Tag: Fordham University

Five New England College Football Teams That Surprised Us This Fall

Phil Lutz enjoyed a very successful senior season with the Tufts University football team. (PHOTO COURTESY: Tufts University Athletics)

By Matt Noonan

Every season, there are a handful of New England college football teams that surprise me.

Sure, there are the favorites, along with squads many expect to contend for a conference crown – perhaps a national championship? – but with another season of college football slowly winding down, I thought I would highlight five teams that exceeded my preseason expectations.

Assumption University: The Greyhounds enjoyed one of their better seasons this fall, winning eight games to go with their first Northeast-10 Conference crown in five years. Additionally, Assumption advanced to the NCAA Division II playoffs where their run toward a national title concluded in the opening round with a 17-14 setback to Slippery Rocky.  

Sure, losing in the first round is not an ideal way to conclude a season, but perhaps this year’s effort is a sign of more exciting things to come for coach Andy McKenzie’s squad.

McKenzie and his staff deserve credit for a successful season after posting a 5-5 record last fall, including a 5-3 record against NE10 foes. The fifth-year coach was tabbed the NE10 Coach of the Year last Wednesday while three members of the Assumption defense earned First-Team All-Conference honors, including linebacker Lorenzo Valencia.

Plymouth State: The last time the Panthers won nine games, they were sharing the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) crown with Framingham State.

Plymouth State clinched its ninth win this past weekend, thanks to a come-from-behind 21-20 win over Husson University in the New England Bowl.

Halfbacks Manny Sanchez and Willie Lombard were a big reason why the Panthers were in the mix for a conference crown as the duo combined for 20 rushing touchdowns and 1,343 rushing yards.

Jake Donahue led the receiving core with 38 catches for 562 yards and six touchdowns while Evan Wilson paced the defense with 80.0 total tackles, including 49 solo stops and a team-best nine tackles for a loss of 25 yards.

21 seniors made-up this year’s Plymouth State squad, along with six graduate students. It is possible we could see a few of these student-athletes return next season – the NCAA granted student-athletes an extra year of eligibility during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tufts University: After producing back-to-back 4-5 seasons, the Jumbos concluded its 2022 campaign with six wins and three losses.

Wide receiver Phil Lutz was a big reason why the Jumbos enjoyed their best season since 2018 as the North Caldwell, New Jersey native finished the year with 78 catches for 1,221 yards and 14 touchdowns. Lutz averaged 15.7 yards per catch and established a new single-season record for touchdown receptions in New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC).

Lutz is currently one of 15 NCAA Division III student-athletes being considered for this year’s Gagliardi Trophy.

Quarterback Michael Berluti enjoyed his best year under center, throwing for a career-high 2,749 yards and 26 touchdowns. The Westwood, Massachusetts native completed a career-best 197 passes and averaged 305.4 passing yards per game.

The Jumbos’ 2022 momentum should carry over to the next season, which should help Tufts contend for its first-ever NESCAC crown.

University of Connecticut: The Huskies exceeded my expectations.

Coach Jim Mora guided UConn to its first six-win season in seven years to provide the Huskies with an additional contest this fall: their first bowl game since 2015.

The Huskies’ regular season concluded with a 34-17 loss to Army last weekend, but it was highlighted by halfback Victor Rosa, who rushed for a career-high 111 yards and a touchdown.

Prior to ending their regular season with a two-score setback, UConn scored three-straight wins over Boston College (13-3), UMass (27-10), and Liberty University (36-33).

No matter what transpires in UConn’s upcoming bowl game, the Huskies are heading in the right direction, thanks to their first-year coach.

University of New Hampshire: After concluding its 2021 campaign with an eight-game losing streak, the Wildcats bounced back to share the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) crown with William & Mary while earning a spot in this weekend’s NCAA FCS Tournament.

First-year coach Rick Santos guided the Navy Blue and White to an eight-win season this fall, along with a 7-1 conference mark.

Santos was tabbed the CAA Coach of the Year on Tuesday while halfback Dylan Laube collected a trio of end-of-season honors, including a spot on the All-Conference First team as a punt returner.  

Laube will be one of a few players to watch this Saturday, November 26 when the Wildcats entertain Fordham University.

Holy Cross, New Hampshire Advance To The NCAA FCS Tournament

Matthew Sluka and the Holy Cross football team secured the eighth seed in this year’s NCAA FCS Tournament. ((PHOTO COURTESY: Mark Seliger Photography/Courtesy of Holy Cross Athletics)

By Matt Noonan

A pair of New England NCAA Division I FCS teams are headed to the postseason.

Holy Cross and New Hampshire heard their names called Sunday afternoon when the NCAA unveiled its 24-team tournament.

The Crusaders were one of eight teams to earn a spot in the second round – Holy Cross clinched its first 11-0 season in 31 yesterday after capturing its fourth-straight Patriot League title earlier this month with a 42-14 win over Lehigh University.

