By Terrence Thomas
CSN The CAA Today Columnist
The same sentiments were echoed by the coaches from New Hampshire, Villanova, and William & Mary. All are happy to represent the CAA in the playoffs, and all have bye weeks in which to rest their players, allow their players to spend time with their families over the holidays, and come back in the second week to prepare mentally and physically for their upcoming opponents.
The eight week grind through the CAA is a tough one, but it prepared the CAA representatives for the playoffs. In 2009, all CAA teams won their first round games. In the second round, three of four CAA teams won, and that’s because two had to play each other. In 2010, the CAA teams will look forward to trying to repeat their performance of 2009.
The CAA announced their 2010 “All CAA Football Team” as voted on by the coaches. The major awards and first team selections are noted below;
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR -- Pat Devlin, Delaware, Sr., QB, Downingtown, Pa.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR -- Tyler Holmes, Massachusetts, Jr., LB, Blacksburg, Va.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR -- Eric McBride, Richmond, Sr., LB, Richmond, Va.
SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYER OF THE YEAR -- Jonathan Grimes, William and Mary, Jr., KR, Palmyra, N.J.
OFFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR -- Andrew Pierce, Delaware, Fr., RB, Bridgeton, N.J.
DEFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR -- Stephon Robertson, James Madison, Fr., LB, Alexandria, Va.
COACH OF THE YEAR -- Joe Trainer, Rhode Island, Two Seasons
2010 All-CAA Football First Team (as voted on by the head coaches)
QB Pat Devlin Delaware Senior
RB Jonathan Grimes William and Mary Junior
RB Andrew Pierce Delaware Freshman
FB/HB Kendall Gaskins Richmond Sophomore
FB/HB Jimmy Hobson William and Mary Senior
WR Terrance Fox New Hampshire Senior
WR Tre Gray Richmond Junior
WR Anthony Nelson Massachusetts Senior
WR Norman White Villanova Junior
TE Alex Gottlieb William and Mary Junior
OL Brant Clouser Villanova Senior
OL Gino Gradkowski Delaware Junior
OL Keith Hill, Jr. William and Mary Senior
OL Ben Ijalana Villanova Senior
OL Greg Niland Massachusetts Senior
PK Wil Kamin Richmond Sophomore
KR Travis Hurd Rhode Island Freshman
PR Justin Rogers Richmond Senior
DL Victor Adesanya Rhode Island Senior
DL Ronnell Brown James Madison Senior
DL Brian McNally New Hampshire Junior
DL Martin Parker Richmond Senior
LB Tyler Holmes Massachusetts Junior
LB Marquis Kirkland Villanova Senior
LB Eric McBride Richmond Senior
LB Terence Thomas Villanova Senior
CB Justin Rogers Richmond Senior
CB Dino Vasso New Hampshire Senior
CB B.W. Webb William and Mary Sophomore
S Anthony Bratton Delaware Senior
S Hugo Souza New Hampshire Senior
P David Miller William and Mary Senior
Congratulations to all of the above players and coaches as well as to the second and third team award winners. This writer would like to give a very special congratulation to Rhode Island Head Coach, Joe Trainer, as he truly deserved the “Coach of the Year” award for all that he has done for the URI football program. Like many of the CAA coaches, Joe is a very personable guy to talk to, who is passionate about his football team and playing in the CAA. I have in interview I did with Joe back in August about “Recruiting Perspectives” which will get published after the post season has ended. In that interview Joe talks proudly about his Ram players and recruits and his vision for the future. This week URI announced it has accepted an invitation to participate in the NEC for football beginning in 2013. This decision by URI saddens this writer on behalf of Joe. Knowing the good soldier that Joe is, he will continue to push his team to be their best regardless of what conference they play in and what team is across the field from them. I want to take this time to wish Joe Trainer and his Rams continued success within the CAA and wherever the future takes them.
Before we begin discussion about the second season, let’s first conclude the regular season discussions.
It was “Senior Day” in Orono, and 3,880 fans poured into Alfond Stadium to see their home team Maine Black Bears host the visiting James Madison Dukes. Both of these teams had high hopes coming into the season. Both head coaches told me over the summer that their kids were very young the previous 09 season, but did a lot of growing up, and gained a lot of game time experience. The expectations of both teams were to get into the playoffs as well as challenge for the conference title. JMU head coach, Mickey Matthews thought his team was a handful of plays from being an eight or nine game winner in 09 opposed to the six wins his team finished with. Maine head coach, Jack Cosgrove believed his team had turned the corner on defense and had regained their “Black Hole” toughness of past years team. These two teams couldn’t have been more disappointing. As good as JMU was on defense, they were just the opposite on offense. Maine’s season was filled with missed opportunities. The final regular season game of 2010 was a mirror reflection of both team’s season.
JMU scored two touchdowns last Saturday. One touchdown was scored at the end of the first half on a three yard run by RB, Jamal Sullivan (Ruther Glen, Va.), and the other on a 43 yard touchdown run by QB, Dae’Quan Scott (Staunton, Va.) at the beginning of the third quarter. The Dukes did very little else offensively and only had 204 yards of “Total Offense” on the day.
Maine took the opening kickoff and drove 73 yards in 11 plays scoring a touchdown on four yard run by QB, Warren Smith (Forked River, NJ). With ten minutes to go in the game, PK, Brian Harvey (Wayland, Ma.) hit a 42 yard field goal. In between the two scores, the Black Bears turned the ball over with an interception and they missed two field goals. A second quarter field goal try from 34 yards out was blocked, and a third quarter try from 41 was missed. On the final play of the game with 12 seconds remaining and the Black Bears with the ball with second and goal from the three yard line, Smith hit TE, Jeff Falvey (Cicero, NY) on the three yard line, but Falvey was stopped by JMU’s Safety, Jonathon Williams (Ridgeway, Va.) and CB, Taveion Cuffee (Virginia Beach, Va.) for no gain as the clock expired.
JMU won 14-10 to finish the season with a winning record for the seventh consecutive season. Maine led in almost every statistic last Saturday, and was 10 of 20 on third and fourth down, but only two of five Red Zone scoring opportunities.
Both teams will have the winter and spring to evaluate the returning talent they will have to go with the new talent that arrives in the summer, and how to blend the 2011 team into playoff contenders. As the sun set in Orono, both head coaches are undoubtedly happy to close the book on the 2010 season. A season that will be remembered for offensive frustrations for one team, and missed opportunities for the other.
On a 45 degree, partly cloudy, afternoon, with a little wind, 3,156 fans were treated to a show at Meade Stadium on “Senior Day” as the Rhode Island Rams hosted the Massachusetts Minuteman. The Rhody media guide states that the capacity at Meade Stadium is 6,555. So, for this very important season finale, the stadium was just under half full. URI’s average attendance for 2010 was 4,614 for five games. In the NEC, Central Connecticut State had the highest average attendance in 2010 with 3,177. I don’t know what the factors were to push URI into the NEC, but URI’s attendance numbers would fit right in with the NEC.
As for the game, the Minuteman were trying to play their way into the FCS playoffs, and the Rams wanted to finish the season with a .500 CAA record. I’ve maintained all year long that UMass still needs to learn how to win the close game. Once the Minuteman figures out how to do that, they will be able to climb into the group of “Contenders” and challenge for a conference crown and a spot in the playoffs. In the season opener, it appeared that the Minuteman may have found a way to win the close games as they defeated William & Mary at home. But when the Minuteman needed it most, they fell short in losing their last two regular season games and a chance at post season play.
The Rams were 1-10 in 2009, and finished 2010 5 -6, and 4-4 in the CAA. Coach Trainer definitely has them headed into the right direction. How the loss of scholarships will affect the Rams continued growth as URI heads into the NEC will be realized in the coming seasons.
Coming into this game, the Rams were eighth in “Scoring Offense” (18 ppg), and seventh in “Total Offense” (309.2 ypg). UMass was eighth in “Scoring Defense” (24 ppg allowed), and eighth in “Total Defense” (351.6 ypg allowed). URI scored 37 points and had 394 yards of “Total Offense”. URI came from behind and scored a touchdown and a two point conversion to take the lead at 37-34, which wound up as the final score. With 1:03 left in the game, UMass got the ball back, but on the third play of the drive, a Rhody interception ended the Minuteman’s season.
