FAIRFIELD, Conn. (November 6, 2010) – Quarterback Dale Fink (Swansea, IL) set five school records and became the Northeast Conference all-time leader in touchdown passes but came up short in a fourth quarter comeback bid as the Sacred Heart Pioneers fell at home 35-23 to the University at Albany Great Danes. Fink completed 36 of 61 passes for 414 yards and three touchdowns but was intercepted for a touchdown late sealing the Albany win.
The Pioneers (3-7, 1-6 NEC) trailed 28-23 with 4:56 left in the game when Fink and the offense got the ball and looked to put together a game-winning drive. The Pioneers used 10-plays to drive to the Albany 35-yard line, converting a pair of fourth downs along the way. Facing a second and six, Fink saw his pass batted into the air where defensive end Mike Kelly collected the tipped ball and scampered 54-yards for the game-clinching touchdown.
SHU turned the first turnover of the day into points as senior Marcel Archer (Miami, FL) scored his 15th touchdown of the season catching an eight-yard score from Fink with 3:45 left in the first quarter. Senior defensive end Bill O'Brien (Lafayette, NY) set up the Pioneer touchdown with his first career interception, picking off Albany quarterback Buddy Leathley at the Pioneer 36-yard line. Fink needed just eight plays to put the Pioneers in the end zone for the game's first points.
It looked as if Sacred Heart would take advantage of another Great Dane turnover and two missed Herb Glass field goals to extend their lead late in the second quarter. O'Brien was again at the center of the Albany miscue, forcing a Leathley fumble and recovering it at the Great Dane 29-yard line. A Fink to senior Tony Patterson (Groton, CT) completion for 20 yards took the ball to the nine yard line but two plays later saw the scoring opportunity nixed. Fink, was intercepted on the third play when his pass was tipped in the air and corralled by Jake Ciccarello who returned it to midfield.
It was the Great Danes (4-5, 2-4 NEC) who took full advantage this time, knotting the game at 7-7 heading into the locker room. Freshman running back Dillon Romain finished off a six-play drive with a seven-yard score with 1:31 left on the clock. Albany took control with their running game in the third quarter, piling up 105 yard on the ground en route to a pair of scores and a 21-7 lead. Sophomore Drew Smith scored on a nine-yard run on the quarter's opening drive and Romain followed with his second score, a 20-yard jaunt, to put the Great Danes in front by two touchdowns with 6:44 left in the quarter.
Fink orchestrated an 11-play drive to answer, hitting five-of-six passes along the way including a 16-yarder to Patterson to convert a third-and-five. He finished off the drive by delivering a strike to sophomore Rock Tate (Lantana, FL) right on the goal line on third and goal from the two.
Albany made it three-straight touchdowns in eh second half, wasting little time in pushing their lead back to two scores, 28-14, just 35 seconds into the fourth quarter. Dillon sparked his team again with a 28-yard return on the kick-off and Smith carried the ball five times on the six-play drive, finishing it off with his second score of the day from two-yards out.
The Pioneers ensuing drive stalled and turned the ball over on downs on the Albany 10-yard line as Fink saw his fourth and goal attempt to senior Mark Uyeno (Setauket, NY) broken up. SHU special teams provided a sign of life as a mishandled snap on Albany's punt attempt resulted in a block and safety cutting the lead to 28-16 and giving the Pioneers the ball back with 8:58 left in the game.
Fink led his team down the field on a 70-yard drive, converting a fourth and two, before hitting junior Rich Rossi (Moosic, PA) on a 21-yard strike over the middle to pull the Pioneers within striking distance at 28-23. SHU would need their defense to deliver a stop with just over six minutes left and the Pioneers delivered led by O'Brien. The senior end stopped Romain for a one yard gain and nearly had a pick six on second down, breaking up a Leathley pass. SHU held on third down to set up the potential game-winning drive as Albany punted setting up the Pioneers on their own 36-yard line. Fink's drive was kept alive when he found Patterson for a 10-yard gain on fourth and seven but any hopes of a comeback win were dashed two plays later with his third pick.
The senior signal caller broke his own school records for completions in a game (36), pass attempts in a game (61) and yards passing a game (414) in the loss. Fink also broke his own record for completions for a season (235) on Saturday and added a new record to his resume with 393 pass attempts this season, breaking the mark of 368 set by Tyler Arciaga in 2006. Fink will need just 77 yards passing in his final game to add the pass ing yards in a season record to his ledger (Fink 2,512 – Justin Holtfreter 2,589 in 2001).
Fink also set a new Northeast Conference record for career touchdown passes in the loss. His three TD throws give the senior 77 for his career, passing Robert Morris's Tim Levick's record of 76. Fink needs just 136 yards passing in the season finale against Wagner to become the NEC's all-time leading passer. Anthony Doria of Saint Francis (PA) holds the record of 8,544 yards (Fink – 8,408).
A pair of Pioneer receivers eclipsed the 100-yard mark on Saturday in Rossi and Patterson, marking the first time two SHU wide outs have hit the century mark in the same game since a 38-21 loss at Stony Brook on October 21, 2006. Rossi hauled in 11 passes for 150 yards and a touchdown while Patterson caught 10 balls for 138 yards. Patterson moved to third all-time at Sacred Heart in career receptions and heads into his final game at 114 catches and counting.
Archer's 15th touchdown this season ties him for second place with Ed Pricolo (15-2004) in the SHU record book. Marvin Royal holds the record with 18 scores during the 2001 season.
The Pioneers held a 465 to 358 yard advantage in total offense in the loss but gave up 231 yards rushing to the Great Danes. SHU went just two of four in the red zone on Saturday and saw two of their three turnovers lead to Albany points.
The 2010 season comes to a close on Saturday, November 20th when the Pioneers play host to the Wagner Seahawks on "Senior Day".