Tag: Matthew Sluka

Five New England FCS Squads to Watch This Fall

Matthew Sluka and the Holy Cross football team concluded its 2021 campaign with 10 wins. (PHOTO COURTESY: Mark Seliger Photography/Courtesy of Holy Cross Athletics)

By NoontimeSports.com

The second week of July is almost over, which means we’re inching closer to a brand-new season of New England college football.

(Insert a celebrate emoji!)

Last week, we shared our ‘Way too Early’ New England NCAA Division III Top 20 Poll – what did you think?

Today, we’re going to highlight five NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) teams we believe fans of New England college football should keep their eyes on this fall.

Noontime’s Five New England FCS Teams to Watch in 2022

Bryant University: A new chapter of Bryant football begins this fall with the Bulldogs competing in the Big South Conference – the school announced that Black and Gold would be joining a new league in March. Bryant concluded its 2021 campaign by winning seven games for the first time since 2014 – they also won all four of its home contests, too, including a come-from-behind win last October against Saint Francis University. Quarterback Zevi Eckhaus became the program’s first-ever Offensive Rookie of the Year last fall – he completed 233 of 371 passes for 2,392 yards and 21 touchdowns. Additionally, he added 242 yards on the ground with two scores. Eckhaus will certainly be a player to watch on this year’s Bulldogs squad, but the same could be said for halfback Fabrice Mukendi, wide receiver David Zorrilla, and linebacker Ryan Saddler.

Dartmouth College: Quarterback Nick Howard is going to be a player to watch on the Big Green this fall. The Green Bay, Wisconsin native, which earned a spot on the All-Ivy League first team, was one of nine FCS student-athletes to rush for 15 touchdowns or more last fall. He, along with linebacker Marques White and wide receiver Paxton Scott, will be tasked with leading a Dartmouth squad that seeks its third-straight Ivy League title.  

Holy Cross: Not only did the Crusaders match the 1989 squad with 10 wins last fall, but they also captured their program’s initial postseason contest by rallying to defeat Sacred Heart University. And despite ending their season with a 21-16 setback to Villanova University in the second round of the FCS Tournament, the expectation is Holy Cross will once again be in the mix for a Patriot League crown. Quarterback Matthew Sluka and linebacker Jacob Dobbs return with hopes of duplicating their effort from one year ago.  

Harvard University: Coach Tim Murphy’s Crimson enjoyed a successful season last fall, despite falling short of finishing in a three-way tie with Dartmouth and Princeton University atop the Ancient Eight standings. Harvard led all FCS teams in rushing defense last fall – they will certainly miss linebacker Jordan Hill this season, who secured a tryout in the spring with the Philadelphia Eagles. While Hill, along with halfback Aaron Shampklin will be missed, Harvard should be able to fill those voids with some key returners, including linebacker Jack McGowan, halfback Aidan Borguet, and kicker Jonah Lipel.

University of Rhode Island: Despite ending its season with a 43-28 setback to Elon University, the Rams concluded their 2021 campaign with seven victories, which is the most Rhode Island has recorded since coach Tim Stowers guided the Blue and White to an 8-3 record in 2001. URI’s offensive line will be a unit to watch this year – the early expectation is they will provide quarterback Kasim Hill with plenty of time to throw the ball. Halfback Kevin Brown Jr. returns after missing last season due to an injury.

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+.