Fordham at #1 New Hampshire FCS Football 2014 Playoffs 2nd Round Game Breakdown

George Hammond


Fordham at #1 New Hampshire, Saturday, 1:00

If Fargo, North Dakota, is considered the toughest place to play in the FCS, then Durham, New Hampshire, might be a close second. That’s where top seed New Hampshire (10-1) resides and where it will host high-powered Fordham in the second round of the playoffs. Simply put, the Wildcats don’t lose at home. They are 39-4 at “The Dungeon,” otherwise known as Cowell Stadium, since 2007. They have won 11 straight and are 30-2 in their last 32 games there.

New Hampshire’s only loss this year came against Toledo in the opener. After that, it ran off ten consecutive victories – the longest single-season streak in school history. The Wildcats are making their 11th straight playoff appearance, the longest active streak in the nation. Their success this fall comes as no surprise as they were picked to finish first in the CAA in the league’s preseason poll. Last year, New Hampshire advanced to the national semifinals for the first time before being ousted by North Dakota State, 52-14. The Wildcats knocked off Maine, 41-27, and Southeastern Louisiana, 20-17, in the earlier rounds.

Fordham and New Hampshire played two common opponents: New Hampshire beat Lehigh, 45-27, and Rhode Island, 41-14 while Fordham beat Lehigh, 48-27, and Rhode Island, 54-7.

Fordham, a veteran team with 17 senior starters, is led by quarterback Mike Nebrich. He threw for 421 yards and four touchdowns in Saturday’s 44-22 playoff victory over Sacred Heart. Despite missing two games this season with appendicitis, Nebrich has thrown for more than 3,000 yards as the Rams have scored 40 or more points in 10 of their 13 games.

New Hampshire is no slouch on offense either. The Wildcats have a lot of weapons, starting with R.J. Harris. The senior wideout has gone over 1,000 yards in receiving in each of the last three seasons, and he became the first Wildcat to surpass 200 receiving yards in a game (Rhode Island) since 2004. Junior quarterback Sean Goldrich, who got hurt in the Richmond game (Sept. 20), made his return on November 8th against Rhode Island and promptly threw for 330 yards. But even in Goldrich’s absence, the Wildcats didn’t miss a beat as senior Andy Vailas directed the attack. Besides Harris, senior tight end Harold Spears is a key weapon. And if New Hampshire doesn’t hurt you through the air, it will rely on Nico Steriti, the senior running back who, while not flashy, is a workhorse. Steriti is in the school’s top ten for career rushing yardage.

There should be plenty of points in this one. The common opponents don’t really give us much of a clue because New Hampshire didn’t play James Madison or Villanova this year. Fordham, meanwhile, got crushed by Villanova early in the season, 50-6. The key to this game is likely Fordham’s defense. If it can slow New Hampshire just a little bit, Nebrich and company have the talent to keep it close. Remember, Richmond threw for 348 yards against the Wildcats. You have to like New Hampshire at home but this might be close – real close.

Projected Score: New Hampshire 38, Fordham 34


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