Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - After finishing 2-9 last season, it's hard not to be impressed with Sacred Heart's bounce-back season. The Pioneers are 6-1 overall and own a 1-1 Northeast Conference record.
A large part of their success has been the play of redshirt freshman quarterback R.J. Noel, who dominated in the team's Week 7 win over Central Connecticut State. His five-touchdown performance lifted him to this week's national freshman honor.
Noel, Youngstown State's Kurt Hess, Chattanooga's Davis Tull, Hampton's Justin Blake, and Lehigh's Tim Divers have been named The Sports Network FCS National Players of the Week for all Week 7 games ending Oct. 12.
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Kurt Hess, Youngstown State, QB, Sr., 6-3, 230, Dayton, Ohio
Hess has been a rock for the Penguins offense in 2013, helping his team out to a 6-1 record as it starts to chip away at the Missouri Valley Conference schedule. Against Illinois State Saturday, the senior threw for a career-best 311 yards on 17-of-21 passing in the Penguins' 59-21 triumph. His career day was accompanied by four passing touchdowns and a fifth score on the ground. Saturday's 300-yard performance was only the second time Hess has thrown for more than 300 yards in a game, but the 22nd time in his career he's gone over the 200-yard mark, which is a program record. He's thrown for four touchdowns in a game six times.
CO-DEFENSIVE PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Davis Tull, Chattanooga, DL, Jr., 6-3, 240, Knoxville, Tenn.
Tull was a monster on the defensive line for the Mocs on Saturday, helping his defense hold Furman to 189 yards of offense. Tull recorded five total tackles, highlighted by 3.5 sacks, and had two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. The junior has 23 sacks in his collegiate career at Chattanooga, and is a half sack shy of tying Josh Williams for the program's all-time record. After his performance Saturday, Tull ranks second in the Southern Conference with 5.5 sacks.
Justin Blake, Hampton, DB, Sr., 6-0, 185, Piscataway, N.J.
The winless Pirates are no longer winless, thanks to a standout defensive performance spearheaded by Blake, the senior defensive back. Blake notched 14 total tackles in his team's 31-26 win over Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference foe North Carolina A&T. He also recorded one huge interception that was returned 64 yards and led to a Pirates touchdown. He was one of four Hampton defensive players to record double-digit tackles Saturday.
SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Tim Divers, Lehigh, P, Sr., 5-10, 180, Wayne, N.J.
Believe it or not, but 24 points is the lowest single-game total Lehigh has scored this season. So punting isn't something the Mountain Hawks do a ton of from week to week, although Divers was on point against Columbia Saturday. The senior averaged 45.8 yards on four punts in his team's win, twice pinning the Lions inside their own 20-yard line. One of those punts - a 64-yarder - was downed at Columbia's 1-yard line. Divers also had a boot of 51 yards Saturday, while just one of his four kicks was returned.
FRESHMAN OF THE WEEK
R.J. Noel, Sacred Heart, QB, R-Fr. 6-1, 190, Lowell, Mass.
The Pioneers rebounded from their first loss of the season a week ago to trounce Northeast Conference rival Central Connecticut State, 59-36. Noel, who has won the quarterback job outright, led the charge, throwing for 297 yards and four touchdowns Saturday, adding a rushing touchdown in the first quarter. Noel's five total touchdowns are the most by an NEC player this season, while his 310 all-purpose yards represent the second-highest total by a player in an in-conference NEC game in 2013.