Sept. 20, 2008
NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. (September 20, 2008) - Sacred Heart quarterback Dale Fink (Swansea, IL) completed 23-of-30 passes for 256 yards and three touchdowns as the Pioneer offense racked up 464 yards of total offense on their way to a 44-24 win at Iona College Saturday afternoon. Trailing 17-12 late in the second quarter, the Pioneer offense ripped off 22 unanswered points and outscored the Gaels 32-7 the rest of the way to improve keep their record clean and open the season 3-0 for the first time since the 2003 campaign.
Both teams piled up the offensive yards on Saturday, combining for 919 yards of total offense. Despite the gaudy offensive numbers it was the Pioneers who took better care of the football, forcing Iona into three second half turnovers, two leading to scores. The Pioneer defensive unit gave up 455 yards of total offense but worked the bend but don't break philosophy to perfection in the second half, as the Gaels saw only one of their five drives end in points.
The Pioneers (3-0) set the tone early on with their special teams, coming up with a blocked punt on the game's first possession. After forcing a three-and-out, SHU had the Gaels backed up on their own 19 and decided to go after the punt. The first wave of defenders crashed in on punter Robert Woods, who avoided the rush and tried get his punt off but sophomore Tony Patterson (Groton, CT) blocked it clean and senior Mike Mortali (Branford, CT) scooped it up at the five and ran in it in for six.
Iona (1-2) answered right back as quarterback Nick Rossetti hit a wide open Jeffrey Miller on a 41-yard score and took a 7-6 lead thanks to a Joe Schroeder (Jackson, NJ) missed extra point on SHU's first score. The Pioneer offense, who punted just once and scored on eight of their first nine possessions, didn't miss a beat on their first opportunity as Fink engineered a 10-play, 64-yard drive that ended with senior Evin Jones (Pennsauken, NJ) plunging in from seven yards out, but a second missed Schroeder point after left SHU up just 12-7.
Rossetti answered the Pioneers with a nine-play drive of his own, covering 70-yards and culminating in a Ceasar Sanchez score on his third-straight attempt from a yard out. Fink had the Pioneer offense on the move again on their next drive and set up first down on the Iona 15-yard line. After an incompletion, Fink hit freshman Rich Rossi (Moosic, PA) and the rookie wide out looked headed for pay dirt but Paul Mohan popped the ball free and the Gaels recovered in the end zone to thwart the threat and take the ball back. After the two teams traded punts, the Gaels put together an 11-play drive that stalled out at the SHU 25-yard line, settling for a Woods 42-yard field goal for a 17-12 lead with 4:04 left in the half.
Fink and the SHU offense looked to get some momentum back heading into the locker room as they took the field at their own 39-yard line with 3:57 to go. Fink went four-for-four on the drive and also picked up a pair of first downs on the ground as he led his team down the field for six. The redshirt-sophomore quarterback went back to Rossi down in the red zone and the rookie found redemption scoring from six-yards out over the middle with 15 ticks left. SHU lined up for two and with no one open, Fink ran it for a 20-17 lead at the half with the Pioneers set to receive the second half kick-off.
Pioneer freshman Garry Coles (Southington, CT), the two-time Northeast Conference Rookie of the Week this season, worked his now familiar second half magic on the SHU's opening drive. After a 28-yard return set the Pioneers up on their own 41-yard line, the rookie running back took a Fink swing pass three plays later and burst up the left sideline for the score just 1:15 into the second half. After an Iona fumble two plays into their ensuing drive, Coles burst off right tackle on SHU's second play for a 14-yard score and a 34-17 lead with just over two-minutes gone in the third quarter.
Rossetti and the Gaels where able to right their ship on the next possession as Crag Sutera rumbled in from four-yards out to cap a seven-play drive that cut the Pioneer lead to 34-24. That would be as close as the Gael offense would get the rest of the afternoon as SHU tacked on 10 more points before the final horn. Fink led a six-play drive on Sacred Heart's next possession that ended when he went deep to junior Steve Tedesco (Mission Viejo, CA), connecting on a 40-yard score and a 41-24 lead. SHU put the finishing touches on the scoring after another Iona fumble led to a 13-play Pioneer scoring drive that ended with a 24-yard Schroeder field goal, his first of the season, on the first play of the fourth quarter. The Sacred Heart defense put the stamp on the win as junior Andre Isla (Brookhaven, NY) picked-off Rossetti with just under 13 minutes to go.
In addition to Fink's big day through the air, the SHU rushing attack was just as impressive on their way to 208 yards. Leading the way was Jones who picked up his second 100-yard rushing game of the season and his fifth score on the year, finishing the day with 133 yards on 20 carries, an average of 6.7 yards per rush. Junior Brian Friedman (Point Pleasant, NJ) ran for a career-high 52 yards on six carries while Coles had 12 yards on four touches and a score.
Tedesco once again led the receiving corps with seven catches for 88 yards and his first touchdown of the year. He inched closer to the career-touchdown mark at Sacred Heart with Saturday's score, pulling into a second place tie with Corey Bundy (2004-07) at 17 career touchdown catches, two behind all-time leader DeVeren Johnson (2000-01). His 88 yards rocketed him up the career yardage list to third place (1,334) behind both Bundy (1,758) and Johnson (1,748).
Coles finished with four catches for 52 yards and again was a major factor on special teams with three kick-off returns for 82 yards. In all, Coles racked up 147 all-purpose yards.
For the third-straight week the Pioneers won the turnover battle and are now +5 overall on the season. Senior linebacker Rich Marrone (Brooklyn, NY) led the defense with nine tackles and forced both fumbles on the afternoon. Junior defensive end Bill O'Brien (Lafayette, NY) had eight tackles.
Sacred Heart will stay on the road next week and close out non-conference play as they travel to Marist College on Saturday, September 27th for a 1:00 pm kick-off.