CELEBRATING THE 10-YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF SACRED HEART'S NATIONAL TITLE
Week 2 - Canisius at Sacred Heart - Game Cancelled Due to the Events of September 11th
The 2011 season marks the 10th anniversary of the Pioneers perfect 11-0 season that resulted in a Northeast Conference Championship and the NCAA Division I-AA Mid-Major National Championship. In every Game Day Program and on SacredHeartPioneers.com, we will recap the Pioneers historical run through the 2001 season, going through the 10-year anniversary game-by-game.
The 2001 Sacred Heart Pioneers, under second-year head coach Jim Fleming, were coming off a Week 1 win over CCSU and in preparing for their home opener against Canisius in Week 2 when the tragic events of September 11th changed the world. With the world standing still during that time, sports and athletics took a back seat as the country took time to mourn.
"That day (Sept. 11th) and the events and days to come, it affected everyone," stated Associate Head Coach Mark Nofri, the linebackers coach on the 2001 team. "We gave the players the option to leave if needed, to get home, be with their families if they wanted. I don't think any players left. Everyone stayed. They wanted to stay together, get through it as a team."
The game against the Golden Griffs on Saturday, September 15th would be cancelled and the team would get back to practice in preparation for their showdown with Robert Morris.
"That date was circled on our calendar," stated Nofri. "Losing to them in 2000 that was all we thought about in the offseason. How do we get back to that point and have a shot. That game in Moon Township, it was circled. Second NEC game of the year, on the road, we wanted to be ready to go. We wanted to make amends for 2000."
|Senior Brandon Graham - Running Back|
Sacred Heart finished the 1999 season 2-9 and just a year later when Coach Fleming took over the reins, he orchestrated one of the biggest turnarounds in the college football in 2000, leading the Pioneers to a 10-1 mark. That one loss came on November 4th at home, to the Colonials, 31-20. Both teams came into that Saturday match-up at 5-0 in the NEC with first place and the inside track to the league title on the line.
After falling behind 7-0 in the first quarter, the Pioneers built a 20-17 lead with 13:39 left in the fourth quarter. SHU couldn't hold on however as Robert Morris engineered a 10-play drive for a score and got an interception return for a score sealed the Pioneers fate late. "I just remember being at home on Campus Field, having a lead in the fourth quarter, they scored twice and we kind of fell apart in the loss. We would finish with just that one loss and Robert Morris, a team we had never beaten, finished out the season and went on to win the title that year."
The Pioneers would go on to beat Saint Francis (PA) and Wagner to end the 2000 season but would have to wait until September 22, 2001 before they would get another crack at the Colonials.
"At the end of the spring practice heading into the summer of 2001, Coach Fleming showed the last seven minutes of the Robert Morris game to the team," recalled Nofri. "We wanted to show the team just how close we were to a perfect season."
Next Week – We take a look back at the rematch between the Pioneers and the defending NEC Champion Colonials.