Tag: Football

Noontime Commentary: Learning More About The Ever-Changing QB Position

Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback — he has also evolved with the position. (PHOTO COURTESY: Boston.com | AP Photo/Mark LoMoglio)

By Matt Noonan

When I was growing up, I always wanted to play quarterback (sadly, I never did).   

I loved watching Troy Aikman, Brett Favre, and Steve Young – all three played the position extremely well. But as much as I loved watching all three compete on Sunday, I fell in love more with the position from watching Tom Brady quarterback the New England Patriots.

Brady, as we all know, has become the greatest to play the position. Sure, some might argue that Joe Montana or someone else is better, but I believe Brady is the best because he continues to raise the bar and elevate the position on a yearly basis.

The former New England Patriots quarterback inspired all of us in this region, including the backyard signal-callers to those spotted under center on Friday evenings at various high school stadiums, to mimic his play, which is certainly not easy. And while Brady continues to impress, especially these days as a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he is what I, along with others in the football community consider one of the last remaining drop-back/pocket passers.

Sure, it might be hard to call Brady a drop-back passer knowing his footwork and agility have improved over the last few years. But saying he is the same type of signal-caller as Lamar Jackson, a cerebral quarterback that relies more on his legs than his arm, would be a hard comparison.

Jackson, along with Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes, are what some coaches might consider the “modern-day quarterback.” And the same could be said for Aaron Rodgers, who entered the National Football League (NFL) five years after Tom Brady and has shown similar improvements, especially in his ability to attempt acrobatic off-balanced throws from all angles. Ever see Rodgers’ “pop pass?”

Aaron Rodgers, along with Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes, were just three names a few coaches mentioned when speaking with them about producing a piece on the “modern-day quarterback” — well, more what has changed about the position. We all know how amazing these three quarterbacks are, but one might not realize that their Sunday or Monday performances are just a sliver of what makes them great signal-callers.

As I learned from recent conversations, playing quarterback at any level does not mean you have to possess the strongest and accurate arm. Nope, there is much more to the position than just throwing the ball 30, 40, or 50 yards.

For starters, coaches believe their quarterback must possess a slew of skillset, including the following: leadership, accountability, knowing how to read multiple defensive schemes, making the necessary changes at the line of scrimmage, and watching a lot of film.

Of course, there are other intangibles and thoughts that were generated by coaches in both the college and high school world, but one thing many harped on is that their team must find the right individual to operate a popular offensive scheme: the spread offense.

What’s the spread offense?

It’s an offensive scheme that finds the quarterback in the shotgun formation with three, four, or five skill position players – think halfbacks, fullbacks, wide receivers, and tight end – spread out along the line of scrimmage. When defenses see this formation deployed, they must be ready to defend different zones/areas of the field, as well as be alert for a possible running play.

(Hopefully what I described above makes sense, but if not, I have included an introduction video to the spread offense below!)

To say the spread offense is a major reason the quarterback position has changed would be an understatement – the same could be said about how the game’s speed has changed, too.

Like anything in life, change can be perceived as both good and bad, but when it comes to the quarterback position, I believe this new wave makes the game fun and enjoyable. It is certainly a different position than the one I watched growing up in the 1990s, but now, I am ready to mimic Lamar Jackson, Patrick Mahomes, and Josh Allen in the backyard.

Anyone up for a game of pick-up football?

The Early Outlook for the NFL’s Wild Card Matchups

Derek Carr and the Las Vegas Raiders secured a spot in the 2021 NFL Playoffs with an end-of-season victory over the Los Angeles Chargers. (PHOTO COURTESY: Getty Images | New York Post)

By Matt Noonan

The 2021 National Football League’s (NFL) regular season concluded last night.

Now, it is time for the playoffsare you ready?

The 2021 season came down to the final day, as well as its last matchup between the Las Vegas Raiders and Los Angeles Chargers.