Holy Cross will host the winner of New Hampshire-Fordham University, which is scheduled to commence Saturday, November 26 at 2 p.m. The Wildcats will host the Rams after concluding their regular season as co-champions of the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA).

William & Mary shared the CAA title with the Wildcats after New Hampshire outlasted Maine and the Tribe beat Richmond.

Like Holy Cross, William & Mary earned a first-round bye and will compete against the winner of Eastern KentuckyGardner-Webb.   

Holy Cross is making its four-straight appearance in the NCAA FCS Tournament. The Crusaders boast a 1-4 record in postseason play with their initial playoff win occurring last November with a come-from-behind victory over Sacred Heart University.

New Hampshire last competed in the FCS Tournament in 2017, winning back-to-back contests against Central Connecticut (14-0) and Central Arkansas (21-15) before falling to South Dakota State in the quarterfinals.  

In 2014, the Wildcats competed against the Rams of Fordham in the second round, scoring a 44-19 win, which was followed by a quarterfinal victory against Chattanooga. Illinois State ended New Hampshire’s championship run in the semifinals.

Holy Cross Makes History, Rallies To Beat Sacred Heart, 13-10

Matthew Sluka threw the game-winning touchdown pass on Saturday to send Holy Cross past Sacred Heart in the opening round of the 2021 NCAA FCS Tournament. (PHOTO COURTESY: Mark Seliger Photography/Courtesy of Holy Cross Athletics)

By NoontimeSports.com

Saturday was a historical day for the Holy Cross football team.

The Crusaders won their first-ever postseason contest by rallying to defeat Sacred Heart University, 13-10, in the opening round of the 2021 NCAA FCS Tournament.

With the win, Holy Cross snapped a five-game losing streak in the “second season,” which includes a trio of first-round setbacks to secure a date with Villanova University on Friday, December 3 in the second round. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Holy Cross erased a 10-3 deficit during its final two series with a 38-yard field goal by Derek Ng and a 35-yard touchdown pass from Matthew Sluka to Jalen Coker, which provided the hosts with their first and only lead. Sluka’s touchdown was reviewed, but not reversed — the go-ahead score occurred with 14 seconds remaining in the final session.

Sluka concluded the contest with 171 passing yards on 13 of 19 attempts to go with a game-high 90 yards on 23 carries. Peter Oliver added 15 yards on three carries while Coker led all receivers with five receptions for 103 yards.

Sacred Heart’s Rob McCoy provided the Pioneers with a 7-0 lead early in the first quarter when he capped a 10-play, 75-yard drive with a five-yard score. Holy Cross would counter late in the second with a 23-yard field goal by Ng before Sacred Heart added to its lead with a 33-yard field goal from Noah Gettman with 12:09 remaining in the final stanza.

McCoy led the Pioneers’ rushing attack with seven carries for 62 yards while quarterback Marquez McCray registered 137 yards of total offense, including 78 passing yards.

Holy Cross accumulated 288 total yards of offense on 56 plays compared to Sacred Heart, which finished with 236 yards on 56 plays.

Like Holy Cross, Sacred Heart was seeking its first-ever playoff victory, but today’s loss sends the Pioneers to 0-4 in the postseason, including 0-3 against teams from the Patriot League (Fordham University beat the Red and White in back-to-back seasons in 2013 and 2014).

Sacred Heart concludes its 2021 campaign with eight wins while Holy Cross scored its 10th victory, which is the most a Purple and White squad has accumulated since posting an 11-0 record in 1991.

Holy Cross has never competed in the second round of the FCS Tournament but did appear in the quarterfinals in 1983 when they lost to Western Carolina.

Villanova has won 13 of 22 meetings with Holy Cross, including a first-round matchup in 2009 when the Wildcats defeated the Crusaders, 38-28. The Purple and White’s last win over the Wildcats occurred in 1989.  

Holy Cross, Sacred Heart Seek First Postseason Victory

Quarterback Matthew Sluka has guided the Holy Cross football team to a 9-2 overall record this fall. (PHOTO COURTESY: Mark Seliger Photography/Courtesy of Holy Cross Athletics)

By Matt Noonan

Saturday will be a special day for either Holy Cross or Sacred Heart University.

The two teams secured a date in the opening round of the 2021 NCAA FCS Playoffs with the winner advancing to the second round next Saturday, December 4 against Villanova University.

Neither team has won a postseason contest, but this is certainly not the first time either school has competed in the playoffs.

Holy Cross, which is making its sixth appearance in the postseason, has lost three first-round matchups, a quarterfinal meeting with Western Carolina, and their first and only trip to the Orange Bowl in 1946 to the University of Miami.  

Sacred Heart has made three trips to the playoffs and dropped a pair of first-round contests to Fordham University in 2013 and 2014. This past spring, the University of Delaware outlasted the Pioneers, 19-10.

