Sacred Heart (10-2) at (9) Fordham (11-1)
The Sports Network
By Brandon Lawrence, FCS Assistant
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 30, 1 p.m. (ET).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Jack Coffey Field (7,000) -- Bronx, New York. Surface: FieldTurfTM. Television: ESPN3.com. Home Record: Sacred Heart 5-1; Fordham 6-0. Away Record: Sacred Heart 5-1; Fordham 5-1. Series Record: First meeting. Conference: Sacred Heart - Northeast; Fordham - Patriot League. Nicknames: Sacred Heart Pioneers; Fordham Rams. Sports Network FCS Ranking: Sacred Heart (NR); Fordham (9). NCAA Playoff Seedings: Sacred Heart (NS); Fordham (NS). Head Coaches: Sacred Heart - Mark Nofri (second season, 12-11 at Sacred Heart and overall); Fordham - Joe Moorhead (second season, 17-6 at Fordham and overall). Playoff Records: Sacred Heart (0-0); Fordham (1-2). Previous FCS Playoff Appearances: Sacred Heart 0; Fordham 2 (2002, 2007). Current Playoff Streak: Sacred Heart is making its first playoff appearance; Fordham has lost two of its three playoff games.
GAME NOTES: After receiving something of a scare several weeks ago in the form of a Michael Nebrich injury, the Rams junior quarterback returned for the season finale against Colgate and had one of his better games of the season.
Nebrich missed the Rams' only loss of the season, a 27-14 defeat at the hands of Patriot League champion Lafayette. Had the Walter Payton Award candidate played, we may be talking about a seeded Rams team and a second unbeaten squad in the nation. That's how important Nebrich is to this Fordham lineup.
The Fordham offense is a force to be reckoned with when its stars are healthy. In the team's 56-19 win over Colgate Saturday, Nebrich passed for 395 yards and five touchdowns, while running back Carlton Koonce rushed for 148 yards and two scores. Receiver Brian Wetzel caught three of Nebrich's five touchdown passes.
This matchup with Sacred Heart is more intriguing than a superficial glance may provide. Sure, the Northeast Conference isn't as strong as others around the nation. And last year's champion Wagner was the first NEC team to win an FCS playoff game in the conference's three years of postseason appearances.
But Sacred Heart is a different story. The 10-win program rebounded from a dismal 2-9 record last season with defensive improvements in mind. And that's exactly what coach Mark Nofri has gotten in the eight-win turnaround.
The Pioneers lead the nation with 22 interceptions and 38 takeaways in 2013. They're also tied for ninth in the FCS in red zone defense and tied for second in team tackles for loss. Sacred Heart has posted two shutout wins this season, and held Lincoln (Pa.) to a field goal back on Sept. 14.
Freshman quarterback R.J. Noel and junior running back Keshaudas Spence have ignited the offense, but whether they can keep pace with a Rams squad averaging 38.4 points per game is another story.
If Nebrich is completely healthy, this is Fordham's game to lose. An effective Rams offense could give Towson a run for its money should Fordham advance to the second round.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Fordham 32, Sacred Heart 23.
11/26 13:09:30 ET