In some way, this season mirrored the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) from the last two seasons (2019 and 2021) where every matchup and week was needed to determine not just divisional winners, but overall seeding for the 14-team playoff.  

Saturday cannot come soon enough – I am eager for yesterday’s excitement to continue. Does anyone know how to hit fast forward in the next few days?

Either way, I am excited – and I hope you are, as well – for some playoff football!

Over the next few days and weeks, Noontime Sports will be keeping its focus on football – consider this some “overtime” coverage from last summer and fall. We will have some op-eds and commentary pieces to previews, along with a piece about quarterback progression (I guess I can thank those armchair quarterbacks calling Boston radio stations!) over the next few days.

Let’s jumpstart the week with some early thoughts on all six Wild Card matchups — have a great day, everyone!

AFC Wild Card Matchups

Los Angeles Raiders (10-7) at Cincinnati Bengals (10-7): The Raiders concluded their 2021 campaign by winning four-straight contests, including back-to-back games against the Indianapolis Colts and Los Angeles Chargers. The Silver and Black have been quite the story this season – sure, there was some negative press over the first few weeks, but somehow, they managed to go on a late run to secure an opening round meeting with the Bengals. Don’t overlook the Raiders in this matchup.

New England Patriots (10-7) at Buffalo Bills (11-6): The Patriots ended their season with a disappointing setback to the Miami Dolphins – they also lost two other games before their divisional meeting with the Buffalo Bills and Indianapolis Colts. But something tells me this was the matchup coach Bill Belichick and his team wanted. They beat Buffalo last month by running the ball and attempting three passes. But a few weeks later, New England struggled to contain quarterback Josh Allen. The rubber match between the Bills and Patriots should be fun!  

Pittsburgh Steelers (9-7-1) at Kansas City Chiefs (12-5): The Chiefs may not be the explosive offense they once were – in fact, it seems as if their defense has played better, especially down the stretch. But here’s my question: will this unit be able to stop a Steelers squad that has averaged 17.75 points in their last four outings? My initial answer: yes, but I also wonder if the Pittsburgh defense is good enough to stop Patrick Mahomes?

NFC Wild Card Matchups

Philadelphia Eagles (9-8) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (13-4): With a big win on Sunday over the Carolina Panthers, Tom Brady and the Buccaneers were able to move up to the second seed, thanks to some help from the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks. Tampa Bay is not the same team as last year – they have some issues on both sides of the ball, which makes them vulnerable. Yet, the Buccaneers should be able to win this game, however, they must find a way to stop an impressive Eagles rushing attack led by quarterback Jalen Hurts. Hurts concluded the regular season with 784 rushing yards on 139 carries and 10 touchdowns while completing 265 of 432 passes for 3,144 yards and 16 touchdowns.

San Francisco 49ers (10-7) at Dallas Cowboys (12-5): This is a classic matchup – go ahead and break out those Steve Young and Troy Aikman jerseys. Neither signal-caller will be spotted under center next Sunday, but the 49ers’ offense will provide some challenges for a Cowboys defense that struggled initially at slowing down Philadelphia’s Gardner Minshew and Kenneth Gainwell this past weekend. But while the 49ers’ come-from-behind win yesterday against the Los Angeles Rams was impressive, the question I have heading into this contest is can this defense — San Franciscos’s, to be exact — slow down Dak Prescott and the Cowboys’ offense? This game presents some interesting storylines, as well as features two coaches that used to work together: Kyle Shanahan (San Francisco) and Dan Quinn (Dallas).  

Arizona Cardinals (11-6) at Los Angeles Rams (12-5): Arizona and Los Angeles both scored one win against each other, so like Buffalo-New England, this is a rubber match. To be honest, I did not anticipate this would be a first-round match-up – in fact, I thought Arizona or Los Angeles would be heading to Dallas this weekend. But instead, the Cardinals and Rams will square off once more this season – I am not confident in the Rams’ defense, which struggled to contain the San Francisco offense yesterday, especially in the final minutes. Additionally, will we see a great or subpar Kyler Murray against the Rams? Similar to Dallas-San Francisco, this game also presents some unique storylines.

