SHU Football Set For Saturday Homecoming Showdown With Dartmouth

Sean Kessler (L) & Justin Embler (R)

Complete Game Notes (PDF)

SETTING THE SCENE

The Pioneers enter the final match-up of a three game home stand looking for their first win of 2011 Saturday afternoon as Dartmouth invades Campus Field. Plenty of SHU alumni will be on hand to watch the contest as the university hosts its annual homecoming. Sacred Heart was held to only a pair of field goals last week as the Bryant Bulldogs knocked off SHU, 26-6, in the Northeast Conference opener for both sides. The Big Green kicked-off its season last weekend with a 37-20 victory over Colgate at Memorial Field despite up 384 yards of offense to the Red Raiders However, the Dartmouth ground attack rushed for 258 yards and three scores to propel the Big Green to the win.

THE SACRED HEART VS. DARTMOUTH SERIES

The two programs had their inaugural meeting last season in Hanover, NH as the Big Green narrowly came away with a 21-19 triumph. Rich Rossi caught a touchdown pass with 5:29 remaining to pull Sacred Heart within two points. The Pioneers had a chance to post the go ahead score with 44 seconds on the clock but a 38 yard field goal attempt sailed wide left as SHU's comeback effort fell just short.

EMBLER EARNS D-I FCS NATIONAL HONORS

Senior Justin Embler (Cinnaminson, NJ) posted an outstanding performance against the Bulldogs and was named the Division-I FCS National Defensive Lineman of the Week by College Football Performance Awards.  The 6-2 lineman registered a team high 11 tackles, eight solo.  Embler notched numerous big stops, making five tackles for a loss and forcing a fumble in the second half.

LITTLE GETS THE BIG CALL

Tim Little (Egg Harbor Twp., NJ) made his first collegiate start and took every snap against Bryant after splitting time with fellow redshirt-sophomore QB Luke Wischnowski (West Chester, PA) in the Pioneers' opener.  Little completed 16 of 41 passes for 157 yards, including a long strike of 22 yards to senior tight end Rich Rossi (Moosic, PA).  In his collegiate debut Little tallied 85 yards, completing 68.8% of his passes (11-16).

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 last week's show (9/20):

On Turning Around the SHU Offense: "Typically when you're that poor on third and fourth down, as we were, it's a product of how you are on first down.    We haven't been great in the first two games on first down to get us into workable situations.   After watching last week's game I don't think we're off by that much."         

On Tim Little Starting:  "Both the quarterback and the receiver have to identify coverages a little bit better.  It's not a coordination thing, we just have to be a little be more efficient in getting the ball into our receivers hands and letting them make plays."

On Dartmouth:  "They are a very sound football team with a lot of experience.  Certainly on defense they have a lot of juniors and seniors starting.  They also have a dynamic running back along the lines of the kid we played last weekend.  We are going to have to play very well, clean some things up on our end, and stay in the game to try and win it in the fourth quarter."

CLOSING THE DOOR...HALFWAY

The Pioneer defense has pitched a shutout in one half of both of Sacred Heart's first two games of the season.  Sacred Heart held a 7-0 edge heading into the halftime intermission against Marist.  SHU held the Red Foxes to 98 yards in the opening half, including just a net of just three rushing yards.  Last week against Bryant the Sacred Heart defense blanked the Bulldogs over the final thirty minutes of play.  SHU stopped Bryant on seven separate drives in the second half, including a turnover on downs in the red zone.     

HOMECOMING HISTORY LESSON

Sacred Heart's Saturday matinee with Dartmouth takes center stage during the university's 2011 homecoming weekend. The Sacred Heart football team has posted an 8-3 record in games on homecoming weekend since moving to division-I in 1999.  The Pioneers ran off six straight homecoming victories between 2000 and 2006, the 2001 edition of the game was cancelled due to the tragic events of September 11th.  SHU has never lost back-to-back homecoming games and fell to Central Connecticut State last season, 24-14.  Two homecoming games have gone to overtime with the Pioneers knocking off Wagner in double OT, 30-24, in 2004 but fell to Duquesne in the extra session in 2007, 30-23.  In its 11 homecoming football games Sacred Heart has eclipsed 30 points six times and reached the 50 plateau on two occasions.

Homecoming Games

2010 vs. Central CT: L, 24-14
2009 vs. Bryant: W, 24-14
2008 vs. Robert Morris: W, 31-28
2007 vs. Duquesne: L, 30-23 (OT)
2006 vs. Wagner: W, 25-17
2005 vs. Saint Francis (PA): W, 53-45
2004 vs. Wagner: W, 30-24 (2 OT)
2003 vs. Marist: W, 56-28
2002 vs. Robert Morris: W, 34-0
2001 - Cancelled
2000 vs. Iona: W, 46-7
1999 vs. Saint Francis (PA): L, 24-23

SHU IN THE NEC

The Pioneers are playing in their 14th season in the Northeast Conference this fall. SHU holds a 38-49 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.   

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.   

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.

The 2001 Pioneers dominated the third game of the season, trouncing Siena 34-0 on the road.  Five different players scored a touchdown in the rout, moving SHU to 3-0 on the year.  The SHU defense held the Saints offense to a staggering 24 yards of offense for the game.  The shutout was the first of two Sacred Heart clean sheets en route to a national title.            

UP NEXT

The Pioneers take to the road for the first time in 2011 next weekend as they head to New Britain for a clash with the Blue Devils of Central Connecticut State.