Colgate at Wagner FCS Playoffs Game Breakdown

George Hammond

Colgate at Wagner FCS Playoffs Game Breakdown


Colgate at Wagner

One day, someone will make a movie about Wagner’s football season — and they should.

A team expected to finish near the bottom of the Northeast Conference standings rebounds from an 0-3 start to win not only its first league championship but make its first appearance in the FCS playoffs, too. And just for added drama, it must deal with a hurricane that knocks out power to its Staten Island, N.Y., campus and causes devastation and heartache for many in the surrounding area.

That’s the backdrop for Saturday’s contest at noon between Wagner (8-3, 7-1) and Patriot League champion Colgate (8-3, 6-0) as they meet in the first round of the FCS playoffs in Staten Island. The winner will travel to No. 2 seed Eastern Washington on December 1.

Colgate, meanwhile, is making its ninth NCAA playoff appearance and first since 2008. The Raiders are 4-8 all-time in the NCAAs, including a second-place finish in 2003.

“We’ve accomplished something that’s been a goal here for a long time,” Wagner coach Walt Hameline told Staten Island Live website. “When you haven’t eaten at that great restaurant you’ve heard about and you finally get a reservation and sit down, it’s a great thing.” The Seahawks got an added bonus when they were selected to host a first-round contest. In previous playoff appearances, the NEC champion had always been on the road.

“I didn’t have any inside information. But I think when you look at New York and our area — and the media — I think it probably could have played a little bit into the situation,” said Hameline, who is in his 32nd year as coach. “If you read into it even more, and consider what’s happened here with Hurricane Sandy and what Staten Island has gone through, this might be a great thing for the island that we have an opportunity to host an NCAA game.”

Both teams started slowly this season but now are in the midst of impressive winning streaks. Wagner’s eight-game streak is the longest in the nation, followed by Colgate and Bethune-Cookman at seven apiece.  The teams played four similar opponents in Albany, Sacred Heart, Holy Cross and Georgetown. Both went 3-1 against those common four.  Colgate lost at Albany 40-23 in the season opener, beat Sacred Heart 35-14, defeated Holy Cross 51-35 and beat Georgetown 57-36.   Wagner defeated Albany 30-0, beat Sacred Heart 12-3, edged Holy Cross 31-30 and lost to Georgetown 13-10.

“Sometimes, when you play someone you don’t know much about, it’s hard to prepare,” Raiders head coach Dick Biddle said. “But we’ve had common opponents so we should be able to get some idea of their strengths, their weaknesses and how we match up.  The other positive is it’s (the game) in New York State. We can take a bus and it’s not a big travel thing for us; we’ve made the trip twice this year. We know the area and our kids should be comfortable with that.”

The contest is a classic matchup between Colgate’s high-powered offense and Wagner’s stout defense. Consider these numbers:

* Colgate is No. 2 nationally in total offense at 503 yards per game, No. 3 in scoring offense with 41 points per game and No. 5 in rushing offense at 294 yards per game.

* Wagner is No. 6 nationally in scoring defense at 16 points a game and 18th in total defense giving up 314 yards.

In Colgate’s 35-24 victory over Lehigh that clinched the Patriot League crown two weeks ago, the Raiders’ offensive prowess was evident as they held an unbelievable edge in possession time 43:51 to 16:09. Against Lafayette the week before, Colgate broke Patriot League records for rushing yardage (531 yards) and total offense (755 yards) in a game.

Called the “Double-Mac Attack,” quarterback Gavin McCarney and running back Jordan McCord lead the way. McCarney has set a school record for games gaining 100 yards or more rushing by a quarterback in a season with six while McCord led the Patriot League in rushing.  In the 65-41 win over Lafayette, McCarney rushed for 288 yards and McCord had 203 rushing yards to mark the first time in Patriot League history that two rushers went over 200 yards in the same game.

Wagner ranks No. 1 in the FCS in kickoff returns. The Seahawks have returned 33 kicks for 883 yards and two touchdowns in 11 games and average nearly 26.8 yards per return. Sophomore Otis Wright has registered much of that total as he’s averaging 28.92 yards a return with the two TDs.


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