SETTING THE SCENE
The Sacred Heart football team takes to the road looking to rebound with a victory over Robert Morris after having a four game winning streak snapped last weekend versus Monmouth. The Pioneers are 2-0 on the road this season entering Saturday's clash with the Colonials, which marks the longest scheduled road trip of the 2011 campaign. SHU was unable to overcome some key turnovers last time out and dropped a 31-17 decision to perennial league power Monmouth. The Sacred Heart offense is averaging over 34 points per game in its last five outings and now boasts the second ranked passing attack in the Northeast Conference. Robert Morris is attempting to avoid a three-game slide after falling to Albany, 28-17, and Bryant, 40-35, in back-to-back weeks.
THE SACRED HEART vs. ROBERT MORRIS SERIES
The Pioneers narrowly trail the all-time series against the Colonials, which stands at 7-6. However, RMU has claimed two straight victories and have won four of the last five meetings. Each of the last three tilts between the two programs have been decided by one possession. Sacred Heart last defeated Robert Morris at home, 31-28, in 2008.
MANDAS IN THE MIDDLE
Sacred Heart middle linebacker Chris Mandas (Mission Viejo, CA) continued his impressive 2011 campaign with a season high 16 tackles against Monmouth. The senior captain ranks second in the Northeast Conference with 74 tackles in 2011 and is tied with teammate Justin Embler (Cinnaminson, NJ) for the league lead in tackles for a loss, averaging 1.57 per game. Mandas has been especially dominant in conference outings, recording double-digit tackles in all four NEC games while averaging 13.0 tackles in those contests.
THE PASSING ATTACK IS BACK
The season started with questions regarding the SHU offense, including a new signal caller, and whether they would again showcase what has become a trademark aerial attack. Quarterback Tim Little (Egg Harbor Twp., NJ) and the Pioneer receiving core have answered the challenge and now ranks second in the league, posting 239.3 passing yards per game. The offense has showed improvement all season and is averaging almost 260 yards through the air in its last five games. Rich Rossi (Moosic, PA) has become a favorite target of Little, hauling in five TD passes this season. Last time out it was Jo Jo Jamiel (West Yarmouth, MA) who led the way with a season high nine receptions.
ROGER'S RIGHT FOOT
Red-shirt freshman place kicker Chris Rogers (Cazenovia, NY) drilled a 34-yard field against Monmouth that cut the Hawks lead to just one score in the fourth quarter. Rogers has started his career a perfect nine-for-nine on field goal attempts, including five boots from outside of the 30 yards. Rogers is flirting with the SHU record for best field goal percentage in a season, set by Greg Tonzola's 12-for-15 campaign in 2003.
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 (10/25):
On the Monmouth Game: "They keyed on Greg (Moore) and Keshaudas (Spence) and forced us into doing more a little bit more throwing than we wanted to. But all said and done, we were ahead with six minutes to go in the third quarter, we had the ball, we had a key turnover and we were never able to recover after that."
On Chris Mandas: "He prepares very well every week and studies hard in the film room. He's physical capable, great drive, great motivation and the kids feed off of him."
On Robert Morris: "Quite honestly, I think everyone is looking forward to it. We've been here all year, since August 7, practicing on our own field. The two away games we had were day trips. We've played well on the road and hopefully we can continue to do that."
PLAYING THE CHAMPS
Sacred Heart will also be attempting to end an eight game slide against defending Northeast Conference champions. Robert Morris claimed the 2010 NEC crown with an 8-3 overall record and a 7-1 mark in the conference. The Pioneers are 1-11 all-time when facing the NEC's defending champion. That one victory came in 2001 as SHU defeated the Colonials en route to the Division I Mid-Major National Championship.
BECOMING ROAD WARRIORS
The Pioneers are a perfect 2-0 on the road this season and with a victory in Moon Township, PA on Saturday would surpass their 2010 win total away from home. It would also mark the first time a SHU team has won three straight road game since 2008 when the Pioneers knocked off Iona, Marist, Saint Francis (PA), and Duquesne. Both Sacred Heart wins on the road were big ones as the Pioneers defeated CCSU for the first time in seven years as well as going 2-0 versus the Ivy League overall with a win at Columbia.
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 moved to 8-0 on the season in a win over Wagner, surviving an early scare from the Seahawks before pulling away late. Wagner scored the first 17 points of the contest but the Pioneers rattled off 31 straight points and shutout the Seahawks in the second and third quarters. The turning point of the game came on a Kiheme Cowan 85-yard kick-off return to the house to change the momentum and eventually allow Sacred Heart to continue its march towards a perfect season.
SHU IN THE NEC
The Pioneers are playing in their 14th season in the Northeast Conference this fall. SHU holds a 40-50 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 2010 with a 2-6 conference mark.
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.
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.