UMass led in first downs (28-28), had 506 yards of “Total Offense”, but was -2 in turnovers, had 8 penalties for 86 yards, was only 6 of 19 on third and fourth down conversions, and 3 out of 6 in “Red Zone” scoring opportunities. UMass had their chance, but could not get it done when they needed it.
The Rams players commented in their post game press conference how all of their hard work was paying off this year, and they’re really hopeful about 2011.
It was a 50 degree, sunny day, in Durham, New Hampshire, as the New Hampshire Wildcats hosted the Towson Tigers. UNH reported 5,003 fans came out to see their Wildcats play their way into the 2010 FCS playoffs. The Wildcats raced out to a 31-3 halftime lead and cruised to a 38-19 victory in a game that saw a lot of Wildcat reserves playing in the second half. Of note, Wildcat QB, R.J. Toman (Mission Viejo, Ca.) re-injured his ankle and RB, Dontra Peters (Annapolis, MD) was unable to participate also due to a foot injury.
The following is an excerpt from an email I received from UNH fan, Peter Colby;
“If you go to the New Hampshire Official Web Site and watch the same video but at Durham, you will see amongst a room full of young men, a middle aged woman, conspicuous in her red sweater and blonde hair, Mrs. Coach Mac. You’ll notice how utterly comfortable she is amongst the team and they with her.
I thought of emailing you last Saturday morning before I headed out for the UNH-Towson to say that as much as I wanted UMass to lose to URI, that I thought your call very unlikely. Good one there Terence.
One of the local newspaper articles’ headlines said, “UNH gets playoff bid, UMass doesn’t”
I was surprised at how little Towson had. Except for the long bomb on 2nd down on the first possession of the game which resulted in a field goal, Towson could do nothing. With a couple of minutes left in the 2nd quarter UNH stared substituting, leading 31-3. UNH substitutes played the entire 2nd half.
R J Toman got sacked about half way through the second quarter and was helped off the field with a low ankle sprain. I think it it the same ankle he nursed most of last year. He was in a plastic boot at the bracket announcement.
Second string QB, Kevin Decker came in and there was no drop off in the Offense, at least against Towson. I actually like the ball Decker throws better than Toman's, quicker release and a better spiral with lower trajectory.
Decker is more mobile than Toman but doesn't have the bulk and muscle to penetrate when running the ball as Toman does. Kevin is a Junior and is certainly the heir apparent.
I am glad you brought your own experiences with the players and the other parents in your last article. You have judiciously avoided bringing anything personal about your Son and yourself into your column but this was time you did.
This is what the casual sports fan misses, the personal inter-relationships that result of sport. Which, in the end, I believe is more important than who won over time.
And put this one in the "For what its' worth" catagory: Assuming a continuing improvement in the health of Szcur, Thomas, Ijalana, et al, I have no trouble penciling in Villanova playing Delaware or William & Mary Jan 7. “
UNH head coach, Sean McDonnell did report in his Monday morning teleconference call that Toman was booted up, but will be available for their first round opponent, Bethune-Cookman (MEAC Champion).
In fairness to Towson, Tiger head coach, Rob Ambrose reported that TU had some disciplinary issues to contend with and were without the services of some upper classmen. However, Sophomore QB, Brian Potts (Middletown, De.) made his first start of the season (second career) and was 7-10-3 in passing for 136 yards, a touchdown pass, and a pass for 64 yards. Tiger sophomore RB, Tremayne Dameron (Kings George, Va.) rushed 28 times for 100 yards, which is the third time in his career where he’s reached that rushing total. Towson finished the season sixth in the CAA in “Rushing Average” (133 ypg).