Both teams captured their respective conference title this fall – the Patriot League for Holy Cross and Northeast Conference (NEC) for Sacred Heart – and boast identical six-game winning streaks, which began last month.

Holy Cross appears to be the “favorite” in this matchup – currently, the Crusaders are ranked 24th in the latest FCS Coaches Poll with the 10th best rushing attack (the team is averaging 217.7 yards per game). Additionally, their defense is very good. The Purple and White have forced 24 turnovers, including 18 interceptions, which is the second-most in the FCS behind Austin Peay with 19 and held opponents to 76.6 rushing yards per game.

Linebacker Jacob Dobbs was named the Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year, while coach Bob Chesney earned the conference’s Dick Biddle Coach of the Year award (Dick Biddle was previously an assistant and coach of the Colgate University football team). Both are also being considered for national awards.

Holy Cross quarterback Matthew Sluka, who was named the Patriot League Rookie of the Year this past spring, has tallied 23 touchdowns this fall, including a team-high 13 scores on the ground. He will certainly be a player to watch, along with halfback Peter Oliver and linebacker Liam Anderson.

The most intriguing matchup to watch on Saturday is the Holy Cross rushing defense against Sacred Heart’s Malik Grant, who led the Northeast Conference with 1,288 yards on 226 carries and nine touchdowns. He is currently averaging 117.09 yards per game and one of 12 FCS halfbacks to rush for 1,000 yards or more this season.

In addition to Grant, fans should keep an eye on halfback Julius Chestnut, who only played four times this fall, but is gaining attention from NFL scouts. The Bowie, Maryland native has rushed for 100 yards or more in three contests while locating the end zone three times.

Holy Cross has won a pair of meetings against Sacred Heart with their last win coming in 2009 when the Crusaders won nine games like they did this fall.

Kickoff is scheduled for 12 p.m. with the game being streamed on ESPN+.

Three MIAA Games Highlight Week Seven Of The Spring Football Season

By NoontimeSports.com

For those us from Massachusetts, the acronym MIAA is often associated with the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association but it is also used to abreviate the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association. And this weekend, six MIAA teams will be in action with two games scheduled for Saturday, March 20 while Kalamazoo College and Olivet College will cap the weekend with an early afternoon kickoff on Sunday, March 21.

Hope College, which won the MIAA conference crown in 2019, will not be competing this weekend or spring, but will use this time to prepare for their initial fall contest against Anderson University on September 4.

Here are this weekend’s matchups:

  • Albion College at Trine University (Saturday, March 20 at 1 p.m. est.)
  • Adrian College at Alma College (Saturday, March 20 at 1 p.m. est.)
  • Kalamazoo College at Olivet College (Sunday, March 21 at 1 p.m. est.)

The Thunder of Trine enter the seventh week of the spring season with a perfect 2-0 record – they scored wins last October against Adrian (44-27) and Manchester University (37-0), and will attempt to capture their third-straight victory on Saturday, as well as their first win against Albion since 2018. Albion won the previous meeting in 2019 by a score of 24-14.

Similar to Trine, Adrian also competed last fall, appearing in three contests while securing an early October victory against Manchester (41-10). The Bulldogs enter their first spring game with a 1-2 record with hopes of evening the mark against an Alma squad they edged in 2019 by a score of 34-31.

Albion enters the spring season as the favorite, according to the MIAA preseason coaches poll, which was released earlier this month. The Britons secured five of six first-place votes while Olivet, which garnered one first-place selection, is projected to finish second. Trine rounded out the top three sports while Adrian and Alma are projected to finish fourth, respectively, while Kalamazoo rounded out the poll in the sixth position.

The MIAA’s spring season will run from this weekend to Saturday, April 17.


News and notes from the spring college football world

  • The Upper Midwest Athletic Conference (UMAC) spring season will kickoff this weekend with Greenville University visiting DePauw University. Saturday’s matchup with Greenville will be the Tigers’ final contest of the 2020-21 school year. – DePauw beat Ohio Wesleyan University last September before beating The College of Wooster. DePauw’s meeting with Wooster was an exhibition contest.
  • In case you missed it, four New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) teams kicked-off their spring seasons last weekend. William Patterson, which was initially scheduled to play last Saturday against Christopher Newport, will play its first game this Saturday, March 20 against Kean University. Kickoff between the two teams is scheduled for 12 p.m.
  • In honor of March Madness, ESPN asked the following question: what would a 64-team postseason bracket look like 2021? It is certainly an interesting read, but something we know (and sadly, most college fans do, as well) won’t happen.
  • The college football world has changed because of Covid-19, according to Chip Kelly, who believes Zoom will be something coaches will continue to use going forward, especially when connecting with recruits.
  • Last weekend was a busy weekend of NCAA D-II football – are you ready for more games this week?
  • Congratulations to former Fordham University quarterback Mike Nebrich, who has been inducted into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame.