With the season and the semester coming to an end, this will be my final post for the foreseeable future. Check back periodically for updates throughout the offseason. While you’re here, be sure to check out the season wrap-up.
Despite having only five seniors on the roster, the 2008 Rowan football team turned around a 4-6 season to finish 8-2. The Profs narrowly missed the NCAA tournament, with their two losses coming against Montclair State and Cortland State (which plays top-ranked Mount Union this weekend in the NCAA tournament quarterfinals).
Rowan’s remarkable turnaround is the subject of my season in review feature, which will be released this Tuesday. It features an interview with head coach Jay Accorsi, as well as highlights and the story of the Profs 2008 campaign.
The Profs were left off the NCAA Tournament bracket due to a number of factors. Below is a quick explanation.
Here’s how the East Region looks:
- Mount Union
- Cortland State
- Plymouth State
Cortland’s loss to Ithaca last weekend left the East Region without an undefeated team. Enter top-ranked Mount Union as the transplanted number one seed from the North Region. Ithaca’s win enabled the Bombers to jump Cortland for the second seed. Hobart, Lycoming, and Plymouth State won their respective conferences. Randolph-Macon, a team from Virginia, wound up as the East’s final seed after winning its conference and receiving an automatic bid with a 6-4 record.
The surprise selection was 9-1 Curry, an at-large selection from the New England Football Conference (a conference that has a 1-9 record in the postseason since the playoffs expanded in 1999). The Colonels opponent winning percentage was just .483 despite playing in one of the worst conferences in the country. What’s even more shocking is the fact that Curry seemingly jumped Rowan in the regional rankings (entering this past weekend, Rowan was eight and Curry was 9th) despite the fact that the Colonels had a bye and Rowan dominated TCNJ 42-3.
This morning, the New Jersey Athletic Conference announced it’s All-Conference team. Fifteen different Profs were honored (plus Davon Edwards and Steve Wall, who were both defensive and special teams selections).
Lineman Ken Siano was the only first team pick on offense for Rowan. Quarterback Frank Wilczynski was a second team selection after finishing fifth in the conference in rushing. Joining Wilczynski on the second team were receiver Davon Edwards and lineman Josh Weiss. Lineman Tommy Menendez was an honrable mention pick.
On defense, Profs dominated the first team with lineman Justin Hinds, linebacker Drew Yezzi, and defensive backs Ken Quinones and Jimmy DiPaolo bringing home honors. Hinds is one of just two defenders who were also first team picks last season (Montclair linebacker and NJAC Defensive Player of the Year Cornell Hunt is the other). Second teamers include Kyle Kane, Kevin Taylor, Mike Barone, and Steve Wall. Matt Hoffman also picked up an honorable mention selection.
Freshman kicker Mark Getsinger was also received an honorable mention.
Surprisingly, junior punter Andrew Smith was left off the list despite finishing the season atop the NJAC and fifth in the nation in punting with an average of 41.7 yards per punt (over two yards more per boot than first team pick Kyle Peterson of Cortland State). Injuries may have been a factor as Smith missed two games.
Cortland’s Dan MacNeill was named the NJAC’s Coach of the Year after his Red Dragons were the only team from the conference to receive an NCAA tournament bid. A strong argument could have been made for Rowan head coach Jay Accorsi, who’s Profs turned around a 4-6 record a year ago to finish 8-2 in 2008 despite only carrying five seniors.
With Rowan and TCNJ kicking off for the 50th time tomorrow, I sat down with Profs head coach Jay Accorsi as he looked back on the rivalry and gave us a preview of things to come (including the Profs playoff chances).
Last year’s game resulted in a 10-7 loss. Are you expecting another low-scoring affair?
“I don’t think so. I think it’s going to be a high-scoring game. They’ve done some really good things offensively the past couple weeks opening it up. They’re a spread no-huddle team like we are so I think the ball’s going to be flying around and I think there are going to be some points scored. I think it’ll come down to whatever defense plays the better game and our defense has just been playing outstanding the last half of the season.”
What’s the game plan for TCNJ?
“I think we need to stop the run game like we have. I think we did a great job against Montclair really stopping them in the run game. And again, we need to make them throw the ball quite a bit so we can get some turnovers. We did that against Kean and Morrisville and Buffalo State and some of the others like West Conn. When we get teams to throw it around a little bit that’s when we can use our athletic ability to get some sacks.”
What needs to happen for Rowan to get an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament?
What’s your best memory of the TCNJ rivalry?
“There are so many over the years. It’s always been a fairly close game. Last year was no different. Probably the playoff year (stands out the most). One year we played them really close here at home and we were able to strip the ball, get a fumble and go in to score late. Then it was I believe ’97 or ’98 at their place on a beautiful day in November and we just played really well.”
What’s your worst memory of TCNJ?
“I think last year was. We were going into the game playing so well and the expectations were so high and we were really doing some good things. We had a senior team dominated with 18 seniors. High expectations and high hopes. You look back at what caused us a lot of problems last year and I think it starts with that game. You’re going in to possibly go up by another score late in the fourth quarter and you turn it over in such heartbreaking fashion and give them a touchdown; then turn it over and give them the game. I think that really broke our back last year.”
How great is TCNJ’s home field advantage?
“It’s always tough when you play away and that’s why teams want to do so well and secure home field advantage in any type of playoff situation. We’ve played well up there before and we’ve played very well on the road this year. Except for the Montclair game we’re undefeated on the road so again, with a young team, we’ve played very well on the road so it should be a great day and a great atmosphere for another great conference battle.”
What do you expect from your team against TCNJ?
“I expect them to play really well. We talked about having the seniors go out on a winning note. We’ve talked about building the foundation for the future with a young team. But again, seeing this team come out from such a heartbreaking loss the week before and to come out and play and have fun, that’s what we’re really looking forward to for Saturday.”
It may not have an intriguing name like the Cortaca Jug (played this weekend between Cortland and Ithaca), but Rowan against TCNJ is one of the premier rivalries in the nation.
That Saturday’s match up will be the 50th meeting between the two schools (dating back to when TCNJ was Trenton State and Rowan was Glassboro State). The Profs lead the all-time series 31-16 (with a pair of ties). And no matter what, the game should be a nail-biter.
Need proof? Last season, TCNJ won the NJAC and Rowan suffered through their worst season in over 20 years but it took a late interception returned for a touchdown by Lions safety Andrew Larkin to seal a 10-7 TCNJ victory. In 2006, TCNJ went 2-5 in the NJAC and Rowan advanced to the national quarterfinals, but the Profs barely ousted the Lions, 14-6. You have to go all the way back to 1999 to find the last time this rivalry was decided by more than 15 points (that year, the Profs drubbed the Lions, 40-3, on their way to a Stagg Bowl loss).
“TCNJ is a rivalry game so we have to put today behind us and come out and get a win,” said quarterback Frank Wilczynski following last weekend’s loss to Montclair. “You never want to end the season with two straight losses. We have to go out and play our style of football. We can’t let this week affect us.”
Senior safety Jimmy DiPaolo, who will be playing the Lions for the final time, knows the importance of the game:
“We’re not going to pack it in right now,” said DiPaolo. “We’ve had too good of a season.”
The Lions have nothing to play for but pride. The Profs? Only the slightest chance at an at-large bid. But still, expect the teams to leave everything they have on the field.