September 6, 2011

A Look Back - 10th Anniversary of Sacred Heart Football's 11-0 Season

CELEBRATING THE 10-YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF SACRED HEART'S NATIONAL TITLE

Week 1 - Sacred Heart at Central Connecticut State

Final Stats - SHU 41 - CCSU 21

    The 2011 season marks the 10th anniversary of the Pioneers perfect 11-0 season that resulted in a Northeast Conference Championship and the NCAA Division I-AA Mid-Major National Championship. As we make our way through the 2011 campaign, each week we will take a look back and revisit the Pioneers historical run through the 2001 season game-by-game.

   The 2001 Sacred Heart Pioneers were coming off a 10-1 campaign in 2000 and under second-year head coach Jim Fleming opened the season on the road against NEC foe Central Connecticut State on September 8th.  The Pioneers, who finished the season second in the nation in scoring offense (40.9), scored 30 or more points in every game and opened the season with a 41-21 victory over the rival Blue Devils.

     "Going into that season, we knew we were pretty talented," said associate head coach Mark Nofri, who coached the linebackers that season.  "Coming of a 10-1 season, which was one of the biggest turnarounds in college football that year after going 2-9, we had a lot of returning juniors and seniors."

     "The one thing about that group was their resiliency.  They were hungry for a championship and they worked their butts off to get it.  They wanted it."

     SHU exploded for 20 points in the third quarter, and had a pair of defensive touchdowns and a special team's score in the win.  Safety Blake Neri had a 45-yard interception return for six and defensive end Shaun Hubbard returned a fumble 20-yards for a touchdown in the opening seconds of the second half.  Kiheme Cowan gave the Pioneers a 28-10 lead in the third quarter blocking a punt and recovering it for the score.  Hubbard also collected two of SHU's five sacks as the defense caused four turnovers and held CCSU to just 84 yards rushing. 

Defensive Back Blake Neri

     On offense, quarterback J.J. Holtfreter threw for 166 yards, connecting three times with DeVeren Johnson including a 36-yard score.  Running back Marvin Royal had 74 yards rushing and a touchdown.

     "We had a bad taste in our mouths after losing that one game the year before (Robert Morris).  We got a taste of winning that year going 10-1, so we knew going into that first game we knew had the talent and were excited to get the season started.  We went up to Central Connecticut and had a pretty good win, I think we had the starters out late in the third quarter."

 
Defensive Back Kiheme Cowan

   The Pioneers were scheduled to host Canisius in Week 2 for their home opener on September 15th but the game was cancelled due to the events of September 11th, 2001.  SHU would next take the field on September 22nd at defending NEC Champion Robert Morris. 

     "A week later 9/11 happened and we had to cancel the Canisius game.  The first game after 9/11 was out in Pittsburgh against Robert Morris, the only team to beat us in 2010.  The guys were so geared up and had that one marked on their calendars.  After 9/11, it was a different feel but our team went out and were ready to go."

 

Next Week:  We revisit the Pioneers showdown with the Colonials, a key win that helped springboard the rest of the season.

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