The Whole Nine Yards on Week 6 of NEC Football
It’s the lightest week of the 2012 NEC football schedule, but it is an important one nonetheless. With three teams on their bye week, six NEC teams will be in action with all contesting league games. Preseason favorite Albany, which has won four of its first five games, hopes to avoid falling to Bryant for a second consecutive season when the two teams square off in the NEC-TV Featured Game of the Week. Albany and Bryant will kick off at 12:00 pm on Oct. 5 in a contest that will air live on FSC Atlantic, ESPN3, Cox (RI) and TW3 (Albany). Fans are encouraged to tweet comments/questions for the telecast by using the #NECFB hashtag. The lone rivalry game of the week will unfold in Loretto where Saint Francis (PA) will face Keystone State rival Robert Morris. Wagner and Sacred Heart, both coming off NEC wins, will also meet in Week 6.
Watch the Week 6 edition of NEC Football Digest
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.
Albany as Good of a 4-1 Team One Could Be
An .800 win percentage speaks for itself, but it doesn’t tell the whole story of how impressive Albany has been over the season’s first month. Each of the Great Danes’ four victories have come by double-digit margin, including a 40-23 dismantling of Patriot League member Colgate on Opening Day and a 30-20 triumph over then-No. 23 Maine. Albany has won its first two NEC contests thus far by an average margin of 28 points. Making UA’s resume more impressive, the Danes’ lone loss came on the road at No. 3 Youngstown State by a mere touchdown.
Can Captain Harris and Co. Do It Again?
Albany stumbled only once during its 2011 NEC championship run, suffering its lone league loss at the hands of this Saturday’s opponent. Bryant’s 31-17 victory in Albany was the only thing standing between the Danes and a perfect 2011 NEC season. One reason why the Bulldogs were able to pull out the victory last year was the play of preseason all-NEC receiver Jordan Harris. The 6-foot-2 Harris made 10 receptions for a program-record 224 yards in last season’s win over Albany and nearly repeated that performance in last week’s setback at Wagner. Harris made nine receptions for 201 yards in a 31-21 setback to the Seahawks.
Seahawks Hope History Doesn’t Repeat
Wagner is in search of a third consecutive Northeast Conference victory, but will have to defy historical trends in order to accomplish the feat. The Seahawks will head to Sacred Heart’s Campus Field, a venue where they hold a 1-6 all-time record. Sacred Heart enters off an emotional Week 5 victory over Constitution State rival Central Connecticut and will look to continue a decade-long trend in its series with Wagner. The home teams have prevailed in every single meeting since 2002. Wagner’s only win at Sacred Heart came in 1998, the Pioneers’ first season as a NEC member.
Pioneers Making Plays on Defense
Sacred Heart has no shortage of defensive playmakers. A pair of Pioneers top the NEC’s tackles leader board. Matt Sexton’s 10.5 stops per game make the junior linebacker the league’s leader, while defensive lineman Tyler Foehr sits second with a 10.0 tackles/game average. Foehr, a preseason all-NEC selection, has 2.5 sacks to his credit to go along with a forced fumble. The New Jersey product has also blocked a pair of field goals over the season’s first four games. Wagner running back Dominique Williams, who will be looking for his third straight 100-yard day come Saturday, must also be aware of SHU linebacker Niko Sierra. The native Californian was all over the field in the Pioneers’ 34-21 win over CCSU, recording 2.0 tackles for a loss, a quarterback hurry, an interception, and a blocked kick.
Faces of Saint Francis Familiar to RMU
Adding a twist to the Keystone State rivalry between Robert Morris and Saint Francis (PA), a number of former Colonials have migrated east to Loretto. Former Robert Morris player and coach Jake Nulph has spent the last two season on Saint Francis’ staff and recently watched two more Colonials follow in his footsteps. Scott Benzel, who was RMU’s co-defensive coordinator in 2011, joined Saint Franc’s staff in the offseason as the assistant head coach. Robert Morris’ Sam Dorsett, the Colonials’ second all-time leading rusher, joined Benzel in Loretto as the Flash’s new running backs coach. Meanwhile, former RMU running back Myles Russ, the third-leading rusher in NEC history, filled the running backs coaching position that Dorsett vacated at Robert Morris.
Red Flash Have Brought out Best in RMU Offense
Robert Morris and Saint Francis (PA) will clash on the gridiron for the 19th consecutive season when the two rivals meet at DeGol Field in Week 6. The recent series history has been skewed in Robert Morris’ favor. The Colonials have defeated the Red Flash in each of the past six meetings and have managed to score at least 28 points the last nine times they’ve faced their Keystone State rival. Robert Morris struggled to score points over the first three games of the 2012 season, managing only 24 points total over the span. Under center for the second game in a row after missing his last four, RMU quarterback Jeff Sinclair helped the Colonials snap the offensive slide last Saturday. Sinclair was responsible for three touchdowns in a 31-28 win over previously-undefeated Lafayette.
Duquesne’s Next Stop: Return Trip to New England
Duquesne will rest up during an idle Week 6 before embarking on its second trip to New England for a NEC contest in Week 7. The Dukes, who are one-quarter of the way to a perfect NEC season, will look to extend their conference win streak to eight straight when they visit Central Connecticut on Oct. 13. Duquesne dropped its first three meetings with CCSU as a NEC member before posting a 28-21 victory over the Blue Devils in 2011. The Dukes were last in New England on Sept. 22 when they opened their NEC schedule at Bryant in Smithfield, RI.
Hawks Have Chance to Heal
Monmouth has a bye week, a chance to recuperate following its disappointing result at Albany in Week 5. When the Hawks resume their schedule in Week 7, they’ll do so at Ivy League member Cornell. The game will be the last non-conference contest of Monmouth’s 2012 slate. The Hawks dropped a tight decision at Patriot League member Lehigh (Sept. 1) before rolling over CAA foe Rhode Island (Sept. 8) in non-league action.
Blue Devils’ Bye Week Task
Central Connecticut head coach Jeff McInerney is focusing on improvement. “[My message for the team] is to get better,” McInerney said during one of his “Open Mac” podcasts. One area where McInerney would like to see his team drastically improve is in third-down situations. The Blue Devils are converting on only 31.2 percent of their third-down chances on offense, while the opposition has been succeeding on 52.5 percent of third downs.
Albany (4-1, 2-0)
Bryant (0-5, 0-3)
Smithfield, RI (Bulldogs Stadium)
Saturday at 12:00 pm
LIVE on FCS Atlantic & ESPN3
Robert Morris (1-3, 0-1)
Saint Francis (PA) (2-3, 1-1)
Loretto, PA (DeGol Field)
Saturday at 12:00 pm
Watch on NEC Front Row - Live Stats
Sacred Heart (1-3, 1-1)
Wagner (2-3, 2-1)
Fairfield, CT (Campus Field)
Saturday at 1:00 pm
Watch on NEC Front Row - Live Stats
*All times EST.