October 3, 2013

For Accorsi, football was a calling

More news about: Rowan
Jay Accorsi passed K.C. Keeler as the winningest football coach in Rowan history this past weekend.
Rowan athletics photo

Jay Accorsi was making plenty of money. More than he really needed at the time, if truth be told. But he wasn't happy.

Something was missing. While working for Roadway Package Systems -- a company that eventually became FedEx Ground -- was lucrative, it wasn't fulfilling. It wasn't satisfying.

It was this realization that set in motion Accorsi's return to football. And nearly 30 years later, Accorsi, now Rowan's all-time leader in coaching wins, still wouldn't change a thing.

"I just try give to back to the game, to the sport itself, that just gave me so much and helped define who I am and what I'm all about," Accorsi said.

Accorsi's path from a young business employee -- first for an oil company, then RPS and later at his family's business in Hartford, Conn. -- to a successful football coach is interesting, if not unlikely.

Accorsi, who began playing football for his father, John Accorsi Sr., in the third grade, played four years for longtime coach Mike Vendetti at Nichols College in Dudley, Mass. He graduated in 1985 with a degree in business and immediately entered the field. After a few years, Accorsi grew tired of a life without football.

His brother, Michael, was roommates at UConn with the stepson of Jack Charney, who succeeded Vendetti as Nichols' coach. Through that unlikely connection, Accorsi reached out to Charney and eventually landed a job as an offensive assistant, a position he held from 1989-1993.

At that point, with Charney on his way out at Nichols and Accorsi looking for a chance to get his MBA, fate seemingly intervened again. An old college friend of Accorsi's told him about the program offered by his current school, a school that also happened to be looking for a graduate assistant football coach. That school? Rowan University in Glassboro, N.J.

Accorsi jumped at the chance.

"I called a bunch of times and I ended up getting a student worker, and I kind of sweet-talked my way to get [then head coach K.C.] Keeler's direct phone line," Accorsi said. "And I ended up getting him and he's like, 'How did you get my number?'"

Accorsi's persistence paid off as Keeler ultimately added him to the staff. With Rowan's 7-0 win against Montclair State last Friday, Accorsi won his 89th game at Rowan, surpassing Keeler's total of 88. But back in 1993, Accorsi was just an offensive-minded, 34-year-old graduate assistant trying to make a name for himself.

"I'm engaged to get married, I'm going back to school full-time, I come here in '93 and I'm living in a college dorm room with the other GA who was just finishing up school," Accorsi said. "At an older age of 34 [it wasn't easy]."

After working solely on offense for two years, Accorsi was moved to defense, eventually becoming the Profs' defensive coordinator. He held that position until Keeler left for the Delaware head coaching job in 2002. Accorsi, now in his 12th season as the team's head coach, has guided Rowan to five NJAC championships and five NCAA tournament appearances, including trips to the semifinals in 2004 and 2005.

Many of Accorsi's fondest memories are some of his earliest at Rowan. He was with the team for all five of its Stagg Bowl appearances in 1993, 1995, 1996, 1998 and 1999. He happily recalls the Profs' win against Mount Union in the 1999 semifinals, a result that, as he remembers it, snapped the Purple Raiders' 54-game winning streak.

The low points have been few and far between, but Accorsi spoke candidly about the team's 4-6 season in 2007, still his only losing season as Rowan's coach.

"It was really tough," Accorsi said. "I even contemplated resigning and stepping aside. It really questions what you're about and who you are."

Of course, Accorsi chose not to step down, due in large part to the support of his players, who he said helped keep the results in perspective. It also further strengthened his own appreciation of what Division III football stands for.

"They're there because they love to play football, and that's what I really enjoy about it," he said. "Our guys come out every day and work really hard, and that's what I like to think I was as a player. I came out and worked hard every day, not because somebody was paying my way or I was getting a free education or other perks ... it was just that I loved to play football."

Over the years teams have expressed interest in Accorsi, he said, but he's yet to seriously consider leaving Rowan for any other opportunities. More than the results on the field, which have been impressive, the lifestyle has suited Accorsi well.

"I can recruit in state, I can get around, but when it's all said and done, I can wake up in the morning and kiss my kids and wife goodbye for the day, run to my job and love to do it," said Accorsi, who turned 50 on Tuesday. "And then, for the most part, be able to come home that night and see my wife and kids, and to me that's really just important at this time in my life."

Accorsi and his wife Nancy, who were married in the summer of 1994, less than a year after he started his stint as a graduate assistant at Rowan, have three children. Daughters Gabby and Rachel are both in high school and a younger son Jack, who was nicknamed "Bubba" by previous Rowan players. Nancy, a computer programmer analyst for Barclays Bank in Wilmington, Del., makes the "real money" so Accorsi can make the "fun money." 

