October 3, 2012

Pioneers Look for Two-Straight Hosting Wagner

SACRED HEART (1-3, 1-1 NEC) VS. WAGNER (2-3, 2-1 NEC)

Game 05 * Fairfield, CT * 1:00 pm * Campus Field

TV:  CPTV Sports

Video * Live Stats

Game Notes

Setting the Scene...  Fresh off a 34-21 "Homecoming" win over Northeast Conference rival Central Connecticut State, the Sacred Heart Pioneers are right back at home playing host to the Wagner College Seahawks on Saturday.  The Pioneers snapped a three-game skid and delivered interim head coach Mark Nofri his first win beating NEC rival CCSU.  After opening their season 0-3, Wagner has picked-up a pair of wins the last two weeks, beating CCSU, 31-13, and Bryant, 31-21.

Series Notes...  This will be the 15th meeting between the Pioneers and Seahawks with the all-time series knotted at seven wins apiece.

- The series has been dominated by the home team.  The two schools have alternated wins on their home turf every season since 2002.

- SHU is 6-1 all-time on Campus Field against Wagner.

- Wagner posted a 40-8 win on Campus Field in the first ever meeting between the two schools in 1998, their only win on Campus Field

- There have been two overtime games played between SHU and Wagner, both Pioneer wins at home (2002 - 10-7 / 2004 - 30-24).

Pioneers in NEC Play...  The 2012 season marks the 15th season of play in the Northeast Conference for Sacred Heart University. 

- The Pioneers joined the NEC in 1998 for football.

- SHU holds a 42-53 all-time NEC record.

- The Pioneers won the 2001 NEC Championship with a perfect 8-0 record. 

- SHU is coming off 6th (t) place finish in 2011 with a 3-5 mark.

- The Pioneers were picked to finish 8th in the 2012 NEC Preseason Coaches' Poll

The Head Coaches...  The Pioneers will be lead by interim head coach Mark Nofri in 2012.  Beginning his 19th season as a member of the Pioneers coaching staff, Nofri is the longest tenured coach in Sacred Heart program history.  He will lead the team with Head Coach Paul Gorham on medical leave.  Nofri is also the long time linebackers coach for the Pioneers, turning out several All-Conference and All-American linebackers including Jayson Jarrett '01, Kayode Mayowa '02, Craig Capurso '02, Jon Corto '06 and Chris Mandas '11.  Walt Hameline is in his 32nd season as the Athletic Director and Head Football Coach at Wagner College.  Hameline is one of just eight active FCS coaches to win 200 games.  Back on September 15th, Wagner College officially renamed their football field Hameline Field, in honor of the long-time athletic director and head coach.

Up Next...  The Pioneers are back out on the road to wrap-up the non-conference portion of their schedule next Saturday with a trip to Dartmouth College.  This will be the third meeting between the Pioneers and Big Green.  Dartmouth beat the Pioneers 21-19 at home in 2010.  Last season, rookie running back Keshaudas Spence ran for a career-high 129 yards to lead SHU to a 24-21 "Homecoming" win over the Big Green.

PIONEER POINTS

- The Pioneers avoided an 0-4 start to their season with a 34-21 win over NEC rival Central Connecticut last Saturday.  SHU started 0-4 three times in program history (1992, 1999, 2009).  The Pioneers improved to 10-3 on "Homecoming Weekend" with the win.

- The win marked the first for interim head coach Mark Nofri, who is in his first season at the helm but 19th with the SHU program.

 - Sophomore running back Keshaudas Spence needed just 10 carries to run for 123 yards and a score in leading the Pioneer rushing attack (174 yds) against CCSU.  It was the Pioneers second best running day this season, rushing for 175 yds at Morgan State.

- Spence came in to the game with 49 yards on the ground this season and nearly matched that mark on one play with a career-long 48 yard second quarter run that helped set up a SHU score.  Spence busted open the game and gave the Pioneers a 21-3 lead with a 34-yard rumble for six, his first score of the 2012 season, also in the second quarter.

- R-Junior Luke Wischnowski was called into action for starter Tim Little (illness) and led the SHU offense on five scoring drives.  He had last saw action in the 2011 season opener against Marist College (15-29-1, 136 yds, sacked 3x). 

- Wischnowski threw his first career touchdown in last week's win, finding Rock Tate on a 15-yard score.

- The SHU defensive unit currently ranks third in total defense, allowing 348.8 yards per game.  SHU has the fourth ranked rushing defense, giving up 162.0 yards per game.  The Pioneers are second in the league with nine sacks through four games.

- Junior linebacker Justin Sexton continues to pile up the tackles and leads the NEC averaging 10.5 stops per game.  Sexton had 12 tackles last Saturday and has posted double digit tackles in two of the four games this season.  Of his 42 tackles, 31 have been solo stops.

- R-Senior defensive end Tyler Foehr is off to a monster start.  The Preseason All-NEC pick has 41 tackles on the season ranking second to only Sexton in the NEC rankings.  Foehr has 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble.

- Sexton ranks tied for 22nd nationally in tackles per game while Foehr is tied for 29th.

- RSophomore J.D. Roussel scored his first career touchdown, taking an interception back 34 yards for six.  It was Roussel's fourth career interception.  The Pioneer defense had three picks in the win.

- On special teams, Tyler Foehr has blocked a pair of field goals and an extra point this season.  R-Sophomore wide receiver Robert Dim blocked a pair of punts in the loss at Colgate.

- Senior running back Kevin Eckel is ranked second in the NEC in kick return average this season.  Eckel has 10 returns for 248 yards, a 24.8 average per return.  His long of 49 yards came this past weekend vs. CCSU.  He currently ranks 35th among NCAA leaders.

- Offensively, the Pioneers have struggled on third down and in the red zone, ranking last in both categories among NEC teams.  SHU is converting just 28.1% (16-57) on third downs this season and have scored on just nine of their 16 trips into the red zone this season (56.2%).

AROUND THE NEC

- The Albany Great Danes and Duquesne Dukes sit atop the Northeast Conference standings at 2-0.  The Great Danes passed an early season test last weekend sprinting past a stout Monmouth Hawk team, 55-24.  The Dukes head into their bye week fresh off a 24-21 win over Saint Francis (PA).  Both teams finished the 2011 season at 7-1, sharing the NEC crown.  They are scheduled to face-off on Saturday, November 11th in Pittsburgh.

- The Great Danes win over Monmouth marked the 250th victory in the program's history. In 40 seasons of varsity football, UAlbany owns a 250-158 record.

- The Robert Morris Colonials broke into the win column last week and in the process dealt Lafayette it's first loss of 2012.  The Colonials beat the Leopards, 31-28, and snapped a three-game NEC losing streak against the Patriot League this season.  The Patriot League holds a 4-2 edge in the season series with the NEC with two games left; Wagner vs. Holy Cross on November 10th and Bryant vs. Bucknell on November 17th.

- NEC TV will move out of Connecticut and into Rhode Island this weekend to broadcast the Albany at Bryant game.  The Bulldogs were the only team to beat Albany in league play last season, winning 31-17 on the road.  Saturday's game will feature a pair of the NEC's top rushers in Albany's Drew Smith (82 att/501 yds) and Bryant's Jordan Brown (115 att/455 yds).