Sacred Heart Pioneers (1-4, 0-3 Northeast Conference) vs. Bryant Bulldogs (3-2, 0-2 Northeast Conference)
Game #6 - Saturday, October 9, 2010 - 1:00 pm - Smithfield, R.I. - Bulldog Stadium (3,400)
Setting the Scene... Sacred Heart will make their first trip to Bryant University this weekend as they look to end a four-game losing skid taking on the Bulldogs. The Pioneers and Bulldogs are still searching for their first Northeast Conference wins on the year, coming in a combined 0-5 on the year. Since scoring 28 and 31 points in their first two games, the Pioneer offense has averaged just 11.0 points over their last three contests. Bryant comes in off a pair of road conference losses at Central Connecticut State and Wagner but return to Bulldog Stadium where they have yet to lose this season. SHU is coming off their sixth-straight loss to the CCSU Blue Devils last week where they were held scoreless in the second half en route to the 24-14 loss.
The Sacred Heart - Bryant Series... The Pioneers lead the all-time series, 2-0. Sacred Heart and Bryant, who will be a full-time member of the NEC in 2012-13, renewed the series last season, as SHU posted a 24-14 win over the Bulldogs on Campus Field. The two teams met for the first time during the 2000 season, a 19-15 win for Sacred Heart, also at home. The two schools did take the field against each other during the 1998 season, a 42-28 SHU win. The Bulldogs were still considered at club status in 1998, their first year of organized football.
SHU in the NEC... The Pioneers are in their 13th season of play in the Northeast Conference this fall. SHU holds a 37-51 record in NEC competition since joining the league in 1998. The Pioneers won their only league championship during the 2001 campaign, finishing a perfect 8-0. SHU finished second to Robert Morris in 2000, going 7-1 in the league. The Pioneers are coming off a seventh place finish in 2009 with a 2-6 conference mark.
Up Next... The Pioneers make the trip out to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania next weekend to take on the Duquesne University Dukes in a Northeast Conference match-up. Kick-off is scheduled for 12 noon.
The Head Coaches... Sacred Heart head coach Paul Gorham (New Hampshire '84) is in his seventh season on the Pioneer sideline. Gorham was named the school's seventh head coach in June of 2004 and owns a 26-42 record in his seven year career. Prior to becoming the Pioneer's head coach, Gorham had stops at UMass, Brown, New Haven and his alma mater New Hampshire. Bryant head coach Marty Fine (Western New Mexico '85) is in his seventh season on the Bulldog sidelines. After guiding the Bulldogs to back-to-back conference championships and NCAA playoff appearances in 2006 and 2007, Fine led the Bulldogs into their first season of Division I play in the fall of 2008 and posted an impressive 7-4 record overall. He has led Bryant to a 42-26 record in his seven seasons. Fine had assistant coaching stops at Iowa State, Indiana, Colgate and Indiana State.
Last Meeting with Bryant... Sacred Heart got 109 yards rushing from Marcel Archer and a pair of touchdown passes from quarterback Dale Fink while pitching a second half shutout on the way to a 24-14 win over Bryant last November. Pioneer linebackers Michael Zambarano and Chris Mandas had a game-high 11 tackles and a sack each to lead the defensive charge in snapping a three-game losing streak. The Pioneers struck first, taking the opening kickoff and marching 71 yards in 13 plays, capped by a Jason Plescow field goal. After a pair of three-and-outs, the Bryant offense found its stride at the end of the first quarter, putting together a seven play drive that ended with a Mike Canfora score from two yards out with 14:22 to go in the second quarter. The Pioneers answered right back with a quick-strike five-play drive as Fink went to work, completing three-straight passes on the drive culminating with a pump-and-go hook-up to Steve Tedesco from 30-yards out for the score and a 10-7 lead. The Pioneers next possession again resulted in seven-points as Archer ripped off a 49-yard rush on the first play and then carried it seven-straight times before plowing in from the one-yard line for a 17-7 lead with 4:51 to go before the half. The Bulldogs faced a fourth-and-10 with just over a minute left before half and quarterback Mike Croce came up with a big play, stepping up into the pocket to hit Khalel Pritchard in stride over the middle for six. The second half belonged to the SHU defense as the Pioneers kept the Bulldogs off the scoreboard, coming up with three sacks, an interception and forcing a pair of turnovers on downs to secure the win. SHU scored the only points of the second half as Fink completed five-of-five on an eight play, 75 yard drive, capped by hitting Rich Rossi for the score with 8:00 to play in the third quarter. Fink finished the day 19-of-32 for 175 yards and two touchdowns.
