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Somerset, NJ - The 2011 Northeast Conference Football schedule is loaded with noteworthy non-conference opponents and intriguing intra-league match-ups.
For the first time since 2004, there is a Northeast Conference contest on the Week 1 docket.
Wagner and Saint Francis (PA) officially kick off the league schedule on September 3 in Staten Island, while the seven other NEC members lift the lid off the 2011 campaign by facing non-conference foes from the CAA, Patriot League, and Pioneer League.
NEC teams will most-frequently face CAA opponents during the 27-game non-conference slate. There are six scheduled contests between members of the two leagues, the first of which will feature Bryant and Maine on September 3 in Orono. Albany, which has beaten Maine each of the past two years, will face the Black Bears two week later (Sept. 17) in New York's Capital Region.
Central Connecticut, which shared the 2010 NEC title with Robert Morris, will take on two opponents from the CAA this season. Jeff McInerney's Blue Devils will visit former NCAA champion James Madison on September 10 followed by a bout at Massachusetts, which has begun transitioning out of the CAA and into the Mid-American Conference (FBS), on October 8.
The Northeast Conference will look to continue its recent success against Patriot League members. After NEC teams took four of the five meetings in 2010, members of the two conferences will clash five more times this season with three of the contests coming on Opening Day.
Lehigh (1st) and Colgate (3rd) were two of the top-three finishers in the Patriot League last season and will both begin the 2011 campaign by taking on perennial NEC title contenders.
Monmouth kicks off its schedule at Kessler Field against defending Patriot League champion Lehigh, which upset Northern Iowa in the 2010 NCAA FCS playoffs. Meanwhile, Albany visits Colgate, which was Monmouth's Opening Day opponent in both 2009 and 2010. The Hawks dropped both games to 'Gate by a combined three points.
Duquesne opened its 2010 season, which resulted in the program's best record since moving into the NEC, by knocking off Bucknell and the Dukes will look to repeat that feat when they visit Lewisburg on September 3.
Monmouth will play host to two Patriot League members this season as the Hawks will have an opportunity to avenge last year's heartbreaking loss to Colgate when the Raiders visit the Jersey Shore on October 8. Kevin Callahan's Hawks will use their other remaining non-conference date to visit Villanova. Monmouth will face the Wildcats, who were a NCAA semifinalist in 2010 after winning the title in 2009, on September 17.
Robert Morris and Sacred Heart kick off against Pioneer League members on September 3. Robert Morris will visit Dayton in what has become an intense regional rivalry in recent years. It'll be the lone non-conference home game for Robert Morris, which will travel to Liberty (Sept. 10) and Morgan State (Sept. 17) in the following two weeks.
Meanwhile, Sacred Heart will look for a second consecutive season-opening win over Marist. Paul Gorham's Pioneers have tabbed Ivy League members Dartmouth (Sept. 24) and Columbia (Oct. 8) to fill the other two non-conference slots on the schedule. The former will visit Campus Field, while the latter will host SHU in New York City.
A pair of conference games is chiseled onto the Week 3 slate (Sept. 17) and another three NEC contests are set for Week 4 (Sept. 24), but the league schedule won't start in earnest until Week 5 (Oct. 1).
Seven of the nine NEC members will have played at least one conference contest by the end of September with Albany and 2010 NCAA playoff participant Robert Morris being the two exceptions.
After playing a three-game non-conference slate that features Colgate (Sept. 3), Maine (Sept. 17), and Columbia (Sept. 24), Albany will kick off its 13th NEC season on the road against Saint Francis (PA) October 1. Meanwhile, Robert Morris, which will face representatives from the Pioneer League, Big South, and MEAC during the season's first month, will begin its NEC title defense against Monmouth on that same day at the Jersey Shore.
The first day of October will also mark the first true NEC rivalry game of the season when Sacred Heart visits Central Connecticut in the Constitution State Collision.
One week later, on October 8, the 2011 installment of the Keystone Clash will unfold after the sun sets in Moon Township. Following the installation of lights this past offseason, Robert Morris will host Saint Francis (PA) in what will be the first-ever night game in the history of Joe Walton Stadium, which opened in 2005.
Games such as they Steel City Showdown and Outer Bridge Rivalry have always generated a buzz, and the interest in those contests may be even greater this year considering they are set for the final week of the regular season schedule.
Cross-town rivals Robert Morris and Duquesne will clash at Rooney Field on November 19, while Wagner will cross the Outer Bridge and invade West Long Branch for its annual bout with Monmouth.
A third rivalry, which is in the early stages of development, is slated for November 19. Bryant, which heads into its third full season as a NEC member, will host Central Connecticut in the 2011 edition of the New England Knockout.
About the Northeast Conference
Now celebrating its 30th anniversary season, the Northeast Conference is an NCAA Division I collegiate athletic association consisting of 12 institutions of higher learning located throughout six states. Media coverage of the NEC extends to four of the largest markets in the United States - New York (#1), Pittsburgh (#23), Baltimore (#26), and Hartford/New Haven (#30). Founded in 1981 as the basketball-only ECAC Metro Conference, the NEC has grown to sponsor 22 championship sports for men and women and now enjoys automatic or play-in access to 13 different NCAA Championships. NEC member institutions include Central Connecticut State, Fairleigh Dickinson, Long Island, Monmouth, Mount St. Mary's, Quinnipiac, Robert Morris, Sacred Heart, St. Francis (NY), Saint Francis (PA) and Wagner. Bryant will become the NEC's 12th member upon completion of the NCAA Division I reclassification process in 2012.
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