McKoy's long run to 455

More news about: Western Connecticut
Octavias McKoy made a name for himself in Division III after his college football career seemed stalled.
Worcester State athetics photo by Matt Wright

Western Connecticut's Octavias McKoy did the same thing so many other Division III players do on Sunday morning. He watched ESPN's Sports Center. But unlike those other players, he got to see himself on the show.

"I didn't get to see it last night. I had a chance to catch it this morning," McKoy said.

McKoy landed a segment on the show by rushing for an NCAA record 455 yards on 43 carries in a 55-35 victory over Worcester State. He also had five touchdowns on the way to eclipsing the mark that had stood since 1996.

"Alumni, friends, everyone has been calling. I am just trying to take it all in," McKoy said while in coach Joe Loth's office.

It wasn't that long ago that McKoy had finished playing football. He had stints at junior colleges in Kansas and Arizona and was working for Saks 5th Avenue in Maryland.

"I was making pretty good money at 20 years old, but I knew I still wanted to play football," McKoy said.

Despite playing high school football in Connecticut he had not been aware of the Western Connecticut program.

"As a Division I recruit I had not really heard about Western Conn. It was the just the big programs," McKoy said.

He had visited the Danbury school when the previous coach was there but was not impressed with the Colonials during their 1-28 stretch which ended last season. "The program wasn't that great," McKoy said.

Loth was hired in June before the 2012 season. He had resurrected programs at Kean and Otterbein and McKoy could sense the change.

"It was the atmosphere. This is a football school," McKoy said. "The people here are behind you. That was true even when they weren't winning. They deserve to have a winning program."

They are getting one. The Colonials are 5-2 and clinched a winning season with the victory over Worcester State.

It's a refreshing change. The Colonials were the doormat of the New Jersey Athletic Conference in recent years and are now playing in the first-year MASCAC, a group of Massachusetts state schools plus Western and Plymouth State of New Hampshire.

The NJAC is a tough league, but it would be too simple to think the MASCAC was a little magic pill that brought the Western Conn. program back to life. The signs were there in Loth's first season in 2012 when the Colonials beat the NJAC's Montclair State and gave NJAC foe Rowan a battle before losing. No. the Colonials' road to improvement began before the start of the MASCAC. But it sure is in the fast lane now.

Loth figures he must have learned something in retreading the programs at Otterbein and Kean. Otterbein had a single winning campaign in the previous 23 years before Loth landed in Ohio.

"I think I have gotten a little better at the process. It's all about the process of trying to win," Loth said.

Right now, McKoy is the centerpiece of that process. But there's a lot more.

"We think we have one of the best running backs in the country, if not the best," Loth said. "But it's a combination of things as it always is. The offensive line is doing a great job and our receivers block down field better than any receivers I have ever coached."

"They all do a great job for me," McKoy said.

Not only is the campus catching the fever, but so is the community.

"The community of Danbury is excited as well," McKoy said. "A lot of the people in Danbury and  a few towns over are Western Conn. graduates. The community of Danbury is definitely behind the program."

Loth said there was no attempt to get McKoy the record.

"We were not aware of it," the coach said. "I knew he was over 200 yards at halftime when I got the stats. But they (Worcester State) were still in the game in the fourth quarter. And on the road the (P.A.) announcer does not tell you that one of your players is close to a record."

McKoy and his teammates are enjoying the season after the lean one they went through last fall. due to the fact that Loth came to the job so late in the summer. The Colonials were hardly prepared for 2012.

"Coach was hired late so we didn't have a conditioning program in place. We were all learning on the fly," McKoy said.

They're flying now.

Western New England coach Keith Emery is a big name in his native Connecticut. He has connections throughout the state and there are a whopping 46 players from Connecticut on the roster of the Massachusetts school.

"That is going to become more difficult with the resurgence of Western Connecticut," Emery said. "But we are going to continue to pound Connecticut and we are going to cultivate the Southeast and West. The Golden Bears have two Texans on this year's roster.

Connecticut has a reputation as a great high school football state.

"The high school coaches in Connecticut do a great job," Loth said.

Loth, like Emery, will be on their doorsteps.

The Western Connecticut Colonials are on the doorstep of something special.

Football families

Mount Ida coach Mike Landers is a huge Red Sox fan. He has a special affinity for this year's edition because of the family atmosphere that pervades the team. The bonding with the growing of the beards translated into success on the field and a run all the way to the World Series after last year's dismal campaign.

It reminds Landers of his 2012 Mustangs, a group that embraced Landers' preaching about being tight and playing for one another.

"I think the most important aspect of competition is playing for each other," Landers said. "You don't make a play for self-gratification. You do it to see the joy in your teammates' faces. It's all for the success of the team.

"The Red Sox are a bunch of guys playing for each other. We had that last year (when they won the ECFC title) and we are working to get it this year.

"We talk about the beards. Growing the beards is a lot of fun because every beard is different. You can name them. You can pull on each other's beard. It brings a team together. Anytime you do something together it helps."

It has been helping the Mustangs lately. They won their third in a row as Chris McNally ran for 142 yards and two touchdowns in a 36-25 victory over Becker. Jawad Yatim threw for three touchdowns and ran for another.

Emery takes the family thing to such a level at WNE that he recruits them. He has three sets of brothers on this year's roster: Zachary and Nathan Fleming, DJ and Jimmy Eberle, and Brendan and Sean Coverdill.

