SETTING THE SCENE
The Pioneers kick-off the 2011 season at home as they take on perennial opponent Marist at Campus Field. The two programs meet in the season opener for the third straight year with the Pioneers taking a 28-25 victory away from Poughkeepsie to start the 2010 campaign. Sacred Heart and Marist both look to start the 2011 season in the win column after posting sub-.500 records last year. The Red Foxes dropped three straight to close out 2010 with a 3-8 mark. The Pioneers wrapped up last season with a home victory over Wagner to complete a 4-7 campaign.
THE SACRED HEART vs. MARIST SERIES
The Pioneers and Red Foxes have met in every season since 2002 with the Pioneers holding a 5-4 advantage in the all-time series. The two teams have been evenly matched over the years with neither side ever winning three straight games. SHU has gotten the better of Marist recently, taking three of the last four meetings. Gregory Ibe rushed for two touchdowns in his first collegiate game as Sacred Heart knocked off the Red Foxes, 28-25, last season. The Pioneers are 2-2 against Marist at Campus Field and hold a 3-2 mark in Poughkeepsie, NY.
Sacred Heart has struggled in season openers, compiling a 7-13 mark in 20 seasons. The Pioneers are 6-7 in openers since joining the Northeast Conference in 1998. SHU is 4-6 when kicking-off the season on the road and 3-7 when starting the year in Fairfield. Sacred Heart has amassed a 3-4 in season openers under current head coach Paul Gorham.
SLATED FOR EIGHTH
The Northeast Conference Coaches Preseason Poll tabbed the 2011 Pioneers to finish eighth in the league's final standings. SHU has defied the preseason poll before, slated for a seventh place finish in 2008 the Pioneers finished the year in a tie for third. The 2010 NEC Co-Champion Central Connecticut State Blue Devils occupy the top spot of the poll and received five of a possible eight first-place votes to become the league's preseason favorite. Duquesne received two first-place nods and sit in second in the poll, one spot ahead of 2010 Co-Champion Robert Morris, which received one first-place vote after representing the NEC in the NCAA Tournament last season.
SHU IN THE NEC
The Pioneers begin their 14th season of play in the Northeast Conference this fall. SHU holds a 38-48 record in NEC competition since joining the league in 1998. The Pioneers won their only league championship during the 2001 campaign, notching a perfect 8-0 record. SHU finished second to Robert Morris in 2000, going 7-1 in the league. The Pioneers are coming off of an eighth place finish in 2009 with a 2-6 conference mark.
MANDAS: PRESEASON ALL-NEC
The Sacred Heart football program has had a tradition of putting standout linebackers on the field and this season that trend will continue. Senior inside linebacker Chris Mandas (Mission Viejo, CA) is a Preseason All-Northeast Conference pick heading into the season and was recently named a team captain for 2011. Mandas has led the team in tackles each of the last two seasons and should crack the top-five all-time at SHU in career tackles (211). He has appeared in all 32 games while at SHU and has started 21-straight games heading into the season. He posted a pair of 12 tackle games in 2010, against Central Connecticut and Monmouth, on his way to 88 stops on the year.
For the first time since the 2007 season, the Sacred Heart Pioneer offense will feature a new man under center this fall. Neither Luke Wischnowski (West Chester, PA) or Tim Little (Egg Harbor Twp., NJ)has yet to take a snap in the a game during the Pioneer careers but all that will change on Saturday, September 3rd against the Marist Red Foxes. The duo split the snaps in last spring's annual Red & White game and put up very similar numbers, the back-and-forth battle continued through preseason camp. Wischnowski is listed as the top quarterback on the depth chart for week one but both QB's could see action early in the year as head coach Paul Gorham looks to find his new permanent signal caller.
A LOOK BACK - THE 10 YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF SHU'S NATIONAL TITLE
The 2001 Sacred Heart Football team finished a perfect 11-0 and claimed the NCAA Division I-AA Mid-Major National Championship. Every week we will recap the Pioneers historical through the 2001 season, going through the 10 year anniversary game-by-game.
SHU's season opener in 2001 was also its NEC opener as the Pioneers rolled to a 41-21 victory over Central Connecticut State. The Blue Devils scored first with a blocked punt return for a touchdown but SHU responded one minute later with a pick-six. Sacred Heart exploded for 20 points in the third quarter, including a blocked punt TD of their own to pull away from CCSU and move to 1-0 on the season.
PAUL GORHAM COACH'S SHOW
Sacred Heart head football coach Paul Gorham sits down with Randy Brochu of the SHU athletic communications department every Tuesday to talk about the team. Fans can watch the Paul Gorham Coach's show via Pioneer Vision on www.SacredHeartPioneers.com or on YouTube. Here are some excerpts from this week's show (8/31):
On Starting the Season at Home: "We are gutting through the grind of camp and into single practices. We are looking forward to getting going and finding out who we are."
On the Quarterback Battle: "Both of those guys (Little and Wischnowski) know the system very well, it's their third year in it. Both have had a really solid fall camp and I've been unable to make a really solid decision. One hasn't lost the position so they will both play on Saturday. They have both earned the right to play."
On New Defensive Coordinator Dave Wissman: "Dave is a guy the kids kind of rally around. They buy into his system and I think we'll play with a lot of emotion."
BUY NOW ON "IBE"
Red shirt sophomore Gregory Ibe made an impact on the SHU running game in 2010. He chewed up 453 net yards on just 79 attempts last season, averaging 5.7 yards per carry. Ibe also ripped off the Pioneers longest run of the season with a 35 yard rush against Dartmouth.
PIONEERS PART OF NEC TV HISTORY
The Northeast Conference 2011 television slate features the Pioneers battling the Bulldogs September 16 on MSG Plus and Cox Sports CT/RI. Sacred Heart's clash with the newest member of the NEC will make history as the first conference football game broadcasted in high definition. The 2011 Northeast Conference television schedule includes five total games and will feature all nine NEC football programs.
SOCIAL MEDIA FRENZY
Make sure you are getting complete coverage of the Sacred Heart Football team through the Pioneers various social media outlets. "Like" Sacred Heart University Pioneers on Facebook, "Follow" @SHUBigRed on Twitter, and "Subscribe" to the SacredHeartAthletics YouTube Channel.
Sacred Heart will wait through its bye week before taking on the Bryant Bulldogs September 16 at Campus Field in a game that will be broadcasted live on MSG Plus and Cox Sports CT/RI.