NE10 Week 1 Thoughts

September 4th, 2022 11:00pm

NE10 Week 1 Thoughts

Non-Conference Struggles

Once again, the NE10 was on the wrong side of too many scores in the opening weekend.  They ended up 3-5 during the opening weekend.  They were a competitive 3-2 against the PSAC East, but 0-1 against each of the PSAC West, CIAA, and MEC. 

There were some glimmers of hope in the teams that lost.  A couple of the games could have easily gone the other way and we would be bragging about a winning weekend.  But games are won on the field and not with what-ifs.

Bentley, New Haven, and Franklin Pierce could have easily flipped the script as they lost by a combined 11 points.  The Falcons had a chance at the end to steal a late victory but were not able to manage the clock correctly on their final drive. 

New Haven gave up a late scoring drive against a ranked team on the road and easily deserved a better fate.  And Franklin Pierce, they are so close to grabbing their first victory over a Division II opponent.  One more scoring drive and the party would still be happening right now in Rindge.

It was overall a respectable weekend for the league.  Only Southern Connecticut lost a one-sided game, but it was to a very dangerous Shepherd team that has a chance to compete for a national championship.

The teams competed on the field and that is going to bode well for a solid season when the league schedule starts in a couple of weeks.  It is going to be another exciting season within the NE10.

Shutout

Assumption played one of the toughest schedules in 2021 when they played four games that involved teams that made the playoffs.  And that includes their traditional opening weekend opponent, Kutztown that advanced to the regional final.

But this is 2022 and the Greyhounds had revenge on their mind.  Their defense pitched a shutout in a 3-0 victory over the nationally ranked Golden Bears. 

The game was dominated by both defenses who limited yards and scoring opportunities all afternoon long.    A short field was the difference in the game as Assumption got the ball near midfield and move it close enough to connect on a 36-yard field goal.

Other than that, the defenses made plays, the punters got their work in, and Assumption was left to celebrate the victory.  The defense allowed just 149 yards in the game and averaged a mere 2.3 yards per play.

Assumption will hit the road to play former NE10 foe Merrimack this coming Friday night.

What a start

Pace started their 2022 season with a bang.  First, they defeated East Stroudsburg 31-16, but it was how they did it.

Ramir Tann-Davis took the opening kickoff back 92 yards to start the game off.  On the ensuing kickoff, the Pace special teams forced a fumble and recovered it on the 11-yard line.  Three plays later, Carlton Aiken found Teddy Harper for the touchdown, and it was 14-0 Pace before fans had settled into their seats.

The Pace defense played strong, limiting the Warriors to just 266 yards of total offense.  They had six tackles for a loss, two sacks, and just played well for 60 minutes.  The Setters will need their defense to play this well for the next couple of months if they are going to compete for the league title.

Pace will be on the road next weekend at Bentley.

Tough Loss

Bentley had a chance to walk out of West Chester with a victory, but it was not meant to be last Friday night.  The Falcons lost 17-16 on the road and it was the last minute of the game that made the bus ride home tough.

After holding West Chester on third down with under two minutes to play, Bentley took over at the 21-yard line.  Quarterback Mark Waid scampered for 20 yards to start the drive off well.  But with time running off the clock, they were not quite in the hurry-up offense.  Waid then completed a pass to get into West Chester territory.  He got the team set to spike the ball, but another bunch of seconds clicked off. 

That left four seconds on the clock and the ball at the Golden Ram’s 45-yard line.  The only option left was a Hail Mary that hit the ground and Bentley was on the wrong side of the score. 

Bentley gave up the first 14 points of the game but then stormed back with 16 consecutive points to take the lead in the third quarter.  West Chester kicked a field goal with just over four minutes to go that provided the difference in the game.

Bentley will look to rebound next weekend when they host Pace for their home opener.

Defense

Saint Anselm is always known for their ability to put points on the scoreboard.  But after one week, it might be a team that keeps their opponents off the scoreboard.

The Hawks played a strong defensive game in defeating Millersville 28-10 to open the season in style.  It was the first time since 2014 that they won their opening weekend matchup.

“We had a plan and we saw some things in our preparation,” Saint Anselm head coach Joe Adam said of the consistent pressure from his defense.  “We had some specific calls on certain downs and distances and personal.  The guys did a good job executing and we decided that we were not going to let the quarterback sit back there and pat the ball.”

That showed in the final stat line for the Hawks' defense.  They had eight tackles for a loss and were credited with six quarterback hurries.  Except for the final drive of the game that the Marauders scored a touchdown, the Saint Anselm defense limited the Millersville’s offense to just over 200 yards. 

And on the offensive side of the ball, Drew Willoughby picked up where he left off last year.  He threw for 354 yards and three touchdowns.  He spread the ball around to eight different receivers and seemed to get better as the game went along.

“We want to protect Drew and give him the opportunity to disperse the ball,” Adam said. “Would we like to put up 60 points and 700 yards each week?  Absolutely, but they took some things away and were pretty salty on defense.  They did some things that gave us some headaches and we made first-game mistakes.” 

Saint Anselm will continue their homestand next week when American International pays a visit for a non-conference tilt.

Late Loss

It seemed like New Haven was going to get the biggest victory of the opening weekend.  They played toe to toe with Bowie State all day long but needed one more defensive stop to make their bus ride home much better.

The Bulldogs scored a touchdown with nine seconds left to stun New Haven 27-20.  The Chargers controlled the middle part of the game as they scored 17 straight points to take a double-digit lead into the final quarter.

But Bowie State made their fans very happy as they scored 20 points in the final eight minutes of the game to sneak out the victory.  They made big plays on all three of their final drives to put points on the board and defeat New Haven for the second straight year.

For the Chargers, they will need to put the game behind them as they entertain cross-town rival Southern Connecticut this coming weekend. 

Third Down Efficiency

One thing that made the difference between winning and losing this past weekend was the efficiency on third down.  There was a big difference between the teams that won this past weekend.

Pace was the only team that was 50% in third down tries as they finished 8 for 16.  Combined with Saint Anselm and Assumption, those three teams were 18 for 48 in third-down efficiency for 38%.  They all won their matchups this past weekend.

The five teams that lost were a combined 17 for 70 for a mere 24%.  Southern Connecticut had the highest percentage and number of third down conversions, and they were the team that had the most lopsided loss of the weekend.  Bentley had the worst percentage at just 15% as they were just 2 for 13 against West Chester.

Going forward, teams will need to convert more third-down opportunities if they are going to have successful seasons.