Last Time Out... The Central Connecticut State Blue Devils turned in 264 yards rushing and kept Sacred Heart off the scoreboard in the second half en route to a 24-14 win over the Pioneers last week on Campus Field. The Pioneers were held to just 98 yards of offense in the second half as they drop their fourth-straight and fall to 0-3 in the NEC. SHU quarterback Dale Fink finished 20-of-34 in the loss, throwing for 185 yards and a first quarter touchdown to running back Marcel Archer. Archer ran of 70 yards on 20 carries and added a rushing score to account for all the Pioneer points. Central's Everette Benjamin ran for 127yards on 24 carries and put the stamp on the Blue Devil win with a three-yard score late in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Gunnar Jespersen threw for 75 yards and ran for 71 more. Eric Richardson ran for 67 yards on 10 carries and scored on a 20-yard scamper in the second quarter. The Pioneers grabbed the early lead, taking the opening kickoff and marching 72 yards ending with a Fink pass over the middle to Archer on a third-and-seven play for the score. CCSU answered with points on their opening drive with a Joe Izzo 33-yard field goal followed by Richardson's run for a 10-7 with 9:05 left in the half. The Blue Devils went to their bag of tricks on their next possession for another six points. Following a 23-yard scamper by Benjamin on third and six, CCSU ran a reverse pass with wideout Devan Baker hitting Richie Martin 39-yards down the field, wide open for six and a 17-7 lead with 4:26 left in the half. Fink got the offense going and answered just before the team would go to the locker room, orchestrating an eight-play drive capped by an Archer one-yard plunge. The second half belonged to Central Connecticut as the Blue Devil defense took over, holding the Pioneers to just one of eight on third down and 10 yards rushing. The Pioneers had an opportunity to tie the game at 17-17 early in the fourth quarter but came up short on a field goal miss. The Blue Devils put the game out of reach with an 11-play drive capped by Benjamin's three yard score with 3:12 left. The CCSU defense turned the Pioneers over on downs on their last possession and was able to run the clock out for the win. Defensively, SHU got a game-high 12 tackles from linebacker Chris Mandas, eight solo and one for a loss.
Rossi Among NEC's Top Receivers... Junior Rich Rossi is tied for second in the NEC in receptions and ranks fourth in receiving yards on the year. Rossi has hauled in a team-leading 26 passes, averaging 5.20 catches per game. His 304 yards also leads the team, producing an 11.7 yard per catch average as well as 60.8 yards per game receiving.
Two Pioneers Return to the Field... last week's game against Central Connecticut State saw the return of a pair of Pioneers to the lineup for the first time in 2010. On the offensive side of the ball, senior wideout Tony Patterson, a three-year starter, made his debut against CCSU after missing the first four games with an injury. Patterson finished with five catches for 34 yards in his first action of the season. On the defensive side, r-freshman Jeff Keffer returned from a preseason injury as well and picked up a tackle in his first collegiate action. Keffer entered preseason camp as a potential starter along the defensive line and now brings added depth to the unit.
Mandas in the Middle... Junior Inside Linebacker Chris Mandas is tied for 11th in the NEC in tackles with a team-high 36 stops on the year. Mandas is coming off a season-high 12 tackles, eight solo, in last week's loss to CCSU.