|« In a league of talented quarterbacks, secondary key to success on Columbia defense||Scheduling creates headaches for UND »|
Wagner Seahawks eager to measure up
Are all football games created equal?
Coaches will tell you that is the case, that they take them one at a time goes the tired cliche, but sometimes a particular match-up screams of extra relevance.
Central Connecticut State’s visit to Wagner College tomorrow afternoon at Grymes Hill fits that description — an early-season Northeast Conference showdown that could prove critical by the time Thanksgiving rolls around.
The Blue Devils have won four NEC titles since 2004, claiming the crown outright in 2009 and sharing it a year ago with Robert Morris. They have utilized their high-powered option attack to post a 14-2 conference mark over the past two seasons while staking claim as the cream of the NEC crop under sixth-year head coach Jeff McInerney.
The Seahawks are still seeking their first NEC championship.
The Blue Devils were tabbed as the pre-season favorite in a poll of the league’s nine head coaches, garnering five first-place votes.
The Seahawks were picked to finish seventh.
“We take that (poll) into consideration a lot,” said Wagner senior strong safety and team co-captain Jeremiah Brown, a Brooklyn product who had a dozen tackles in last weekend’s 21-6 loss at nationally-ranked Richmond. “We basically go into every game as if we’re last, because we have that hunger, every one of us.”
CCSU has won six of the past seven meetings, including last year’s 38-20 triumph at New Britain, Conn. The lone Seahawk victory came two years ago when freshman quarterback Nick Doscher triggered a 32-27 upset at Wagner Stadium.
jeremiahbrown.jpgStaten Island Advance/Hilton FloresJeremiah Brown had 12 tackles in Wagner’s loss last week.
That was one of CCSU’s two conference losses the past two seasons.
“Last year they beat us up physically,” said Brown. “And this year we have all the right tools to go out and make it a great game. There’s going to be a lot of passion out on that field. Everybody is ready to just go out and get what is ours.”
There’s a growing sense that Wagner has increased its level of athletic ability to the point that the Seahawks (1-0 NEC, 1-1 overall) can compete with anybody in the conference, including the Blue Devils (0-0, 1-1).
Junior running back Dominique Williams, and senior receivers David Crawford and Justin Matthews team with Doscher to form the nucleus of a potentially high-powered spread offensive attack. The Seahawks’ attacking 3-4 defense has no shortage of playmakers, forcing seven turnovers in its first two games, including five in the first half to stay within range of Richmond.
The Spiders led 7-3 at halftime and 14-6 heading into the fourth quarter.
CCSU counters with senior QB Gunnar Jesperson, who passed for 1,918 yards and rushed for 495 yards last season. Running backs Brian Fowler and Chris Tolbert have combined for more than 200 yards in the first two games — a 35-21 win over Southern Connecticut State and a 14-9 loss before 25,102 fans last Saturday at James Madison.
The Blue Devils have sputtered at times offensively, but Wagner head coach Walt Hameline is concerned about the explosive nature of their attack.
“The quarterback is excellent. He can throw, run and he has the ability to break one himself,” said Hameline. “Against an option team, you have to account for people, and you really have to account for this quarterback.
“And they’re as athletic as anybody we’ll play. They’re well-coached. They have real good players.”
It remains to be seen if the Seahawks take advantage of playing on their home turf.
“To win this league, you have to win on the road,” said McInerney. “It’ll be a tough place to play, we know that. Wagner is extremely talented. We’d better be on red alert.”
CCSU has also also been adept at creating turnovers — nine in the first two contests — including five against James Madison. The Blue Devils have four interceptions.
“We’re going to run the football but we have to be able to throw, too,” said Hameline. “We’re going to have to play very well to beat this football team.”
NOTES: Doscher has moved into sixth place on Wagner’s all-time passing list with 3,691 yards. He also ranks sixth with 272 career completions … Wagner and Central Connecticut State both took a step up in class with competitive showings against Richmond and James Madison, teams ranked in the FCS Top 25 … Wagner junior placekicker David Lopez accounted for all of his team’s scoring against Richmond with field goals of 38 and 45 yards and earned honorable-mention national recognition by CollegeFootballPerformance.com … In other NEC action, Bryant visits Sacred Heart tonight while tomorrow’s non-conference slate includes Maine at Albany, Monmouth at Villanova, Robert Morris at Morgan State, Valparaiso at Duquesne, and Morehead State at St. Francis, Pa. … Central Connecticut State sophomore cornerback Chris Linares was the NEC defensive player of the week after making an interception at his own 2-yard line against James Madison.
WAGNER AT A GLANCE
Central Conn. St. (0-0, 1-1) at Wagner (1-0, 1-1)
At Wagner College Stadium, Grymes Hill, Tomorrow, 1 p.m.
The Seahawks own a 12-11 all-time series lead although the Blue Devils have won six of the last seven meetings … The schools first met in 1937 — a 32-0 win for CCSU … Sophomore center David Fredrickson is a Staten Island product who played at Poly Prep. The 6-2, 285-pounder joins QB Nick Doscher and cornerback Torian Phillips as locals in Wagner’s starting lineup.
A video webcast and live stats are available at wagnerathletics.com. Time Warner Cable will broadcast the game on a tape-delay basis.
By Jim Waggoner, Staten Island Advance