New Haven’s Impressive Season Concludes In Kutztown

Connor Degenhardt and the University of New Haven football team matched its win total from 2012 this fall with 10 victories. (PHOTO COURTESY: Clarus Studios)

By Matt Noonan

For the University of New Haven, Saturday’s NCAA Division II second-round setback to Kutztown University was not an ideal way to conclude an impressive season.

New Haven entered their second postseason contest with a great deal of momentum. But their offense, which has been a unit to watch this fall, struggled against a Golden Bears defense that has limited opponents to roughly two touchdowns per game.

The Chargers produced one touchdown on 48 plays and were held to a season-low 59 rushing yards. Quarterback Connor Degenhardt completed 13 of 22 passes for 97 yards and was sacked twice while Jake Conlan registered 24 yards on six carries, including an eight-yard score late in the final session that brought the visitors within three points (10-7) with 3:10 remaining.

Conlan’s lone touchdown did not spark a comeback as Kutztown’s offense picked up two first downs on its final series to clinch their first-ever win against New Haven to secure a date with Shepherd University this Saturday, December 4 in the quarterfinals.

While New Haven’s offense struggled, its defense played well. The unit sacked Kuztown quarterback Eric Nickel five times and limited Jerome Kapp to a season-low 21 receiving yards.

Kutztown concluded the game with 230 yards of total offense.

“They were great the entire day,” said New Haven coach Chris Pincince of his team’s defense.

Indeed, New Haven’s defense looked great against a Kutztown offense that recorded a season-low 10 points, but sadly, the effort did not translate to Chargers’ offense or special teams.

Despite the setback, the Chargers were a great story this fall. The Blue and Gold produced 10 wins in 12 games to match their win total from 2012. Additionally, they captured their fourth Northeast-10 Conference (NE10) crown — their first since 2012 — and beat Bentley University not once, but twice.

New Haven will once again be a team to watch — and yes, follow — next fall, but will lose some key pieces to graduation, especially on the offensive and defensive lines.

“I thought as a group, we accomplished some of our goals,” said Pincince. “I am excited for the future as long as some of these guys are coming back.”

Holy Cross, Sacred Heart to meet in NCAA FCS Tournament

Malik Grant and the Sacred Heart University football team will enter the 2021 NCAA FCS Tournament on a six-game winning streak. (PHOTO COURTESY: Sacred Heart University Athletics)

By NoontimeSports.com

One day after clinching its second-straight Northeast Conference (NEC) championship, the Sacred Heart University football team secured a date with Holy Cross in the opening round of the NCAA Division I FCS postseason.

The two teams will meet on Saturday, November 27 at Fitton Field in Worcester with kickoff scheduled for 12 p.m. The winner will advance to the second round to compete against fifth-ranked Villanova University.

Sacred Heart won eight games this fall, including six league tilts to secure the conference crown. They won the NEC this spring with a 3-1 record but saw their bid for a national championship conclude in the first round to the University of Delaware.

“It’s exciting to be one of the 24 teams left playing,” said Sacred Heart coach Mark Nofri. “We’re excited to be in the FCS Playoffs. Holy Cross is a great draw, they’re one of the best schools in the Northeast and the entire country.” 

The Crusaders captured third third-straight Patriot League title after winning all six matchups, including a 52-24 victory last week over Fordham University. Their impressive win over the Rams was highlighted by quarterback Matthew Sluka, who concluded the game with four touchdowns.  

Saturday’s home playoff game will be the first for Holy Cross since they hosted Western Carolina in the NCAA Division I AA playoffs on December 3, 1983. The Catamounts beat the Crusaders, 28-21, and advanced to the national championship, but lost to coach Ray Dempsey’s Southern Illinois Salukis by a score of 43-7.

