SACRED HEART (2-6, 1-4 NEC) VS. BRYANT (2-6, 2-4 NEC)
Game 09 * Smithfield, RI * Bulldog Stadium * 1:00 pm
Setting the Scene... Sacred Heart opens the month of November with a road trip to newest Northeast Conference member Bryant on Saturday afternoon. The Pioneers are coming off a near upset of #20 ranked Albany last Saturday, falling 23-20 in the closing minutes of the game. SHU closes the season with games against the three teams joining them at the bottom of the NEC standings. After heading to Bryant, the Pioneers return home to host Robert Morris and end the year at Saint Francis (PA). The Bulldogs had their bye last week but come in having won two-straight after an 0-6 start to their season. Bryant owns a pair of three-point victories over Robert Morris, 38-35, and Monmouth, 27-24.
Series Notes... Saturday's match-up is the sixth meeting between SHU and Bryant.
- The Pioneers hold a 3-2 lead in the all-time series.
- This will be just the second trip to Smithfield for the Pioneers in the series.
- Sacred Heart's last trip to Bryant saw the Bulldogs erase a 24-7 deficit in the fourth quarter to come away with a 25-24 win
- SHU won the first three meetings in the series, but Bryant has taken the last two.
- The two teams met for the first time in 1998 and again in 2000 but not again until 2009 when Bryant began the transition to Division I.
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 42-56 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. Marty Fine is in his ninth season as the head coach at Bryant University. Fine is the winningest coach in Bulldog football history with 55 wins coming into Saturday's game. He has guided the program's transition to the Division I level since 2008, posting 28 wins over that time.
Up Next... The Pioneers will be back on Campus Field for the final home game of the 2012 season next Saturday when they host the Robert Morris Colonials on "Senior Day". The two teams have split their 14 previous meetings. SHU went out to Moon Township last fall and came away with a 27-15 win. Their last win in Fairfield over the Colonials came in 2008, 31-28.
- The Pioneers pushed #20 Albany to the brink before falling 23-20 to the Great Danes. SHU has now lost 11-straight to Albany, their longest losing streak against any team in the NEC.
- SHU head coach Mark Nofri made a switch at quarterback last week, giving r-junior Luke Wischnowski the nod. Wischnowski responded by tossing three touchdowns in the loss. Wischnowski has started twice this season, earning a win over Central Connecticut State and falling to the nationally ranked Great Danes.
- vs. CCSU - 12-16, 86 yds, 1 TD, 1 Int. *started the gm 11-for-11
- vs. Albany - 24-43, 239 yds, 3 TD, 3 Int. *all career-high numbers
- After being held without a catch in the loss at Duquesne, senior wide receiver Rock Tate hauled in four passes for a season-high 92 yards and two scores against Albany. Tate caught a 30-yard touchdown and a 35-yard touchdown against the Great Danes.
- Tate leads the Pioneers with 22 catches for 306 yards and four touchdowns in 2012. He is averaging 13.9 yards per catch.
- Sophomore wide out Robert Dim scored a pair of touchdowns through the first three games this season but was held scoreless in four-straight before a 23-yard scoring catch against Albany.
- The Pioneers have had a least one sack in each game this season and lead the NEC and are ranked 11th in the NCAA with 23 quarterback dumps this season. The Pioneers had a season-high five sacks against Wagner and have had at least three sacks in each of the last four games.
- R-junior Chaz Partosan is second in the NEC and is tied for 14th in the NCAA rankings with 6.5 sacks on the year. R-Senior Tyler Foehr is tied for 25th in the NCAA with 5.5 sacks. He ranks 34th in the NCAA with 10.0 tackles for a loss.
- Junior inside linebacker Justin Sexton is second in the NEC and is 18th nationally averaging 10.5 tackles per game. He has 84 total tackles, 55 have been solo stops. The SHU record for unassisted tackles in a season is 75 by Kayode Mayowa (1999).