"I have no idea how I landed her," Accorsi said. "I guess that's another story for another time."

Accorsi is humble yet confident, understated yet talkative -- "that's the Italian in me," he explains. As such, he's quick to point out everyone that's helped him along the way, from former Rowan coach Richard Wackar (called Glassboro State College during his tenure) to sister Jennifer and mother Ellen, a retired elementary school teacher he credits for developing his love for educating others.

Rowan's all-time leader in wins isn't sure what the future holds, but he has no immediate plans to step away from coaching. Accorsi knows from previous experience that he would miss it too much.

"It's been a pleasure," Accorsi said. "It really has."

Ithaca stuns Buffalo State

The tricky part about taking a late fourth-quarter lead is that you don't want to leave your opponent too much time. Buffalo State did just that against Ithaca on Saturday. 

The Bengals took a three-point lead with 1:05 left in regulation on Rich Pete's 18-yard touchdown run. But that left enough time for Phil Neumann to drive the Bombers 72 yards down the field in five plays to take the lead back.

Neumann connected with Vito Boffoli on a 30-yard TD pass, his third completion to Boffoli on the drive, to complete Ithaca's frenetic rally. Neumann, who emerged as the Bombers' full-time starter last season, was sharp against Buffalo State, completing 16 of his 24 attempts for 217 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.

Ithaca's running game was non-existent -- the Bombers finished with 44 yards on 33 carries -- so Neumann's performance was crucial. Defensively, Ithaca had an interception, forced fumble and two sacks on Buffalo State quarterback Casey Kacz. The strong defensive showing continues a positive trend for the Bombers, whose defense ranks 15th nationally, allowing an average of 10 points per game.

Buffalo State, after two strong wins to open the season, has now dropped two straight disappointing games.

Ithaca and Buffalo State are two teams moving in opposite directions, and this last-second Bombers win could stand out as a turning point for both teams' seasons.

Delaware Valley shows it's still boss for now

For the better part of the last 10 seasons, Delaware Valley has been the team to beat in the MAC.

This past Saturday, it showed upstart Stevenson that it’s still the top dog.

The Aggies scored outscored the Mustangs 27-6 in the second half to pull away for a 41-23 victory. The win helped Delaware Valley improve to 4-0 overall and a perfect 3-0 in conference play.

Kyle Schuberth rushed for 214 yards and four touchdowns on 37 carries, 12 more carries than Stevenson's entire team. Aaron Wilmer wasn't spectacular, but finished 17-of-30 for 174 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

Of course, the context is important. For instance, Wilmer's lone TD, a two-yard connection with Max Stella, came early in the fourth quarter to extend Delaware Valley's lead. Great teams make the key plays in the fourth quarter.

Stevenson, to its credit, raced out to a 17-7 lead. But the Mustangs' program, in just its third season of play, learned a tough lesson from the best the MAC has to offer.

Lycoming is also undefeated in conference play, and travels to DelVal this weekend. But the Aggies, ranked 21st in this week's D3football.com poll, will be favored at home.

If the Aggies win that game, the MAC is theirs to lose.

Rochester's gamble pays off

The situation looked dire. Springfield had just taken a seven-point lead with 49 seconds remaining. Rochester only had one timeout.

But seven plays and 63 yards later, the Yellowjackets found the end zone. Dean Kennedy connected with Derek Wagner on an 18-yard touchdown as time expired to set Rochester up for the game-tying extra point.

Except the Yellowjackets didn't want to go to overtime -- they wanted to win. So, Rochester lined up for the two-point conversion. Two points or zero points, win or lose -- a single play to win the game. Myles Allen punched his way through defenders off right tackle to clinch the win for Rochester.

This was a gamble for Rochester, there's no denying that. But it paid off. And it could help propel the team to a strong season.

The Yellowjackets have finished with four wins in each of their last four seasons. That is a frustrating streak the team would like to snap. Considering that Rochester has two wins through its first three games, that's not an unreasonable expectation at this point.

Kennedy, who finished with 282 passing yards, 70 rushing yards and three total TDs, was sharp for Rochester. His play will continue to be important for a Rochester squad seeking consistency.

The loss certainly hurts Springfield, but it doesn't completely derail the season. The Pride can no longer afford another loss in Liberty League play -- save for Hobart -- if they hope to reach the NCAA playoffs. But Springfield undoubtedly needs more consistent play from its defense.

Springfield's defense has twice held opponents scoreless this season, but also allowed 40 and 36 points in its other games. That is an extreme swing.

A note on Merchant Marine

I'm not qualified to offer a professional take on the government shutdown that went into effect earlier this week. Chances are you're not coming to this column for hard-hitting political discussions anyway.