Holy Cross has competed in the NCAA FCS Tournament four times with their last three trips, including this spring ending with first-round setbacks. Sacred Heart is seeking its first postseason victory in program history.

“I know our guys will be fired up and ready to play,” said Nofri. “We have quite a few guys from Massachusetts on our team and we look forward to the challenge of playing up there.”

Holy Cross has won the last two meetings with the Pioneers, including a 52-21 victory in 2009. Quarterback Dominic Randolph concluded the game with four touchdowns, including two on the ground.

Inside The Matchup: Springfield College @ SUNY Cortland

Aiden Lewin and the Springfield College defense will be tasked with slowing down an impressive SUNY Cortland offense. (PHOTO COURTESY: Springfield College Athletics)

By NoontimeSports.com

Springfield College and SUNY Cortland first met on the gridiron in 1946 with the Red Dragons securing a hard-fought 14-12 victory over the Pride.

Since then, the two teams have met 32 times with both squads winning 16 contests and tying once.

On Saturday, the two squads will meet again in the opening round of the 2021 NCAA Division III Tournament.

Let’s learn more about this particular matchup like we have earlier this week with a few other local squads.


Game Time & Location: Saturday’s clash between Springfield and Cortland will take place in New York at the SUNY Cortland Stadium Complex. Kickoff is scheduled for 12 p.m.

Team Schedules: Springfield | Cortland

Team Statistics: Springfield | Cortland


Springfield’s journey to the postseason: After ending its initial month of play with just one win, the Pride rebounded with six straight wins, including three consecutive hard-fought wins during the final three weeks against Catholic University, MIT, and the United States Merchant Marine Academy. Their end-of-season win over the Cardinals allowed the Pride to secure their second New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) crown since capturing it in 2017.

Cortland’s journey to the postseason: After beginning their season with an opening day win over Wittenberg University, the Red Dragons ripped off nine straight wins, including six Empire 8 victories that saw just two teams – Brockport and SUNY Morrisville – score at least one touchdown against a Red Dragons squad that is yielding an average of 8.4 points per game this season.

Springfield’s last trip to the NCAA Tournament: The Pride competed in the opening round of the 2017 postseason but saw their 10-game winning streak snapped to a Husson University squad that had captured its second-straight Eastern Collegiate Football Conference (ECFC) crown one week earlier against Mount Ida College.

Cortland’s last trip to the NCAA Tournament: The Red Dragons last appeared in the postseason in 2015 where they won an opening round contest against Salisbury University by a score of 45-21. Linfield University defeated Cortland in the second round before losing to St. Thomas in the semifinals.

Springfield’s NCAA Tournament history: The Pride are making their seventh trip to the postseason with their first appearance coming in 1998 when Springfield lost to Buffalo State in the opening round by a score of 38-35. Two years later, Springfield returned to the NCAA Tournament and advanced to the East Regional Finals where they lost to Widener University.

Cortland’s NCAA Tournament history Saturday will mark the 10th time in program history that the Red Dragons have competed in the national postseason. Cortland first appeared in the postseason in 1988. They beat Hofstra University in the opening round at home before falling to Ithaca College in the quarterfinals.

Players to Watch on Springfield: Tim Callahan (FB), Isaiah Cashwell-Doe (RB), Christian Hutra (K | NEWMAC Special Teamer of the Year), Kyle Niehr (DB), Ronald Beard (DB), DJ Brown (LB), Aiden Lewin (LB), David Wells (QB), and Patrick Tuohy (P)

Players to Watch on Cortland: Brees Segala (QB | Empire 8 Offensive Player of the Year), Jaden Alfanostjohn (RB), Derek Cruz (WR), JJ Laap (WR), Nick Lardaro (DL | Empire 8 Rookie of the Year), Devin Smith (DL), Dylan Dubuque (LB | Empire 8 Defensive Player of the Year), Joshua Cordero (DB), Christian Legagneur (DB), Stone Murray (DB), Patrick Luby (K), and Liam Casey (P)