Pioneers Set for NEC Opener Saturday at Monmouth

SACRED HEART (0-2, 0-0 NEC) AT MONMOUTH (2-1, 1-0 NEC)

Game 03 * West Long Branch, NJ * 1:00 pm * Kessler Field (4,600)

Audio * Video * Live Stats

GAME NOTES

Setting the Scene...  The Sacred Heart Pioneers head into the start of Northeast Conference play this Saturday at Monmouth.  The Pioneers are in search of their first win of 2012 after falling a Colgate, 35-14, last week.  The Pioneers allowed 21 unanswered points in the second half to break open a 14-14 game at the half. en route to the loss.  On the flip side, the Hawks come in red hot after answering their season opening loss at #16 ranked Lehigh with consecutive wins over Rhode Island and Wagner.  Monmouth went to Staten Island, NY last Saturday and returned home with a 38-17 win in their NEC opener.

Series Notes...  This will be the 18th meeting between the Hawks and Pioneers.

- The Hawks hold a 12-5 edge in the series.

- SHU is 4-4 all-time against the Hawks in West Long Branch, NJ.

- MU beat SHU 31-17 last fall, improving to 8-1 on Campus Field.

- The Pioneers erased a 19-14 MU lead to comeback and win 26-25 in their last trip to Monmouth.  Senior running back Marcel Archer scored four touchdowns to help the Pioneers end a seven-game Hawk winning-streak in the series.

Pioneers in NEC Play...  The 2012 season marks the 15th season of play in the Northeast Conference for Sacred Heart University. 

- The Pioneers joined the NEC in 1998 for football.

- SHU holds a 41-53 all-time NEC record.

- The Pioneers won the 2001 NEC Championship with a perfect 8-0 record. 

- SHU is coming off 6th (t) place finish in 2011 with a 3-5 mark.

- The Pioneers were picked to finish 8th in the 2012 NEC Preseason Coaches' Poll

The Head Coaches...  The Pioneers will be lead by interim head coach Mark Nofri in 2012.  Beginning his 19th season as a member of the Pioneers coaching staff, Nofri is the longest tenured coach in Sacred Heart program history.  He will lead the team with Head Coach Paul Gorham on medical leave.  Nofri is also the long time linebackers coach for the Pioneers, turning out several All-Conference and All-American linebackers including Jayson Jarrett '01, Kayode Mayowa '02, Craig Capurso '02, Jon Corto '06 and Chris Mandas '11.  Kevin Callahan opens his 20th season on the Monmouth Hawks sidelines.  The only coach in MU history, he has guided his Hawks to five Northeast Conference titles, most recently in 2006.  He is one  of just 23 FCS coaches with over 100 career victories.  Callahan has been voted the NEC Coach of the Year in 1998, 2003 and 2006.

Up Next...  Sacred Heart will return home after three-straight to open 2012 and play host to the Central Connecticut State Blue Devils on "Homecoming Weekend".  The game will be broadcast live on Fox College Sports and ESPN3.  The Pioneers ended a seven-game losing streak to their intrastate rivals last season, upending the Blue Devils in New Britain, 37-24.

Pioneer Points…

- The Pioneers are 6-8 in Northeast Conference openers since joining the league in 1998.  SHU has lost three-straight conference openers.  Sacred Heart is 4-4 when they open the league slate at home on Campus Field and 2-4 on the road in conference openers.

- Sacred Heart is 0-2 to start the season for the second-straight year after falling to a pair of first time opponents on the road.  SHU is coming off a 35-14 loss at Colgate of the Patriot League and a four overtime 30-27 loss to Morgan State from the MEAC in week one. 

- The Pioneers have started 0-3 just twice since joining the NEC in 1998.  SHU opened the 1998 season 0-4 before a win at Saint Francis (PA).  The Pioneers also opened 0-4 in 2009 before a win at home, also over the Red Flash.

- Second Half Woes...  The Pioneers and Colgate were tied 14-14 at the half of last Saturday's game with SHU out gaining the Raiders on offense in the first half.  The second half was a different story, as Colgate held the Pioneers to just 17 yards of total offense.  SHU had the ball for just 9:05 in the second half as Colgate piled up 292 yards of offense, 229 on the ground, en route to 21 unanswered points.

- Special Teams Standout...  R-Sophomore wide receiver Robert Dim blocked a pair of punts in the loss at Colgate.  Dim got one in the first half to set the Pioneers on the Colgate 40 yard line.  He struck again to open the third quarter, blocking a punt that gave the Pioneers the football on the Colgate 18 yard line.  Unfortunately, SHU could not capitalize off of either blocked kick, producing no points.

- R-Senior wide out Rock Tate is second in the NEC in receptions, hauling in 10 catches over the first two games.  Tate ranks third in receiving yards (116), averaging 58.0 per game and 11.6 yards per catch.  He caught his first touchdown of the season with 10 seconds left in the second quarter at Colgate, tying the game at 14-14.  He matched his career-high with seven catches for career-best 85 yards in the loss at Morgan State.

- R-junior quarter back Tim Little leads the NEC averaging 205.5 yards passing per game through a pair of games.  His 50 pass attempts at Morgan State where a career-high for the second-year signal caller.  The 266 yards in the air against the Bears in teh opener are the third highest total of his young career.

- Little continued to spread the ball around for the second straight week, completing passes to nine difference receivers against both Morgan State and Colgate.  Through two games, 11 different Pioneers, six to receivers and five to running backs.  A SHU tight end has not caught a pass in 2012.  Last season, all-conference tight end Rich Rossi led the team with 47 receptions.

- Junior linebacker Justin Sexton is coming off his best day in a Pioneer uniform at Colgate.  Sexton turned in 16 tackles, 13 solo, both career-highs.  He added 2.5 tackles for a loss, 1.5 sacks and a fumble recovery.  He is tied for the NEC lead averaging 11.0 tackles per game.

- Senior defensive end Tyler Foehr turned in a career-high 12 tackles, four solo, in the loss at Colgate.  Foehr added 1.5 sacks and forced a fumble.

- Sophomore placekicker Chris Rogers, a 2012 Preseason All-NEC pick and only kicker in all of Division I FCS to make every field goal he attempted last season (11-11), is off to a rough start to his season.  Rogers ran his streak to 12-straight makes in the Morgan State game but has since missed four of his last five attempts.  He missed from 35-yards and saw a 30-yarder blocked in the overtime at Morgan State.  He missed his only attempt, a 35-yarder, at Colgate.