In Williamsburg, Va., a sold out crowd of 12,259 attended Zable Stadium on “Senior Day” to watch the battle for the “Capital Cup” between the home team, William & Mary Tribe and the visiting Richmond Spiders. The Spiders needed a win in order to play their way into the playoffs, and the Tribe needed a win matched with a Delaware loss in order to be CAA Co-Champions, and receive the CAA automatic playoff qualifier for the 2010 playoffs. The Spiders drew first blood with a 22 yard field goal by PK, Will Kamin (Weddington, NC). However, the Tribe ran off 41 unanswered points, en-route to a 41-3 victory.
In his post game press conference, Tribe head coach, Jimmye Laycock stated his team played very, very well, and took it to the Spiders in every aspect of the game, offensively, defensively, and the kicking game. Coach Laycock further stated they came to play, and once they started playing they did not stop. The Tribe amassed 616 yards of “Total Offense” against the CAA’s 6th ranked defense which up until this game only allowed an average of 339.5 yards per game. The 41 points scored by the Tribe was the most points the Spiders had given up all season. UR came into this game only allowing an average of 18.5 points per game.
The Tribe finished tied with Delaware with 6-2 conference records and were CAA Co-Champions, and did receive the CAA automatic qualifier. Last Sunday, the Tribe was selected as the No. 2 seed overall in the FCS playoffs, assuring the Tribe of home games throughout the playoffs as long as they win until they reach the Championship game which is played in Frisco, Tx., on Jan 7. The Tribe will play the winner of Georgia Southern (SOCON At Large) and South Carolina State (MEAC At Large) on Saturday, Dec. 4th at 1:30 p.m.
The Spiders season has ended with a 6-5 record, marking their 6th consecutive season with a winning record. The Spiders playoff streak was snapped at three. The Spiders under the guidance of head coach, Latrell Scott will regroup in the off season and look to begin another playoff streak in 2011.
At Delaware Stadium, an announced crowd of 22,891 came out to see their No. 1 ranked Delaware Blue Hens host 15th ranked rival Villanova Wildcats. The attendance was the 7th largest all time crowd in Delaware history, and the largest crowd ever to watch a UD vs. Nova game. This rivalry has been named the “Battle of the Blue”, and since the naming of the rivalry, Nova has won four straight. A Delaware win would guarantee the Blue Hens the CAA Conference championship and quite possibly the No. 1 seed in the FCS playoffs. A Nova win would insure Nova making the playoffs for the third consecutive season and a chance to defend their National Championship win of 2009.
It was a 57 degree, sunny day, with a westerly wind of 12 mph. The wind is noteworthy as it blew the football off the tee twice before the opening kickoff. Delaware had to use a holder who normally lines up on the edge of the kickoff team. After the ball was kicked off, Delaware head coach, K.C. Keeler reported that the holder got too wide, getting back into position and Villanova RB/KR, Angelo Babbaro (Canfield, Oh) hit a seam up the middle and raced 85 yards for a touchdown, and within 13 seconds of the game starting Villanova had a 7-0 lead.
After a Blue Hen punt, Nova drove 57 yards in 7 plays. With 2nd and goal from the UD 4, Babbaro lined up in the “Wildcat”, took the snap and swept left pitching the ball to Whitney who was lined up in his left flanker position. Whitney took a few steps to the right and hit a wide open RB, Lawrence Doss (Bellflower, Ca.) who was in the right slot, for the TD pass. With the games barely six minutes old, Nova held a 14-0 lead.
After another Blue Hen punt, the UD defense held Nova to 9 yards on the Wildcats next possession. It should be noted that the Blue Hens were without starting LDE, Michael Atunrase (Yardley, Pa.) due to injuries. In his post game press conference, Coach Keeler stated that the backup, Ethan Clark (Essex Jct, Vt.) had previously played on the other side of the DL when Morales was out, so Keeler was confident in Clark’s abilities. On the ensuing punt, the Blue Hen PR fumbled the ball and Nova recovered.
With 1st and 10 from the UD 32 it appeared as if Nova was going in for the “Kill Shot”. With 4th and 1 from the UD 23, Nova QB, Chris Whitney (Warminster, Pa) tried to sneak on the left side from his “Shotgun” formation, but the Blue Hen defense led by Clark and LB, Matt Marcorelle (Ft. Pierce, Fl) denied Nova, giving new life to the Blue Hens.
