Preview: Merrimack Travels to Division I Bryant To Open 2017 Season
For the second straight season and third time in the last four years, the Merrimack College football team will kick off its 2017 campaign against a Division I opponent, as the Warriors travel to Rhode Island to do battle with Northeast Conference opponent Bryant University on Saturday afternoon. Kickoff from Beirne Stadium is set for 3 p.m.
Inside the Series
- Merrimack and Bryant had met on the gridiron for 10 straight years before the Bulldogs elevated their athletic programs to the Division?I ranks in 2008.
- The two sides reignited the rivalry three years ago, but it was Bryant that pulled away to a 40-14 victory over the Warriors to even the all-time series at 6-6.
- Prior to that 2014 meeting, the last time the two sides met was back in 2010 after playing every single year from 1999 through 2008.
- After winning six of the first seven all-time meetings between the two schools, Merrimack has dropped each of the last six games it has played against Bryant, as the Bulldogs now lead the all-time series, 7-6.
- Last year’s installment saw Merrimack pull to within two points (15-13) late in the first half, but Bryant answered before halftime and then scored a pair of third-quarter touchdowns in an eventual 41-20 Bulldog victory.
- Merrimack fought valiantly through the 2016 campaign, and while the final record might not indicate it, there was plenty of progress made last fall as the Warriors continue to lay the foundation with a young roster that has plenty of promise.
- Head coach Dan Curran and his coaching staff once again faced a strong schedule last fall, featuring a Division I opponent from the Northeast Conference for the third time in four years in Bryant University. Additionally, the Warriors hosted two nationally ranked teams in eventual NCAA Tournament participants Assumption and LIU Post over the course of the season.
- Among the highlights from last season, Merrimack stormed back from a 13-point deficit thanks to a stellar defensive effort, a huge punt block and timely scoring down the stretch to defeat AIC, 16-13, at home. It marked the second straight year that the Warriors defeated the Yellow Jackets. Merrimack also defeated Pace twice over the remainder of the season, and enjoyed a tremendous halftime ceremony when it invited back the 2006 NE10 Championship-winning team for the 10-year anniversary of their league title.
- Merrimack also saw four student-athletes earn NE10 All-Conference recognition last fall in Class of 2017 graduate Josh Hill, sophomore Enrique McFarlane, and freshmen Erick Browne and Sebastian Lucas.
- Hill concluded his career in record-setting fashion, leading the conference with nine sacks – a new single-season high for the former all-conference second team selection. By doing so, it marked the second straight year that a Merrimack student-athlete led the conference in sacks. The two-time captain wrapped up his career with 176 tackles (104 solo) and 23 sacks, the latter mark ranking second in the all-time program record books, as well as six forced fumbles and 10 pass breakups. He also went on to play in the Tropical Bowl.
- Last fall, Merrimack enjoyed one of its best seasons in terms of rushing the ball in quite some time; the Warriors averaged 168.4 yards on the ground per game, the third-highest figure in the conference and the 61st-best figure nationwide. The last time Merrimack had a most productive season in the ground game was 2011 (191.0).
- Senior tailback Derrick Villard finished last year ranked third in the league in rushing average per game, garnering 65.4 yards per contest on the ground.
- On defense, junior Enrique McFarlane was in the running for the league’s tackles per game title; had he not missed the last three games of the year he might have accomplished the feat after ranking fifth in the league with 8.4 stops per game.
- As a team, Merrimack ranked seventh in the NE10 in total offense (317.0) and eighth in defensive yards per game (383.3); the Warriors averaged 71.9 tackles per game (4th/NE10) and
- Dan Curran enters his fifth season as head coach of the Warriors in 2017; he has led the program to several marquee victories over the last four seasons and has helped produce several All-Americans, all-region and all-conference performers in that span.
- Bryant finished last season with a 5-6 record for the second straight year; the Bulldogs were, however, in the thick of the NEC title race and finished with a 4-2 record in conference play.
- Bryant returns two quarterbacks from last year and also brought in four new ones via transfers and freshmen. Price Wilson and Devin Ray find themselves on top of the depth chart. Wilson was a transfer from FBS-member Louisiana Tech, while Ray was a midyear enrollee last winter after spending three years at Monmouth. Neither has appeared in more than four games in their careers.
- Whoever the quarterback is will have plenty of options, as two seniors in Matt Sewall and Aaron Aryee and a sophomore in Jean Constant all combined for nearly 80 receptions last fall and well over 1,000 yards.
- The Bulldogs averaged just 77.3 yards per game on the ground last season, the lowest number in program history, but they bring back their lead rusher from a season ago to help change that.
- While the Bulldogs will look to improve upon their 352.5 yards allowed and 28.2 points allowed per game figures from a year ago, junior Thomas Costigan figures to play a large role in reversing that. He is one of Bryant’s top players on defense; an all-conference second team pick, he posted 58 tackles and six sacks as well as four forced fumbles and an interception. Sophomore Jesse Nemerowicz was among the team leaders with 91 tackles – a freshman program record – and ranked fourth in the NEC in total stops.
- Merrimack fans should recognize Bryant’s new head coach, as former Warrior head coach John Perry‘s younger brother James was chosen to lead the Bulldogs last winter. James Perry arrived in Smithfield after spending seasons as an offensive coordinator at Princeton.
|Merrimack (0-0, 0-0 NE10)||Category||Bryant (0-0, 0-0 NEC)|
|383.3||Opp. Total Offense||352.5|
|29:04||Time of Possession||29:05|
|43%||Opp. 3rd-Down Conversions||—|
|14-19 (74%)||Red-Zone Scores||33-40 (83%)|