ORONO, Me. –The Sacred Heart football team struggled at No. 7 nationally-ranked Maine on Friday night to open the 2019 season, allowing 582 yards on the defensive side in a 42-14 defeat from Alfond Stadium. The Pioneers totaled 207 yards of offense, including just 65 through the first half, as the reigning CAA Champion and FCS national semifinalist Black Bears handled the visitors in SHU's first contest of the season.
SHU's ground game, which led the NEC with a 241.1 yards per game average last season, was largely held in-check by a Maine defense that led the nation in run defense in 2018. The Pioneers gained 115 yards on 33 carries, led by sophomore Julius Chestnut who totaled 52 yards rushing on nine carries. Fifth-year Eli Terry, who suffered a knee injury on the first play from scrimmage that ended his 2018 season, saw the bulk of the work in the fourth quarter, gaining 17 yards and scoring his second career touchdown.
Sophomore Robert O'Donnell led the defense with a game-high eighth total tackles in his first career action. Junior Lamar Evans made six tackles while three Pioneers turned in four apiece. Sophomore Kevin Peprah recorded the game's only sack, the first of his career.
Fifth-year transfer Logan Marchi started at quarterback for SHU and played all but one series, going 12-for-29 for 104 yards and no interceptions against a Maine team that forced 18 last season. Marchi also punched in a one-yard score in the first quarter, good enough for the second rushing score of his collegiate career.
First Quarter (21-7 Maine)
- A poor start for SHU saw Maine score on every offensive possession in the first half
- After a SHU three-and-out to start the game, Maine went 74 yards in six plays to jump out to an early 7-0 lead less than four minutes into play
- The Black Bears followed with their most-impressive drive of the game as five plays turned into 91 yards and a touchdown in just 2:07 of game action
- A near sellout crowd of 7478 came alive as Chris Ferguson unleashed a 68-yard strike to Jaquan Blair that put the Black Bears just four yards from paydirt. On the ensuing play, Joe Fitzpatrick crossed the goal line to make it 21-0 Maine
- With all momentum against them, SHU responded with their most-impressive drive of the game, going 75 yards in eight plays to put an end to the Maine scoring run
- Julius Chestnut keyed the scoring drive early, converting a 3rd-and-8 with a 13-yard scamper to avoid another three-and-out
- Later in the drive, Marchi found Jordan Meachum open underneath as the fifth-year back dove for the end zone only to see his feet touch the sideline at the 1-yard-line
- On the next play, Marchi took the shotgun snap and carried over the left side of the line for the first SHU touchdown of the season and Marchi's first as a Pioneer
TOUCHDOWN! Meachum's 28-yard catch & run leads to a 1-yard score from Marchi...21-7 Maine at the end of 1Q pic.twitter.com/nyddoEnJUF— SHU Football (@SHU__Football) August 30, 2019
Second Quarter (42-7 Maine)
- After breaking through the Maine defense for the first time on the evening, the Pioneers looked to have seized some momentum only to see the Black Bears march right down the field for 82 yards and a fourth straight touchdown
- Maine's defense completely locked down the Pioneer offense in the second quarter, limiting SHU to just 16 yards on 10 plays across three drives
- On the offensive end, the Black Bears scored two more touchdowns, the first of which on a 6-play, 71-yard drive and the last of which came on a 13-play, 70-yard scoring drive that lasted nearly six minutes
Third Quarter (42-7 Maine)
- After struggling with the Maine offense all throughout the first half, SHU's defense held Maine's offense to just eight yards on nine plays in the first two series of the second half, both of which came with the Black Bears' starters still on the field
- A total of five first downs combined came in the third quarter alone, as the two defenses dominated the play
- SHU's defense, which didn't hold Maine scoreless in any of their first six drives to start the game, came up with stops on all five of the Black Bears' drives in the second half of play
- Meachum rushed for 21 yards on three carries in the quarter, accounting for nearly a third of SHU's total offense in the period
Fourth Quarter (42-14 Maine)
- SHU converted a pair of third downs, as well as a fourth-and-one, on a 15-play drive (the longest of the game for either team) but weren't able to turn the 55-yard drive into any points as a fourth-and-six throw from Marchi intended for Naseim Brantley as tipped away by Myles Taylor
- The Pioneers struck for their second score of the day as a nine-play, 64-yard drive saw a big 32-yard pitch-and-catch from Marchi to sophomore Troy Holland result in the longest play of the day for SHU
- Later in the drive, Terry punched home a one-yard touchdown as the fifth-year back carried the ball six times, the last of which resulted in his second career score
- The Pioneers see their six-game season-opener win streak come to an end as SHU is now 6-2 in season openers under head coach Mark Nofri
- Prior to today, the last time SHU had last in the team's first game of the season came all the way back in 2012 with a 30-27 overtime loss at Morgan State
- In the first-ever meeting between the two sides, SHU dropped to 3-3 all-time in games played against nationally-ranked opponents
- The Pioneers came into tonight riding a three-game win streak against ranked foes, having beaten No. 24 Delaware (2014, No. 21 Bryant (2014) and No. 20 Stony Brook (2016) all within the last six seasons
- Tonight's matchup represented the first time SHU has ever faced an opponent ranked Top 10 in the nation
- After being outscored 42-7 and outgained 487-65 in the first half, SHU came back to shutout Maine (7-0) and outgain the Black Bears 142-95 in the second half
- Entering tonight's game with 1952 career rushing yards, Meachum gained 33 yards on nine carries to move to within 15 yards of becoming the eighth SHU player in program history to gain 2000+ career rushing yards
- Sophomore Naseim Brantley caught a career-high five receptions for 25 yards
- Holland went for 33 yards in his first career action, including his 32-yard catch in the fourth quarter
- Chestnut led the SHU rushing attack with 52 yards on nine carries, averaging 5.8 yards per rush
- Maine's three-year starting quarterback Chris Ferguson tossed a career-high 423 yards and three touchdowns including 404 yards in the first half alone
The home opener for SHU is slated for next weekend as the Pioneers welcome the Bucknell Bison for a 6 PM kickoff on Saturday, September 7thfrom Campus Field. SHU defeated Bucknell 30-14 last season in Lewisburg to even their all-time record to 2-2 against the Bison. The Pioneers head into that matchup having won seven consecutive home openers, all of which coming with Coach Nofri at the helm.