New England D3 Football: It’s All About ‘Playoff Mode’ At Norwich University
By Matt Noonan
After a slow start to their 2016 campaign, Norwich University has rallied back, winning four consecutive contests to position themselves for a possible Eastern Collegiate Football Conference (ECFC) title.
“We were all over the place,” Norwich Coach Mark Murnyack said of his team’s slow start in September and early October.
“We weren’t sure what this football team was all about and I think that we got back to some basics and were able to establish a run game, which helped us set up some things.
“It was really about (not) turning the football over, quit making mistakes in the kicking game … (we needed to) eliminate mistakes and develop an identity.”
The identity, which Murnyack speaks of, is ‘playoff mode’ – it began immediately after the Cadets’ heartbreaker against Mount Ida and has carried Norwich to an impressive four-game winning streak, which will be put to the test tomorrow afternoon against Husson University.
“People had us buried, this was supposed to be the down year, people were supposed to pile on Norwich and the kids have responded, the coaches have responded and here were are in November playing meaningful games,” said Murnyack.
Norwich defeated Husson last year en route to capturing the league crown, while earning the conference’s automatic qualifier for the NCAA Division III Tournament, too.
Husson enters tomorrow’s contest leading the ECFC in yards per game (514.2), passing touchdowns (13) and rushing touchdowns (13). Sophomore quarterback Cory Brandon leads the league’s signal-callers with 17 touchdown passes, while junior tailback John Smith is first in touchdowns (12) and yards per game (176.8)
Said Murnyack, “For us, we have to eliminate the big plays. That has been what’s got us in trouble this year on the defensive side of the ball, but that’s the key for us … Our kids are going to go out there and play hard, we know that, so (they) are really excited because this is a great opportunity for us.”
Norwich and Husson kickoff at 12 p.m. eastern – the Cadets are currently 3-1 on the road, while the Eagles are a perfect 4-0 at home.