at the helm, the Flash are off to a 2-1 NEC start, their best since 2005, and also logged a convincing 57-23 win at Morehead State. Outside of road losses to nationally-ranked James Madison and Towson, the Red Flash’s only other defeat was a three-point, last-minute loss at Keystone State rival Duquesne. Next up the Flash will have to face a team that they have never beaten. Saint Francis, which ended a six-game losing streak to Robert Morris and beat Bryant for the first time ever earlier this season, will look to end an 0-13 streak against the NEC preseason favorite Albany Great Danes.
Bulldogs Have Had RMU’s Number
Bryant has faced Robert Morris in each of the past four seasons since transitioning into the Division I FCS ranks, and the Bulldogs have won all four of those matchups. Even after Robert Morris clinched the 2010 NEC crown and achieved their first-ever Top 25 ranking, Bryant managed to spoil the Colonials’ bid for a perfect conference record in the regular season finale. Bryant will be looking to hold off one of the NEC’s most-storied programs again in Smithfield this Saturday. Robert Morris, which has captured a league-high six NEC titles through the years, will be hungry for a victory, which would be their first in NEC play this season.
Rusher Emerging at Robert Morris
While Bryant has had one of the top rushers in FCS as part of its arsenal the past two seasons, Robert Morris has been trying to find traction in its ground game. Bryant senior Jordan Brown totaled 3,225 yards and 34 touchdowns on the ground over the course of the 2010 and 2011 campaigns. On the other side of Saturday’s NEC showdown in Smithfield, Robert Morris is still searching for the heir to the great Myles Russ. Since Russ graduated following a stellar 2010 season, the Colonials have averaged only 3.05 yards per carry. They may have found someone capable of carrying the load, however. In last week’s 10-3 setback at Saint Francis, RMU’s Evan Taylor gained 133 yards on 25 carries. That performance came one week after he ran 16 times for 94 yards in a win over Patriot League member Lafayette.
The Real McCoy on Cusp of History
With Duquesne coming off a bye, Larry McCoy has had an extra week to rest as he pursues history. The Dukes’ veteran running back went for 122 yards against Saint Francis the last time out, becoming only the sixth man in Northeast Conference history to exceed 4,000 career rushing yards in the process. With 4,099 yards to his credit, McCoy needs only 162 more yards to surpass Donte Small for first place on Duquesne’s all-time list. The preseason all-NEC back can break into the NEC’s Top 5 of All-Time by gaining 173 yards on the ground. Former Robert Morris rusher Myles Russ, who currently coaches the Colonials’ running backs, sits in fifth place with 4,271 yards. So keep an eye on McCoy as Duquesne squares off at Central Connecticut in Week 7.
CCSU Hopes Historical Trends Continue
Central Connecticut absorbed a tough season start that featured back-to-back-to-back games against Top 25 non-conference opponents to open the slate. The Blue Devils then suffered an 0-2 start in NEC play before their timely Week 6 bye. With the extra week of preparation under his belt, head coach Jeff McInerney will lead the Blue Devils up against Duquesne on what they hope will be a happy Homecoming Weekend at Arute Field. Central does have history in its favor this week. CCSU is a perfect 5-0 in games following a bye week during McInerney’s tenure. Meanwhile, the Blue Devils have beaten Duquesne in three of the four seasons that the Dukes have been a NEC member. Last year’s 28-21 win at Rooney Field was the Dukes’ first-ever triumph over CCSU.
Wagner, Alumnus Both on Byes
Wagner rolled into its Week 6 bye as a winner of three games in a row. The Seahawks are idle after posting a 12-3 win over Sacred Heart that bumped their NEC record up to 3-1. Meanwhile, former Wagner linebacker Julian Stanford, currently a rookie with the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars, will also be idle this week. The Jaguars are off following last week’s game against the Bears during which Stanford logged four tackles. The former all-NEC pass rusher, whose Twitter handle is @Mr_NxtLvl
, was recently the featured topic of an article on Jaguars.com.