FAIRFIELD, Conn. – Sacred Heart r-senior quarterback Dale Fink (Swansea, IL) connected with r-sophomore Sean Kessler (Huntington, NY) on a 47-yard touchdown with 1:07 left to give the Pioneers a 31-28 lead but Robert Morris answered back with a score in the waning seconds to steal away a 35-31 win Saturday afternoon on Campus Field. Colonial quarterback Jeff Sinclair hooked-up with tight end Shadrae King for the third time to cap a five-play, 60 yard drive with just 17 seconds left to snatch a win from the jaws of defeat in the Northeast Conference opener for both clubs.
The Pioneers (1-1, 0-1 NEC) had a 24-14 lead but the Colonials (1-1, 1-0 NEC) put 21 points on the scoreboard in the fourth quarter en route to the comeback. SHU struggled running the ball, gaining just 10 yards on 22 carries. SHU's Fink completed 27-of-41 passes for 324 yards, four scores with a pick but was sacked five times in the loss.
RMU's King hauled in eight balls for 133 yards and three scores while Myles Russ ran the ball 24 times for 116 yards and a pair of scores. The Colonials piled up 415 yards of total offense. Sinclair completed 14 of 28 passes for 250 yards, three scores and an interception.
Sacred Heart jumped up 14-0 on the Colonials thanks to a Fink to senior Marcel Archer (Miami, FL) connection. Fink led a nine-play drive on the Pioneers second possession of the game, hooking up twice with junior Rich Rossi (Moosic, PA) on a 20-yard and 27-yard completions to set SHU up first and goal on the three yard line. Facing a third and goal, Fink bought himself some time and found Archer wide open in the front right corner of the end zone for the game's first points.
Fink and Archer made it 14-0 SHU with 10:09 left in the second quarter as the duo hooked-up on a six-yard score. Junior linebacker Chris Mandas (Mission Viejo, PA) set the Pioneers up with field position at the RMU 33 when he picked off Sinclair at midfield and returned it 16-yards. Facing a third-and-10, Fink found r-sophomore Jo Jo Jamiel (West Yarmouth, MA) on a 26-yard catch and run to the Colonial seven. Two plays later, Fink found Archer, again in the right corner of the end zone.
The Colonials got their offense started and came right down using a six-play drive to cut the lead in half as Russ ripped off a 17-yard scoring scamper with 7:37 on the clock. A three and out by the Pioneers gave Robert Morris the ball back with 5:33 left before the half and the Colonials went to work on tying the game with a 10-play drive. Sinclair used his feet to pick up a first down on third and seven and hit King at the front left pylon from 12-yards out to knot the game at 14-14 with 37 ticks left before the break.
SHU scored touchdowns on their first two possessions of the third quarter to take a 24-14 lead with 2:57 left. The Pioneers used their opening drive to score in eight plays on a Fink to Rossi six-yard strike on third and goal. The drive was highlighted by a 28-yard run from Archer, the Pioneers long run of the day. The Pioneers turned Robert Morris over on downs and put together another eight play drive that ended with the second longest field goal in school history. Grad student Jesper Fredriksson (Gothenberg, Sweden) drilled a 46-yarder with plenty of leg, his first career field goal. Former Pioneer Lou Monaco hit a 47-yarder against Stony Brook on October 5, 1996.
The fourth quarter belonged to the Colonials as they took the lead after scores just two and a half minutes apart. Russ cut the SHU lead to 24-21 with 13:51 on the clock in the fourth on a 16-yard scoring run and Sinclair hit King on a 35-yard pitch and catch for six with 11:14 left to put his team up 28-24.
SHU went three and out and then saw a 12-play drive stall out with no points when Fink was sacked on back to back plays with 3:15 left in the game. The Pioneers got a defensive stop and by using their timeouts got the ball back with 2:06 left and another chance to score. Fink got the ball out to the Robert Morris 47-yard line and escaping a sack on second and seven, heaved a pass to a wide open Kessler for the score and lead, 31-28, with 59 seconds left.
Anthony Coleman got a 20-yard return on the ensuing kickoff setting up Robert Morris on their 40 yard line. The Colonials needed just six plays, three-completions, to cover the 60-yards as Sinclair found King for one last time as the junior tight end found his way into the end zone from the eight-yard line to secure the win.
The Pioneers got a solid defensive day from Mandas who posted seven tackles, a sack and
an interception. Archer had a net of just 39 yards rushing on 14 carries but saw two of his four catches go for scores. Rossi posted his first career 100-yard receiving day, hauling in a career-best nine passes for 108 yards and his first score of 2010.
Sacred Heart is back on the road next Saturday when they travel to Saint Francis (PA) for a 12 noon match-up. The game will be played live on Fox College Sports, ESPN3, ESPN Game Plan and the Connecticut Sports Network.