SACRED HEART (0-0) AT MORGAN STATE (0-0)
Game 01 * Baltimore, MD * 1:00 pm * Hughes Stadium (10,000)
Setting the Scene... The Pioneers will kick-off the 2012 season on the road taking on the Morgan State Bears from the MEAC. SHU was picked eighth in the 2012 Northeast Conference Preseason Coaches' Poll heading into the 2012 season, coming off a 5-6 campaing last fall. The Pioneers finished 3-5 in the NEC, good for a tie for sixth place. The Bears posted a 5-6 mark in 2011 as well and posted a 4-4 conference mark. They were tabbed seventh in the Preseason MEAC Poll.
Series History... Saturday marks the first ever meeting between Sacred Heart and Morgan State on the gridiron. The Pioneers have never faced a school from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC).
Pioneer Openers... Sacred Heart is 7-14 is season openers in their 21 seasons. The Pioneers are 6-8 in openers since joining the Northeast Conference in 1998. SHU is 4-6 when kicking-off the season on the road and 3-8 when starting the year in Fairfield. The Pioneers have opened each of the last three seasons against Marist College, coming off a loss at home in last season's opener.
- Interim Head Coach Mark Nofri will lead the Pioneers this season with Head Coach Paul Gorham on a medical leave of absence. Nofri is begining his 19th season as a memeber of the Sacred Heart coaching staff.
- The Pioneers will return six starters on offense and seven on defense in 2012.
- After starting 2011 without a quarterback on their roster who had taken a snap in a game, the Pioneers enter 2012 with a solid signal caller in r-junior Tim Little. Little won the starting job in week two last season and posted a season where he threw for 2,200 yards while completing 57.9% (206-356) of his passes. He led a passing attack that was tops in the NEC (237.8 ypg) for the third-straight season. He led the league in yards per game (224.1) and was fourth with 16 scoring strikes.
- Offensive Coordinator Kevin Bolis will have a stable of five running backs who can carry the ball in 2012 as SHU looks to end a streak of three-straight seasons of finishing last in the league in rushing. Junior Greg Moore is slated as the starter (5.6 ypc - 2011) but fellow junior Greg Ibe, sophomores Keshaudas Spence and Sean Bell and senior Kevin Eckel may all get carries. Spence led SHU with seven rushing touchdowns as a rookie in 2011.
- Defensively, SHU will need to replace All-NEC linebacker Chris Mandas and his 112 tackles lost to graduation. Sierra and junior Justin Sexton lead the linebacking corp. Sierra is the Pioneers top-playmaker back, recording 57 tackles, 7.5 for a loss, a team-best four picks, five pass break-ups, a forced fumble and a sack last fall. Sexton, who started next to Mandas last season, posted 57 stops, eight for a loss, and a pair of sacks.
- In the defensive backfield, sophomore Gordon Hill leads a young but experienced group. Hill played more snaps than any Pioneer on defense last season and returns as the team's leading tackler (68) from his safety spot.
- Sophomore placekicker Chris Rogers was the only kicker in all of Division I FCS to make every field goal he attempted last season (11-11), earning him All-NEC and All-New England honors. He was named to the Fred Mitchell Award Watch List heading into the season.
Around the NEC... All nine teams will open their 2012 seasons this Labor Day Weekend with the Wagner Seahawks kick-off the official start to the season on Friday night at Florida Atlantic University. The Albany Great Danes were selected as the preseason favorite in the annual NEC Coaches's Poll. The Great Danes announced during the preseason that this will be their last season of play in the NEC as they make the move to the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) in 2013. The Bryant Bulldogs begin their inaugural season of NCAA Division I postseason eligibility in 2012 and were tabbed third in the preseason poll. UAlbany and Bryant led the way with a league-high six players each named to the All-NEC Preseason team. The Pioneers saw three players garner preseason honors in senior defensive end Tyler Foehr, senior offensive tackle Justin Martel and sophomore kicker Chris Rogers.
Up Next... The Pioneers are off in week two and travel to Colgate University on September 15th for the second of three-straight road games to open the season. It will be the first meeting between SHU and Colgate. The Pioneers are 1-3 all-timea against teams from the Patriot League, beating Georgetown while falling twice to Holy Cross and once to Lafayette.