SETTING THE SCENE
The Sacred Heart football team storms onto Campus Field for the final time in 2011 Saturday against Duquesne. The afternoon will feature senior day ceremonies as well as a tribute to the 10 year anniversary of Sacred Heart's 2001 Division I-AA Mid-Major National Championship. The Pioneers will be looking to rebound from a tough 27-21 loss at Wagner last time out, which included two Seahawk pick-sixes in the fourth quarter. A victory would also round out SHU's home record to a level .500 for the year at 3-3. Duquesne comes to Fairfield, CT following a bye week and is tied for first in the Northeast Conference standings. Saturday is also Sacred Heart's second crack at win number six for the year, which would secure the program's first winning season since 2008.
THE SACRED HEART vs. DUQUESNE SERIES
The Dukes hold a 4-2 advantage in the all-time series over Sacred Heart. The Pioneers have never defeated Duquesne in Fairfield, CT and have lost back-to-back meetings against their Pittsburgh rival. However, SHU won the first, and most important, contest between the two programs. On December 1, 2001 Sacred Heart capped a perfect 11-0 season and claimed the 2001 Division I-AA Mid-Major National Championship with a 31-15 triumph at Duquesne in the ECAC Bowl.
TOP RANKED PASSING ATTACK
The Sacred Heart offense boasts the best aerial attack in the Northeast Conference, averaging 241 passing yards per game. Red-shirt sophomore quarterback Tim Little (Egg Harbor Twp., NJ) has improved all season, amassing 2,018 yards and 14 touchdowns. Little's 224.2 yards per game put him atop the NEC rankings. The Pioneer offense has spread the ball around all season with five different receivers over 200 yards for 2011. Rich Rossi (Moosic, PA) has hauled in the most touchdowns with and leads the receiving core with 457 yards.
LIKE A ROCK
Red-shirt junior wide receiver Rock Tate (Lantana, FL) has been dependable all season, recording at least two catches every time out. However, Tate has hauled in a second-half touchdown reception in each of the last two games. He secured a 7-yard score in the back of the end zone that gave the Pioneers a two score cushion in the third quarter at Robert Morris. Tate also had the final points last week versus Wagner, elevating for a 35-yard touchdown grab as the Pioneers attempted to make a late comeback.
SOMETHING'S GOTTA GIVE
Saturday's clash at Campus Field will feature the top-two ranked defenses in the Northeast Conference. The Pioneers are number two in the NEC in yards allowed at 323 per game with a balanced effort. SHU operates in the top half of the statistical rankings in both run and pass defense. However, the Dukes bring the league's strongest defense to Fairfield. Duquesne leads the conference in fewest points allowed as well as owning the top passing and rushing defense in the league.
SHU BLOCK PARTY
Red-shirt freshman Robert Dim (Sicklerville, NJ) blocked a punt in the second quarter last week against Wagner to give the Pioneers prime field position. It was Dim's second blocked punt of the season, Matt Colucci (Hopewell Junction, NY) also has a blocked punt that resulted in a touchdown in 2011. The Pioneers round out their five total blocks on the year with a blocked field goal from Matt Linnehan (Worcester, MA) and a stuffed extra point by Stephan Thomas (Egg Harbor Twp., NJ).
MANDAS ON THE RISE
Preseason All-NEC linebacker Chris Mandas (Mission Viejo, CA) has validated that distinction, leading the Pioneers in tackles with 10.1 per game. The senior ranks second in tackles in the Northeast Conference with 91 and has been drawing closer to the top spot each of the last three weeks.
Red-shirt freshman J.D. Roussel (Pawtucket, RI) continues to make an impression in his first year in the Pioneer secondary. Roussel is tops on the SHU roster and second in the NEC with three interceptions in 2011, grabbing another last week against Wagner. He also had a 52-yard pick-six earlier in 2011 versus Saint Francis (PA).
SOCIAL MEDIA FRENZY
Make sure you are getting complete coverage of the Sacred Heart Football team through the Pioneers various social media outlets. "Like" Sacred Heart University Pioneers on Facebook, "Follow" @SHUBigRed on Twitter, and "Subscribe" to the SacredHeartAthletics YouTube Channel.
A LOOK BACK - THE 10 YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF SHU'S NATIONAL TITLE
The 2001 Sacred Heart Football team finished a perfect 11-0 and claimed the NCAA Division I-AA Mid-Major National Championship. Every week we will recap the Pioneers historical through the 2001 season, going through the 10 year anniversary game-by-game.
The 2001 Pioneers moved to 10-0 on the season with a 44-14 triumph over Monmouth. The Pioneers stormed out to a 24-0 lead over the opening 21 minutes of action and eventually took a commanding 38-7 advantage into halftime. DeVeren Johnson hauled in a trio of touchdown passes and racked up 167 receiving yards. The SHU defense held the Hawks to 46 rushing yards on 29 carries and forced three Monmouth turnovers. The victory sealed the Pioneers Northeast Conference Championship and propelled SHU into the ECAC Bowl, where it would capture the Division I-AA Mid-Major National Championship.
The Pioneers close the 2011 campaign next weekend on the road at Albany. Sacred Heart's clash with the first-place Great Danes is guaranteed to have implications for the Northeast Conference championship race.