Emery figures he has had "seven or eight sets of brothers" in his nine years at WNE.

He feels it promotes team unity but he also sees it is a validation for the experience on the Springfield campus.

"It shows that the parents value the program and that the older brother is having a good experience," Emery said. "The parents are the ones plunking down the money. That is the biggest significance of it, that the parents see the value in it."

Undefeated Gallaudet also has a set of brothers. Todd Bonheyo threw a 42-yard touchdown pass to brother Ryan in helping the Bison to go to 7-0 with a 16-13 victory over Husson on Homecoming. Chase Magsig kicked a 26-yard field goal to win it with 3:09 remaining.  Dating back to last year, the Bison have won nine in a row.

MIT defeated Western New England 17-14 with the game-winner coming in the fourth quarter when Peter Williams threw a 53-yard TD pass. Jake Laux had 16 tackles for MIT.

Cadets see the light

Norwich University got to see the beautifully refurbished Sabine Field bathed in light. That is because the kickoff for the game against Anna Maria was moved to 4 p.m. making for darkness in the second half. Al Georgio loved the bright lights as he ran for 109 yards and two touchdowns in a 38-6 win, Norwich's third straight victory.

Middlebury slays a giant

Norwich's win was not the biggest excitement in Vermont. Middlebury ended Trinity's 14-game winning streak. McCallum Foote threw for 310 yards and three touchdowns as the Panthers won 27-24. Nate Leedy had an interception in the end zone on the last play of the game to seal the victory for the Panthers who go to 5-1.

Wesleyan stays perfect

Trinity's loss means that Wesleyan is the only unbeaten team in the NESCAC. The Cardinals trimmed Bowdoin 34-14 to go to 6-0, LaDarius Drew rushed for 167 yards for a Wesleyan team that can capture the Little Three title this week by beating Williams.

Colby got a leg up on the CBB (Colby-Bates-Bowdoin) by beating Bates 21-3. It was a sweet win for Mules as Bates won last year's game 31-6 in Lewiston and went on to win the CBB crown. Carl Lipani had two of Colby's touchdowns.

Amherst beat Tufts 17-7 for coach E.J. Mills 99th victory. He can get the cherished milestone this week but it will not be easy as the opponent is Trinity. You do not win a lot of games when you commit six turnovers but that is what Amherst overcame against Tufts.

Williams pitched a shutout. James Howe had seven tackles and recovered two fumbles as the Ephs beat Hamilton 24-0.

Mariners break through

Maine Maritime got a win and a reminder of the Mariners' glory days which were only a few seasons ago. Billy Wetherbee rushed for a whopping 247 yards and had two touchdowns as part of his 20 carries as Maine Maritime outgunned Nichols 63-52. Wetherbee has 2,077 career rushing yards, a number that places him 10th all-time in a program famous for its run game and great backs.

Framingham State stayed on course for its special season as the Rams went to 6-1 and 5-0 in the MASCAC with a 41-9 win over Plymouth State. Melikke Van Alstyne had 108 yards and two touchdowns.

Here's a statistical oddity: Castleton gave up zero passing yards for the second week in a row and lost both games. SUNY-Maritime thrashed the Spartans 38-6 by amassing 550 yards on the ground. Leading that overland express were Ryan Helzman (2010 and three touchdowns) and Kyle Gardner (144).

Salve Regina stepped up, way up to play an FCS team. The Seahawks represented the NEFC admirably in battling Central Connecticut before falling 47-13.

Just for kicks

The story of Endicott's Dylan Rushe keeps getting better. The guy with the Irish accent and educated toe made four of his five field goal attempts in the Gulls' 33-7 win over Coast Guard and now has made 11 of his 12 field goal attempts this fall, including a 54-yarder.

Late Mike-Matt magic

Mike McCarthy threw an 18-yard scoring strike to Matt Green with just 1:18 left to lift Bridgewater State to a 26-20 win over Westfield State. That made for a special Homecoming for the Bears. Green had seven catches for 88 yards and two touchdowns. His 90 career receptions place him third all-time in the program.

The Big Games

It has been a long time since Wesleyan has won the Little Three (Wesleyan-Amherst-Williams) and that was a goal of coach Mike Whalen when he arrived at the Middletown, Conn., campus after coaching at Williams. This week Wesleyan gets Williams at home and can accomplish that goal. A win would put a bigger goal in front of the Cardinals, keeping them unbeaten through seven games with one remaining.

Coaches break out in a rash when talk of an unbeaten season surfaces before the last game, but it's tough to avoid in the case of 7-0 Gallaudet, a program becoming a big story everywhere. The Bison must deal with the long trip to Massachusetts and beat Becker to stay perfect. But the big game in the ECFC has Norwich visiting Mount Ida, a game matching teams on a roll with designs staying in the race.

Framingham is perfect in the MASCAC but staying that way against Mass. Maritime's explosive offense could be a challenge.

Make no mistake, the CBB series is special in Maine and continues with Bates hosting Bowdoin.

Tom Haley

A seven time Vermont sportswriter of the year, Tom Haley has been with the Rutland Herald since 1987. He was inducted into the Castleton State College Hall of Fame in 2004 and received the Contributor to Football Award from the National Football Foundation's Vermont Chapter. He has been D3football.com's Around the Northeast columnist since 2007.

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