Northeast Conference Football is back for the 2012 season and so is The Whole Nine Yards. Released on a weekly basis, the piece chronicles nine storylines surrounding the NEC’s nine football members.
Wagner Comes Off Bye, Four Straight in Sights
Walt Hameline’s Seahawks were red-hot, having won three games in a row when the bye week hit. Following an idle Week 7, Wagner will take aim at its first four-game win streak since 2009 as it visits Saint Francis (PA) on Homecoming Weekend in Loretto. Meanwhile, the host Red Flash absorbed a tough loss at first-place Albany last week, but are one win away from clinching their best win-loss record in decades. Saint Francis (PA) will have to buck an historical trend if it hopes to move to 3-2 in NEC play. The Red Flash have lost 18 of 21 all-time meetings with Wagner. In recent history, however, the series had been a hard-fought one with seven of the last eight games between the two being decided by 10 points or fewer.
Top-tier Units Face off in Loretto
To say opponents have struggled against Wagner’s defense would be somewhat of an understatement. The Seahawks lead the NEC in both total and scoring defense, while the 15.8 points per game they yield are ninth-fewest in all of Division I FCS. On the other side of Saturday’s matchup, Saint Francis’ run game averages 227.4 yards per contest, the nation’s 14th-highest total. SFPA running back Keion Wade has 666 rush yards to his credit, while quarterback John Kelly has gained another 455 on the ground.
Dukes Prep for Pioneer Attack
After seeing its seven-game NEC win streak end at Central Connecticut last week, Duquesne comes home for a matchup with Sacred Heart at Rooney Field. The Dukes’ run defense was victimized for 293 yards in the Week 7 setback to the Blue Devils, surrendering a season-high 293 yards on the ground. Duquesne will likely look to tighten up against the run with Keshaudas Spence coming to town this weekend. Sacred Heart’s burly sophomore back has eclipsed the 100-yard rushing mark in two of his last three outings with the Pioneers triumphing on the heels’ of those performances. Spence is averaging 8.1 yards per carry over the last three weeks.
Who Will Be in the DU Backfield?
Duquesne senior Larry McCoy is on the cusp of making program history as his Dukes prepare to entertain Sacred Heart in Week 8. Already the fifth NEC rusher ever to eclipse the 4,000-yard mark for his career, McCoy (4,099) is within 162 yards of catching Donte Small for the Dukes’ all-time rushing lead. The 5-foot-11 ball carrier did not receive the opportunity to cut into that total in last week’s game at CCSU as he was still recovering from an ankle injury he sustained against Saint Francis (PA). Whether or not, McCoy is able to give it a go this Saturday, Duquesne will have a capable body carrying the football. Backup Ryan Ho ran 19 times for 114 yards and also caught an 18-yard TD pass in New Britain last week.
Long-time Foes Clash in Moon
Robert Morris has faced three programs every season since founding its Division I FCS program in 1992, and Central Connecticut is one of those three. The Colonials and Blue Devils will clash for the 19th year in a row when the two meet in Moon Township for a Week 8 showdown. One matchup to watch will be Robert Morris running back Evan Taylor against CCSU’s run defense. According to head coach Jeff McInerney, the Blue Devils are improving at stopping the run. This week, however, they’ll have to deal with Evan Taylor, who is enjoying a breakout season for RMU. The junior, who has switched over to the offensive side of the ball, has recorded back-to-back 100-yard rushing efforts.
Can CCSU Keep the Momentum Going?
Central Connecticut enters Week 8 after producing its best offensive output of the season in last week’s victory. The Blue Devils, who will shoot for their first road win of the season at Robert Morris on Saturday, put up 495 yards of total offense in a 38-31 triumph over Duquesne. Quarterback Andrew Clements threw for 188 yards and one touchdown and he was responsible for 87 of Centrals season-high 293 rushing yards. Clements must be aware of a Robert Morris pass rush that features sack master Nolan Nearhoof. The senior defensive end logged 3.0 sacks last time out and became the Colonials’ all-time leader in the process.
Offensive Firepower Aplenty at Jersey Shore
The NEC’s leader in both pass (265.7) and total (425.3) offense will host Bryant at the Jersey Shore in Week 8. Monmouth has had little trouble moving the football this season, and the play of fifth-year senior quarterback Kyle Frazier is one key reason why. Frazier picked up his second NEC Offensive Player of the Week award after he set the conference’s single-game record for total offense (513 yards) at Cornell in Week 7. While the Hawks feature a high-powered attack, Bryant has its share of dangerous playmakers as well. With his second 200-yard receiving day of the season, third-year Bulldog Jordan Harris moved into 10th place on the NEC’s all-time list for receiving yards (2,163). Also, Bryant quarterback Mike Westerhaus is coming off a program-record 350-yard passing day in the win over Robert Morris.
Tall Task for Bulldogs
If Bryant is to make it two wins in a row when it visits Monmouth this Saturday, Marty Fine’s team will have to something it has never done before. The Bulldogs have found themselves on the short side of all four of their prior meetings with Monmouth. Bryant nearly posted a come-from-behind victory in Smithfield last fall, but Monmouth held on for a 40-35 victory. The Bulldogs will also have to contend with what is expected to be an enthusiastic Homecoming crowd at Kessler Field. Fortunately for Bryant, the Hawks are no sure thing in Homecoming Games, holding an 8-11 all-time record and having dropped the past three.
Top 25 Great Danes Have a Day Off
Albany won’t have the chance to take another step toward a NEC title repeat this week. The first-place Great Danes have a bye in Week 8. The extra rest comes after the Danes moved to 4-0 in NEC play by downing Saint Francis (PA) last week. The 36-13 win helped Albany’s stock rise in the eyes of the FCS Coaches’ Top 25 Poll voting panel. Albany moved from the No. 24 national ranking into a tie for 22nd this week.
Bryant (1-6, 1-4)
Monmouth (3-3, 2-1)
W. Long Branch, NJ (Kessler Field)
Saturday at 1:00 pm
Central Connecticut (1-5, 1-2)
Robert Morris (1-5, 0-3)
Moon Twp., PA (Walton Stadium)
Saturday at 12:00 pm
Watch - Live Stats
Duquesne (4-2, 2-1)
Sacred Heart (2-4, 1-2)
Pittsburgh, PA (Rooney Field)
Saturday at 12:10 pm
Watch - Live Stats
Saint Francis (PA) (3-4, 2-2)
Wagner (3-3, 3-1)
Loretto, PA (DeGol Field)
Saturday at 12:00 pm
Watch on NEC Front Row - Live Stats
*All times EST.