On the Blue Hens ensuing drive, the Wildcats appeared to have stopped the Blue Hens again with an end zone interception by safety, Fred Maldonado (West Chester, Pa.). The play was ruled an incomplete pass, and Maldonado left the game with a concussion. Coach Keeler’s staff smelling a weakness targeted Maldonado’s replacement the remainder of the game. The almost interception was intended for WR, Nihja White (Wayne, Pa). Two plays later, Blue Hen QB, Pat Devlin (Downingtown, Pa) found White on a slant route on the left side for an 18 yard touchdown pass. With a little more than a minute to go in the first half, Devlin found WR, Rob Jones (Thonotosassa, Fl) from seven yards out again on the left side picking on Maldonado’s replacement. This score knotted the game at 14 each.
Nova had a chance to take the lead going into the half, but a 27 yard field goal try hit the right upright and the score remained tied at halftime.
The Blue Hens received the kickoff to start the third quarter and drove 45 yards in 13 plays using 5:34 of clock. With a 2nd and 1 from the Nova 26, the Blue Hen tried to running plays for no gain. First team All CAA LB, Marquis Kirkland (Syracuse, NY) came up big on both plays in denying the Blue Hen RB any positive yardage. Devlin’s 4th down pass fell incomplete. Neither team scored in the third quarter.
On a drive that began at the end of the third quarter and spanned into the fourth quarter, Nova drove 77 yards in 15 plays. With 2nd and goal from the Blue Hen 8 yard line, Whitney took the ball from his shotgun formation and rolled right, not finding an open receiver, Whitney darted towards the goal line. There were two LB’s and a safety for the Blue Hens at the goal line, but Whitney would not be denied. In the post game press conference I asked Whitney what was going through his mind when he saw the Delaware defenders and the goal line. Whitney replied that he knew he had to get in, and he was going to do whatever he had to in order to score. Nova led 21-14 with over 11 minutes remaining in the game.
With 7:14 remaining in regulation, the Blue Hens began their march to tie the game. With 1st and goal from the Nova 2 and less than a minute to go, Devlin’s pass fell incomplete. On 2nd and goal, Blue Hen RB, Andrew Pierce (Bridgeton, NJ) rushed for one yard. On 3rd and goal, Pierce rushed for no gain. With 18 seconds left in the game and 4th and goal, Devlin took the snap from his shotgun formation and hit Pierce at the one yard line on the right flat (UD sideline). Nova’s CB, Eric Loper (Sicklerville, NJ) came up to make the tackle, but Pierce was able to break the tackle and get into the end zone to tie the score at 21 each and force overtime.
UD won the toss and elected to go on defense. Starting at the 25 yardline, Whitney, Babbaro, and RB, Aaron Ball (Los Angeles, Ca.) combined for 23 yards on the ground in seven plays. With 3rd and goal from the 1 yard line, Ball took the snapped and leaped over the Nova and UD lines into the end zone giving Nova the lead.
Now it was Delaware’s turn. Devlin passed UD to the Nova 2 yard line in 3 plays. Facing a 2nd and 2 from the Nova 3, Pierce took the handoff and was hit as he approached the 1 yard line and fumbled the ball. Nova safety, Martel Moody (Tampa, Fl) both caused the fumble and recovered the ball to seal the win for the Wildcats.
Along with William & Mary, Delaware finished the regular season as CAA Co-Champions, and earned a No 3 seeding in the FCS playoffs and will face the winner of Northern Iowa (MVC Champion) and Lehigh (PL Champion)on Dec 4 at noon.
With this win, Nova earned a spot in the FCS playoffs and will travel to Stephen F. Austin (SLC Champion) on Dec. 4th for a 3:30 E.T. start time.
Photographs of the Villanova vs. Delaware game were provided by Marlene Walters and Jordan Blassingame.
For the CAA, the four playoff teams will begin their “Second Season” on Sat., Dec 4th. I’ll provide forecast in next week’s edition of the CAA TODAY. Until then, safe travels over your holiday weekend.
As always you can email your thoughts and comments to CAATODAY@YAHOO.COM
This is the CAA TODAY signing off.