Out of contention for a Northeast Conference title, St. Francis (4-5, 2-3) will set its sights on being the spoiler when the Red Flash visit
No. 18 ranked Central Connecticut State (8-1, 4-0) on Saturday.
The Red Flash are currently 21/2 games out of first place with the trio of Central Connecticut State, Duquesne, and Robert Morris all tied with four wins and Duquesne and Robert Morris already owning tiebreakers over the Red Flash.
With no conference title to play for, the Red Flash can still build for the future while also boosting pride.
“You have to look at the rest of the season as a building block,” coach Chris Villarrial said. “In the Duquesne game, our guys played for a full 60 minutes and we didn’t quit, which was a huge plus.”
While the Red Flash did take the loss against the Dukes last Saturday, there were positives to take away. St. Francis held its own against one of the top running backs in the NEC in A.J. Hines, limiting him to 85 yards and 3.7 yards per carry. But St. Francis could not get its own running game going, averaging just 1.2 yards per carry on
“It’s been our Achilles heel all season,” Villarrial said. “In order to play successfully, you have to build cohesion together and we’ve been banged up at running back and on the line.”
For the Red Flash offensively, the running game will be key if they are to pull off the upset of the Blue Devils. The linebacking corps for the Blue Devils leads the front seven, and their leader is junior Tre Jones, who paces the team with eight sacks on the season and has 12 tackles for loss.
The biggest reason to keep the ball out of the air is that the Blue Devils are second in the FCS with 15 interceptions this season. Sparked by senior DJ Exilhomme, who leads the team in tackles, and sophomore Dexter Lawson Jr., who leads the team with four interceptions, the back end of the defense can also put a scare into any opposing quarterback.
Offensively for Central Connecticut State, their quarterback Aaron Winchester makes the whole show. He leads the team in both passing and rushing yards, and has a plethora of targets to choose from.
His favorite: junior Tyshaun James, who leads the team in receptions (32), receiving yards (708), receiving yards per game (78.7), yards per catch (22.1), and receiving touchdowns (6).
James also has four rushing touchdowns on nine carries.
“We have to play within our scheme and play at a high level,” Villarrial said. “They will be a challenge and we are looking forward to trying to pull off the upset.”