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-- Wagner isn’t ready for this remarkable run to come to an end. Or, at the very least, Nick Doscher isn’t.
The Seahawks’ veteran quarterback made that clear following his team’s 31-20 win over Patriot
League champion Colgate on November 24 on Grymes Hill.
“To go out our senior year and have a championship season. To get the NEC its first FCS playoff win, you can’t really make it up,” said Doscher of the Seahawks’ storybook season.
“I don’t think we’re done writing the book yet so we have to keep working.”
Riding a nine-game win streak, which includes the NEC’s first-ever FCS playoff victory, Wagner will have a chance to write more at Big Sky member Eastern Washington on December 1.
The Seahawks will face their highest-ranked opponent yet. The Eagles are the No. 2 national seed in the tournament and are ranked fourth in both The Sports Network
and FCS Coaches’ Top 25 polls.
“They’re going to be the best team we play. Florida Atlantic was real athletic but (EWU) is probably a better overall team. They’re right up there from what I can see. They’re good and they’re the No. 2 team in the country for a reason," Doscher told the Staten Island Advance
Rankings aren’t something Wagner has paid much attention to this season, though. The Seahawks found themselves slotted seventh in the NEC preseason coaches’ poll, but wound up winning the program’s first-ever Northeast Conference crown.
Walt Hameline’s team also defied the odds by shaking off a slow start. The Seahawks lost their first three games of the season.
“This year we were 0-3 and a lot of people were counting us out, but the guys in that locker-room, we never doubted ourselves, we never doubted our coaches,” said all-NEC first team quarterback Nick Doscher.
What ensued was the program’s longest win streak since 1981 and first NCAA postseason appearance since 1988.
“I’m really happy for the kids, the coaches, the college and the program. It’s been a fantastic ride,” said Hameline.
But what caused the change in fortune?
“You don’t win nine straight games by accident,” offered Eastern Washington head coach Beau Baldwin during the Big Sky’s midweek media teleconference. “They (Seahawks) are very physical and athletic.”
Baldwin also went onto note the Seahawks’ success in the turnover aspect of the game, and rightfully so.
Wagner has committed only one turnover over its last nine games and Doscher has not thrown an interception against a FCS opponent this season.
Not only does Wagner protect the football, but its defense has a knack for taking it away. The Seahawks forced five turnovers in last week’s 31-20 win over Patriot League champion Colgate.
Wagner boasts both the NEC’s top turnover margin (+11) and scoring defense (16.58 ppg allowed). The latter mark stands sixth-best in all of FCS.
All-NEC cornerback Torian Phillips, a native Staten Island who began his career at Syracuse, was not willing to give his defensive teammates all of the credit for the fact that Wagner has allowed a league-low 24 touchdowns over 12 games.
“Going against our offense every day in practice; that is the main reason why we have the No. 1- ranked defense,” said Phillips. “They’re so great at what they do whether it’s running the ball or passing the ball. They get us ready every week.”
Doscher can both run and pass the ball rather well. Wagner’s all-time leader in total offense (8,235 yards) has a 13-to-1 touchdown pass-to-interception ratio this season, while rushing for 529 yards and five scores.
Then, there is first team all-NEC running back Dominique Williams. The Garden State product has totaled a NEC-high 1,521 yards from scrimmage (1,268 rush, 253 receive).
Seahawks’ Defense Passes Tough Test:
Wagner’s first round FCS playoff opponent brought one of the nation’s top attacks to Grymes Hill on Saturday, November 24. Patriot League champion Colgate entered the contest boasting the third-ranked offense in all of Division I FCS, a unit gaining more than 500 yards per contest and scoring more than 40.0 points per outing. Wagner’s battle-tested defense, however, was not fazed, or at least didn’t appear to be considering the results it yielded. Just as it bottled up FBS member Florida Atlantic’s offense in Week 1 and Albany’s NEC-leading attack in Week 10, the Seahawks rose to the occasion again. With Wagner defenders flying all over Hameline Field, Colgate mustered up only 296 yards of offense and accounted for its lowest-scoring output (20 points) of the season. The Seahawks forced Patriot League Offensive Player of the Year Gavin McCarney into five turnovers (2 INT, 3 fumbles). In all, Wagner forced six fumbles, five of which were by McCarney, and recovered three. The performance allowed Wager to retain the nation’s No. 6 ranking in scoring defense (16.58 ppg).
Two of a Kind:
Wagner is only one of two private institutions to make it through to the FCS Championship Round of 16. Southern Conference member Wofford is the other. Both schools have similar enrollment sizes. In fact, Wagner (2,100) and Wofford’s (1,525) combined enrollment doesn’t come close to matching the enrollment of the smallest public institution the bracket has to offer – Coastal Carolina (8,706).
NEC vs. Big Sky:
Wagner will become the first NEC team to face Eastern Washington. Only Albany has even contested a game against a Big Sky member. The Great Danes are 0-2 against Montana as a NEC member. Saint Francis (PA) dropped a 41-33 decision at Cal Poly in 2009, but the Mustangs were in the Great West at the time.
That’s a lot of Wins!:
Wagner head coach Walt Hameline is one of the winningest active coaches in all of FCS. The 32-year veteran has 213 victories to his credit, including a win over Dayton in the 1987 NCAA Division III National Championship Game.
Williams Determination Results in Dom-inating Performances:
Wagner running back Dominique Williams was a preseason all-NEC selection heading into 2010, but that is when things took a bad turn. Coming off a solid freshman campaign that yielded 642 rush yards, nine touchdowns and a 5.7 ypc average over an eight-game sample, Williams suffered a season-ending knee injury before his sophomore season even started. After going down in the summer, Williams spent the entire 2010 season rehabbing and working his way back into shape. In 2011, he made his return to the gridiron and proceeded to gain 1,338 yards rushing to go along with 14 touchdowns. His 2012 numbers have been equally impressive. The Garden State product has totaled a NEC-high 1,521 yards from scrimmage (1,268 rush, 253 receive).