Sept. 5, 2009
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FAIRFIELD, CT (September 5, 2009) - The Marist Red Foxes returned a pair of Sacred Heart interceptions for touchdowns and held the Pioneer offense to just one-for-five on fourth down attempts in knocking off the Pioneers 31-12 in the 2009 season opener for both teams on Campus Field Saturday night. Marist sophomore cornerback Jaquan Bryant picked-off SHU junior quarterback Dale Fink (Swansea, IL) twice for touchdowns, once to open the scoring and again to finish it as the Pioneers drop their season opener for the first time since 2006.
Marist (1-0, 0-0 Pioneer League) showed solid balance on offense, running for 138 yards and throwing for 217 yards led by senior quarterback Chris Debowski who completed 14-of-20 including a 43-yard score to fellow senior wide out James LaMacchia. LaMacchia hauled in eight catches for 153 yards on the night while senior running back O'Neil Anderson picked-up 81 yards rushing on 18 carries to lead the Red Fox backfield.
"As ugly as it was, we still had chances," stated SHU head coach Paul Gorham. "We didn't convert on fourth down and you can't turn it over and give them touchdowns. We gave them 14 points just throwing the ball to them. "
The Pioneers (0-1, 0-0 NEC) opened the game forcing a Marist punt after an eight-play drive but on the first offensive play of the series, Fink fired the ball into the right flat where Bryant was waiting for the pick-six from 12-yards out. On the ensuing drive, SHU used six-straight runs by sophomore Garry Coles (Southington, CT) and senior Brian Friedman (Point Pleasant, NJ) to march to the Marist 44 before the 10-play drive fizzled out on a fourth-and-four incompletion.
The Red Fox offense drove to the SHU 27-yard line on their next possession before a sack of Debowski by junior Brian Flumere (Milford, MA) and a fumble forced the team to settle for a 46-yard field goal attempt. Junior Kevin Pauly hit his attempt well and just cleared the cross bar for a 10-0 lead with 14:05 to go in the second quarter. The SHU offense finally seemed to click on the ensuing drive as Fink engineered a 10 play drive he finished off with a 12-yard scamper for six. R-Sophomore Matt Fisher's (Greenlawn, NY) extra point attempt went wide to leave the Pioneers down 10-6.
After the two teams traded possessions with a Marist fumble and a SHU punt, the Red Foxes used a big play through the air to take a 17-6 lead just before the half. Debowski worked his team's offense down the field to the Pioneer 43-yard line and then hit LaMacchia down the left sideline where the senior broke at least three tackles on his way to the end zone for the score with 44 ticks left in the half.
"The one that hurt overall was the drive when they went 91 yards with a little over four minutes left in the first half," stated Gorham. "We settled in and made it 10-6 but then they went 91 yards and all the sudden 10 turns into 17."
The Pioneer offense continued to struggle opening the second half of play, going three and out on their first possession while failing to convert on three-straight fourth down plays on their next three drives. Marist over came being pinned back at the Pioneer 16-yard line with 5:06 left in the third on one play, a Debowski to LaMacchia 56 yard hook-up that set the Red Foxes up on the SHU 28-yard line. Six plays later, junior fullback Greg Whipple bulled his way in from a yard out for a 24-6 Marist lead with 1:39 left in the quarter.
Fink took the Pioneers down the field on a 10-play, 81 yard drive that ended with a four-yard TD pass to Friedman with 2:42 left. After the two-point try failed, SHU trailed 24-12. The ensuing onside attempt bounced out of bounds but the Pioneers grabbed a bit of late life as a Debowski pass was tipped and picked-off by Flumere with 1:38 on the clock. It took just one play for any hopes of Pioneer miracle to be dashed as Fink was again picked by Bryant in the flat for a 15-yard return for six to ice the win.
The SHU offense finished with 324 yards of total offense but where held to just 87 yards on the ground, averaging just 3.3 yards per rush. The Pioneers finished one of five on fourth down and came up short on two of four scoring chances in the redone.
Fink finished the game 30-of-44 for 237 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions, setting a new career-high and tying the school record for completions in a game (30-Tyler Arciaga vs. Stony Brook 10/21/06). Senior Steve Tedesco (Mission Viejo, CA), who went the entire first half without a catch, finished with six grabs for 79 yards. R-Freshman Jo Jo Jamiel (West Yarmouth, MA) also had six catches for 39 yards.
The Pioneers are back in action next Saturday, September 12th when they travel to the College of Holy Cross to face the Crusaders. Kick-off is scheduled for 1:00 pm.