Mike Nebrich has put up some scary numbers, and were he the starting quarterback of a 10-1 conference champion in, say, the SEC or Big 10, his name and that of the Heisman Trophy would have spent much of this season – and last – running as a tandem. But when your conference is the Patriot League and your school is located in the Bronx and not many people south and west of the George Washington Bridge would be familiar with your statistical feats, well, you get the idea.
The Fordham University senior hasn’t worked in complete anonymity. Just don’t look for him on any magazine covers.
“I think he’s a really good player ,” said Army coach Jeff Monken, whose team will host the Rams Saturday at Michie Stadium. “He’s certainly done a lot for them. He stands in the pocket with a lot of poise and delivers the ball on the money. He has a strong arm and he’s an athletic kid. When you’re playing a team with player like that, it’s certainly a big challenge.”
Big challenge. That’s probably putting it mildly. As Army prepares for its final home game of the season before its annual head to head with Navy, Nebrich is certainly occupying a rather significant part of the Army coaching staff’s time. His stats have been downright amazing. And this despite missing two mid-season games after undergoing an emergency appendectomy Oct. 28 and half of last week’s game against Georgetown with a knee contusion. Before that, he was the surgeon. His right arm a scalpel. And he’s been cutting up defenses with precision.
He was the league’s preseason choice as offensive player of the year, and he’s done nothing to make that prediction unwarranted. Prior to his surgery, Fordham was second in the FCS in passing offense. Individually, Nebrich was second in the FCS in passing yards, third in passing touchdowns and the leader of a team that was averaging 44 points per game. He had also been on a hot streak, throwing for 1,886 yards, 18 touchdowns and just one interception in the Rams’ previous four games. Obviously, his absence in two games and part of a third has put a nick in what is already a school-record-breaking career.
Ready for some numbers? Last season, he completed a mind-numbing 73.5 percent of his passes for 4,380 yards and 35 touchdowns. He also rushed for 513 yards and nine touchdowns. His total offensive production per game was an FCS nation-leading 376.4 yards per game. He was also ranked in the top five in passing yards per game, passing efficiency and points responsible for per game. He led the Rams to an 11-0 record. In a 32-30 victory over Holy Cross, he passed for a school record 524 yards.
This season, despite missing 2½ games, he has passed for 2,663 yards yards and 22 touchdowns. Included was another school record, this time 566 yards passing and six touchdowns in a 60-22 victory over Penn.
On one NFL draft website, he’s listed as the 64th best quarterback prospect out of 114. Obviously, playing on a non-national FCS program against opponents in the Patriot League is going to compromise a player’s rankings. He will surely be invited to some pre-draft tryouts where his skills will be judged against players who have likely spent much of their careers on ESPN.
In the short term, he will be facing an Army team that has allowed an average of just under 35 points per game, including a season-worst 52 in last week’s loss to Western Kentucky. The last time Army played Fordham was in 2011, when the Black Knights won 55-0. Don’t expect a similar score this time around.
“They are the No. 5 defense in FCS football, which is really impressive,” Monken said. “Less than 20 points per game [allowed] and they average more than 43 points per game and over 500 yards of offense per game. That is a lot of yards in a football game and they have a lot of strengths.”
The guy behind the center being the predominant one.