Pioneers Return to NEC Play at Duquesne

SACRED HEART (2-4, 1-2 NEC) AT DUQUESNE (4-2, 2-1 NEC)

Game 07 * Pittsburgh, PA * Arthur J. Rooney Field (2,200) * 12:00 pm

Audio * Live Stats

Game Notes

Setting the Scene...  The Pioneers return to Northeast Conference play with a trip to Pittsburgh, PA to face the Duquesne Dukes Saturday afternoon.  Sacred Heart is coming off a 27-10 win at Dartmouth last week to improve to 3-1 against the Ivy League over the last three seasons.  The SHU defense allowed just three points and shut out the Big Green in the second half while sophomore Keshaudas Spence ran wild to the tune of a career-high 138 yards and three touchdowns in the win.  The Dukes will put a nine-game home winning streak on the line as they look to bounce back from their first NEC loss last week.  Duquesne, coming off their bye, lost at Central Connecticut State, 38-31, last Saturday.

Series Notes...  This will be the eighth meeting between the Pioneers and Dukes.

- Duquesne leads the series, 5-2 and have won three-straight

- The Pioneers are 2-2 in Pittsburgh but have never beaten the Dukes at home

- SHU beat Duquesne in the 2001 ECAC Bowl, 31-15, in Pittsburgh, capping off a perfect 11-0 season in 2001.

- Last fall, Duquesne running back Larry McCoy ran for 149 yards and a pair of touchdowns in a 29-15 win in Fairfield.  The Pioneers scored on fumble return and had a blocked punt for a safety in the loss.

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.  Jerry Schmidt is in his eighth season as the head coach at Duquesne University.  Schmidt spend time as an assistant for the Dukes from 1985-87 and 1992-99 before taking the head coaching job in 2005.  Upon his return to Duquesne, Schmidt led the Dukes to three-straight MAAC Championships before joining the NEC in 2011.  He spent five years as the head coach at his alma mater Westminster College prior to returning to Pittsburgh.

Up Next...  The Pioneers are back at home next Saturday to close out the month of October to host the preseason NEC favorite Albany Great Danes on "SHU Family Weekend."  Albany is 12-2 all-time against the Pioneers and have won 10-straight against Sacred Heart heading into next week's match-up.  The last SHU win in the series came in 2001 on the road, 32-17.  The Pioneers other win in the series came in 2000, a 35-28 overtime victory at home.

Pioneer Points...

- The Pioneers closed out their non-conference portion of the schedule with their third-straight win against the Ivy League, beating Dartmouth 27-10.  SHU is now 3-1 all-time against the league, going 2-1 against the Big Green the last three years and a win over Columbia.

- The Sacred Heart defense continues to improve each week and has climbed the NEC rankings.  The Pioneers allowed just 12 points in a loss to Wagner and three points in last weeks win over Dartmouth.

  - Ranked 1st in sacks (17) and red zone defense (18-26)

  - Ranked 2nd in total defense (321.3), pass def (164.8), Opponent 1st downs (111)

  - Ranked 3rd in scoring defense (22.5)

- Sack Masters...  The Pioneers have had a least one sack in each game this season and lead the NEC and are ranked 17th in the NCAA averaging 2.83 per game.

  - Senior Tyler Foehr and r-junior Chaz Partosan are tied for 12th in the NCAAranking with 5.5 sacks a piece (0.92 pg).

  - Foehr is eighth in the NCAA in tackles for a loss (1.67 pg).

- Junior inside linebacker Justin Sexton leads the NEC and is ninth nationally averaging 11.3 tackles per game. 

  - He has double digit tackles in three-straight games and four of the five games.

  - He has 68 total tackles, 46 have been solo stops.

  - The SHU record for unassisted tackles in a season is 75 by Kayode Mayowa (1999)

- The Pioneers had four takeaways in the win at Dartmouth and are now +2 on the season.  SHU has five fumble recoveries and six picks.  Sexton leads the team with four takeaways, two fumbles and two interceptions.

- Spence Earns a Game Ball...  Sophomore running back Keshaudas Spence had just 49 yards rushing through the first three games of the season but has flipped the script and has churned out 333 yards on 41 carries (8.1 ypc) with four scores. Spence is now ninth in the NEC in rushing and is first among the league's rushers averaging 6.7 yards per carry.

   Spence 2012 Game by Game

   vs. Morgan State - 7 att, 23 yds, 0 TD

   vs. Colgate - 6 att, 18 yds, 0 TD

   vs. Monmouth - 3 att, 8 yds, 0 TD

   vs. CCSU - 10 att, 123 yds, 1 TD

   vs. Wagner - 12 att, 72 yds, 0 TD

   vs. Dartmouth - 19 att, 138 yds, 3 TD 

- Spence would love to see Dartmouth on the SHU schedule every season.  As a rookie, he had 129 yards and two touchdowns in a win over the Big Green at home.  Last week, Spence totalled a career-high 138 yards and scored three times to lead SHU to a 27-10 win.

- Senior running back Kevin Eckel is ranked second in the NEC in kick return average this season.  Eckel has 14 returns for 333 yards, a 23.8 average per return.  His long of 49 yards came vs. CCSU.  He currently ranks 38th among NCAA leaders.

- For the second-straight game, r-junior quarterback Tim Little was held to under 100-yards passing.  In the Wagner loss, he completed 8-of-20 for 67 yards and last week was 9-21 for 71 yards and a touchdown.  Little had just one game last season where he threw for less than 100 yards, the season opener vs. Marist (11-16, 85 yds) when he split snaps with Luke Wischnowski.

- Offensively, the Pioneers have struggled on third down and in the red zone this season.  SHU ranks ninth in the NEC on third down, converting 30.5% (25-82).  The Pioneers are last in the NEC when they get into the red zone, scoring just 63.8% (14-22) of the time but are coming off a 4-5 effort vs. Dartmouth

Around the NEC...

- Albany continued to roll right along into their bye week with a 36-13 win over Saint Francis (PA) last week.  The Great Danes are at the mid point at a perfect 4-0 and have now won four-straight building their record to 6-1.  Tailback Drew Smith scored three times in the win over the Red Flash and he moved within 655 yards of David McCarty (4,976) on the all-time list.

- Bryant and Central Connecticut nabbed their first wins of 2012 last Saturday as the Bulldogs won a back-and-forth battle with Robert Morris, 38-35, and the Blue Devils edged Duquesne, 38-31.

- Bryant's Jordan Harris had his second 200-yard receiving game of the season in the win over RMU, making nine catches for 201 yards and two touchdowns.  Harris is well on pace to become only the sixth NEC player, and first since 2005, to gain 1,000 receiving yards in a season. Exactly halfway through the season's 12-game schedule, Harris has made 38 receptions for 702 yards and eight touchdowns.  Former Saint Francis (PA) receiver Michael Caputo set the NEC record when he went for 1,433 yards in 2005. Caputo also set the record for receptions (92) during that campaign.

- The Pioneers have now won three-straight against the Ivy League thanks to a 27-10 win at Dartmouth.  The NEC split their two meeting against the Ivy League this year with Monmouth falling at Cornell, 41-38.

- Monmouth QB Kyle Frazier set the NEC's single-game record for total offense (513 yards) in the loss at Cornell. He went 35-of-45 passing for 451 yards and four TDs and added 62 rush yards.