But what I do know, from a football perspective, is that the Merchant Marine-RPI game was postponed for this weekend. That's a shame for both schools. Merchant Marine is off to one of its best starts in recent memory, and RPI (also off to a strong start) will be celebrating homecoming this weekend. I don't think I'm alone in thinking that a homecoming weekend without a football game will feel empty.

This development was obviously out of the hands of the players, coaches and administrators at both schools. The game was officially called off Thursday morning, an unfortunate side effect of the political impasse.

Quick hits

Tyler Fenti passed for 294 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for another 88 yards and a score in No. 19 St. John Fisher's 33-25 win over Cortland State. John Babin caught nine passes for 173 yards, including a 22-yard TD, in the loss for the Red Dragons. ... Zack Czap connected on all three of his field-goal attempts, including the go-ahead kick late in the fourth quarter, to help Lycoming hold off Widener. Dwight Hentz finished with six tackles and 3.5 sacks to spearhead a solid defensive effort by the Warriors. ... Pat Conlan threw a 37-yard TD pass to Yosh Karbowniczak and scored on a 53-yard touchdown run -- both in the second half -- to lead No. 7 Hobart to a 24-8 win against Merchant Marine. ... Austin Hartman rushed for 130 yards and four TDs and Brendan Irvining ran for 100 yards and another four TDs as Lebanon Valley cruised past FDU-Florham 65-21. ... Tyler Johnson rushed for 134 yards and two touchdowns and connected with Jonathan Ruffin on a 21-yard scoring pass in overtime to lift the Saxons to a 34-28 win over Brockport State. ... Chyron Brown-Wallace blocked a third-quarter field goal attempt that was returned 84 yards by Connor O'Brien for a touchdown in St. Lawrence's 30-20 against Union. The Saints tied the game on the block return, and scored 10 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to clinch the win, their first in Liberty League play since the end of the 2011 season. ... T.J. Luddy passed for 305 yards and three touchdowns and Ty Hughes rushed for 89 yards and a pair of TDs in Albright's 48-29 rout of King's. ... Ryan Gresik accounted for four total touchdowns in William Paterson's 49-23 victory over SUNY-Maritime. ... Zach Grasis piled up 147 yards and two scores on the ground as WPI defeated RPI 27-14 to reclaim the Transit Trophy. ... Sam Paladino hit Brandon Brocklehurst on a 12-yard TD pass -- the only one of the game -- to lift TCNJ past Southern Virginia 7-2. Patrick Kimball finished with three sacks for the Lions, who picked up their first win of the season. ... Taylor Young passed for 179 yards and three TDs in Wilkes' 33-14 win over Misericordia.

Top 25: Minimal movement for East teams

Hoabrt held steady at No. 7 in this week's D3football.com Top 25 poll, while St. John Fisher slipped one spot to No. 19.

Delaware Valley, the only other East team in the top 25, jumped one rank to No. 21.

Empire 8 teams Salisbury and Ithaca reach received votes this week.

Looking ahead

Salisbury (1-2, 0-0) at Utica (2-1, 0-0), noon, Saturday: Salisbury faces a tough road game in its Empire 8 opener. The Sea Gulls are trending upward though, after their 28-10 win over N.C. Wesleyan two weeks ago. 

Buffalo State (2-2, 0-1) at Alfred (2-1, 0-0), 1 p.m., Saturday: The Saxons will look to win their third straight and, in the process, send the Bengals to a third straight defeat. Buffalo State let a win slip away against Ithaca last week. Alfred needed overtime to edge Brockport State.

No. 21 Delaware Valley (4-0, 3-0) at Lycoming (3-1, 3-0), 1 p.m., Saturday: It's only the first week of October, but the winner of this matchup will be in the driver's seat in the MAC. Both teams enter with identical 3-0 conference records, and the winner takes control of the race through the midway point.

Other games of note: Rowan (2-1, 1-0) at Brockport State (1-2, 0-0), 1 p.m., Saturday; Widener (2-2, 2-1) at Stevenson (3-1, 2-1), 1 p.m., Saturday

Contact me

I'm always happy to hear from you, whether its questions, feedback or story ideas. Please reach out to me by email at andrew.lovell@d3sports.com and follow me on Twitter (@andrew_lovell).

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Andrew Lovell

Andrew Lovell is an associate news editor for ESPN.com and a former sports staff writer/editor for the New Britain Herald (Conn.). He has contributed freelance work to ESPN Rise and has been a regular contributor to D3football.com since 2007. Andrew has also written for a number of daily newspapers in New York, including the Poughkeepsie Journal, Ithaca Journal and Auburn Citizen. He graduated from Ithaca College in 2008 with B.A. in Sport Media and a minor in writing. A native of Hyde Park, N.Y., Andrew currently resides in New Britain. 

2006-10 columnist: Adam Samrov 

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