- Sexton has six of the Pioneers 15 turnovers on defense this season. He has a team-leading three interceptions and three fumble recoveries. Last week against Albany, Sexton had a sack / fumble adding to his team leading totals.
- The Sacred Heart defense climbed the NEC rankings and is among the leaders in several categories. .
- Ranked 1st in sacks (23) and red zone defense (23-24 / 67.6% / 15 TD/8FG)
- Ranked 2nd in pass defense (167.5 ypg)
- Ranked 3rd in total defense (331.4 ypg)
- Ranked 4th in scoring defense (24.1 ppg)
- Nationally, SHU ranks 28th in total defense, 11th in sacks and 16th in pass defense.
- Offensively, the Pioneers have struggled on third down and in the red zone this season. SHU ranks last in the NEC in both categories, converting 29.8% (34-114)and scoring just 61.5% (16-26) of the time when they get in the red zone.
- SHU ranks last in the NEC in scoring offense (17.8 ppg) and has twice this season been held to just a field goal in a loss (at Duquesne, 35-3; vs. Wagner, 12-3). The last time the Pioneers were held without a touchdown in two or more games in a season came in 2004 when they fell 27-6 at CCSU and 23-6 to Albany. In the history of the program, the Pioneers are 2-57 when scoring less than 10 points in a game.
- Sophomore running back Keshaudas Spence had just 49 yards rushing through the first three games of the season but has flipped the script and has churned out 487 yards on 78 carries (6.2 ypc) with four scores since. Spence is now ninth in the NEC in rushing and is first among the league's rushers averaging 5.7 yards per carry.
Spence 2012 Game by Game
vs. Morgan State - 7 att, 23 yds, 0 TD vs. Wagner - 12 att, 72 yds, 0 TD
vs. Colgate - 6 att, 18 yds, 0 TD vs. Dartmouth - 19 att, 138 yds, 3 TD
vs. Monmouth - 3 att, 8 yds, 0 TD vs. Duquesne - 17 att, 69 yds, 0 TD
vs. CCSU - 10 att, 123 yds, 1 TD vs. Albany - 20 att, 85 yds, 0 TD
- Spence would love to see Dartmouth on the SHU schedule every season. As a rookie, he had 129 yards and two touchdowns in a win over the Big Green at home. Spence totalled a career-high 138 yards and scored three times to lead SHU to a 27-10 win.
- At the end of preseason camp, seniors Tyler Foehr, Rock Tate and Niko Sierra were elected team captains by their teammates.
Around the NEC...
- The Albany Great Danes avoided a scare coming away with a 23-20 win at Sacred Heart last weekend. Despite the close call, the Great Danes continued to climb up the national rankings this week. UAlbany moved up to #18 in the FCS Coaches Poll and jumped four spots to #20 in this week's The Sports Network Top-25 Media Poll. This is the highest ranking the Great Danes have ever had in either poll in program history. The 7-1 and 5-0 Great Danes host Wagner College this Saturday.
- The Wagner Seahawks carry a 5-1 NEC mark into their meeting with Albany this Saturday. After opening 0-3 capped by a loss to Monmouth, the Seahawks have rattled off five-straight wins and with a win over the Great Danes can put themselves right in the NEC title hunt.
- This week's NEC awards - Rob Hollomon accomplished something that only former Blue Devil Justise Hairston was able to accomplish during his time in the NEC. For the second week in a row, Hollomon exceeded the 200-yard rushing mark against a conference foe, and his 287 total yards from scrimmage against Saint Francis (PA) were enough to earn him the NEC Offensive Player of the Week award. The defensive honor went to Albany linebacker Jon Morgan whose two interceptions held the Great Danes remain unbeaten in NEC play. The week's top special teams player was Wagner's Otis Wright for a second time this season. Helping the Seahawks move to 5-1 in the NEC, Wright returned the opening kickoff against Robert Morris 90 yards for a touchdown. Central Connecticut's Nick SanGiacomo is the NEC Rookie of the Week after coming off the bench and sparking the Blue Devils' attack during the 32-30 triumph over the Red Flash.