EASTON, PA (September 7, 2013) – Sacred Heart freshman Alec Finney (Reading, PA) hit a 42-yard field goal as time expired to cap a 26-24 Pioneer win at Lafayette College Saturday night. Sophomore quarterback RJ Noel (Lowell, MA) engineered an 11-play, 54 yard drive with 2:02 left in the game to set up Finney's game-winning kick and send the Pioneers off on a 2-0 start to their season.
Noel and junior running back Keshaudas Spence (Dorchester, MA) each piled up over 100-yards rushing to lead the Pioneer offense. Spence finished with a career-high 168 yards on the ground on 18 carries, averaging 9.3 yards per rush. Noel went for 121 yards on the ground and then threw for 152 in the air with one scoring strike. It was the second–straight week Noel topped the 100-yard rushing mark.
Saturday night's game got off to a wild start as Lafayette's Matt Smalley returned the opening kick-off 98 yards for a touchdown, a new Lafayette school record (2000 – 97 yds, Andrew May vs. Holy Cross). Smalley found a crease on the left side and bolted into the end zone. Not down for too long, the Pioneers answered right back thanks to the speedy legs of Noel. The sophomore QB faked a hand-off to Spence and scampered up the middle of the field before breaking it up the sidelines 66-yards to the end zone to knot the game at 7-7 just 1:20 into play.
On Lafayette's first offensive possession, the Leopards methodically moved the ball down the field on 10 plays to set up a first and goal from the seven yard line. The Pioneers held together for a goal line stand to keep the game tied, stopping the Leopards on fourth and goal from the one.
Sacred Heart's defense came up with another big play when SHU cornerback Stephan Thomas (Egg Harbor Twp., NJ) took the ball away from Lafayette receiver Mark Ross at the Sacred Heart 11-yard line for his first of two interceptions in the game. The SHU defense forced Lafayette into another fourth and goal situation at the end of the first but the Leopards elected to settle for a 19-yard Ryan Garlish field goal for a 10-7 lead.
After the offense sputtered for most of the first half, Noel and company came alive in the final couple minutes of the half. The big play on the final drive coming on a 24-yard reception by running back Sean Bell (Medford Lakes, NJ) to give Sacred Heart a first and goal at the one yard line. On the next play, Noel found senior Greg Moore (Newark, NJ) for his second touchdown of the season to give SHU the 14-10 lead right before halftime.
Spence ran wild in the second half, racking up 132 of his career-high total but the Pioneers could not find a way to punch it in for six. On their second drive of the second half, SHU looked headed for six but a 20-yd TD run by Spence was called back for a holding penalty on Jamie Martinez. On the next play, Noel threw his first interception of the season as Jared Roberts picked him off at the Lafayette 20-yd line to kill the drive.
SHU would be forced to settle for three Chris Rogers (Cazenovia, NY) field goals in the second half, making from 28, 27 and 30 yards out as the Pioneers built a 23-17 lead in the fourth quarter.
Noel worked the Pioneers down to the Lafayette 47-yard line and the game looked all but over when his pass was picked by Tim Vangelas. However, the play was negated by a roughing the passer call giving SHU new life and a first down at the 32-yard line.
Facing a third down and 10 from the Lafayette 21, Noel was dropped for a sack by Bobby DePietro, setting up the final field goal attempt. SHU used their final time-out with three seconds left, sending Finney out for his first collegiate attempt from 42-yards. Finney, who handles kick-offs and punting duties, did not even take a warm-up kick in pregame but the rookie drilled his attempt sending the Pioneers rushing on to the field with a 26-24 win.
The victory was the second for Pioneer program against a school from the Patriot League. Their only previous win against the league came in 2010 at home against Georgetown (33-20). The Pioneers are now 2-0 on the year, both wins coming on the road, and match their win total from last season (2-9).
The Pioneers will play their 2013 home opener next Saturday night when they host Lincoln University on Campus Field. Kick-off is scheduled for 6:00 pm.