FAIRFIELD, Conn. (September 22, 2007) - Senior safety John Wilson (Bloomfield, CT) blocked a punt and returned it for touchdown to pull the Pioneers even in the fourth quarter but Duquesne's Greg Hough ran in an 8-yard touchdown in overtime to hand Sacred Heart a 30-23 overtime loss on Campus Field Saturday afternoon. Playing in front of 3,356 fans on "Homecoming Weekend", the Pioneers got a 40-yard touchdown catch and 72 yards rushing from senior Jason Payne (Cortlandt Manor, NY) in the loss.
Duquesne's (1-2) Hough led the offensive attack rushing for 107 yards on 20 carries and a pair of scores. Quarterback Kevin Rombach completed 29-of-41 passes for 316 yards and a score, leading his team to 457 yards of total offense on the day. The Dukes did an excellent job on third down, converting eight of 16 (50.0%).
The Dukes wasted little time getting on the scoreboard as Rombach engineered a five play drive off the opening kickoff that cover 67 yards, capped by a four yard plunge by Hough. The Pioneers had an answer on their first possession as redshirt-freshman Dale Fink (Swansea, IL) found his senior wideout Joey Henley (Kent, WA) at the back of the end zone from 26 yards out to cap a nine play, 79-yard drive.
After going without a turnover in last week's loss at Iona, the SHU defense deliver the first of the day on Duquesne's next possession. Rombach was forced out of the pocket on first down at the SHU 36 where sophomore linebacker Chansler Davis (Islip Terrace, NY) made the initial hit, forcing the ball loose. Senior defensive lineman Jason Richardson (Malden, MA) recovered, giving the Pioneers the ball on their own 35.
Fink led the Pioneers (2-2) on another nine play drive that twice looked as if it would stall out. Facing a fourth and four on Duquesne's 45-yard line, Fink drew the defense offside to keep the drive alive and after an illegal block negated a first-down pick up by fullback Brian Friedman (Point Pleasant, NJ), Payne struck pay dirt to put the Pioneers in front. The senior tailback took a quick pass from Fink made a move for the corner, getting the sideline and coasting 40-yards for his fourth touchdown on the year.
The second quarter saw the Pioneer offense struggle, punting on all three of their possession while just gaining just 33 yards on 13 plays. The big blow came late in the quarter as Fink was dropped for a 17-yard sack by Mykol Gardiner, injuring his ankle on the play and forcing him out for the rest of the day.
On the flip side, the Dukes had three scoring drives that tacked 13 points on the board before the break. Place kicker Mark Troyan hit field goals of 26 and 25 yards while Rombach hit Michael Rasky on a five-yard scoring strike with 1:25 on the clock to give the Dukes a 20-14 lead at the half.
The Pioneers looked to freshman back-up quarterback Tyler McKeon (Worcester, MA) lead the offense in the second half with Fink forced to the sidelines. The Dukes forced punts on SHU's first-two possessions while Troyan tacked on his third field goal of the afternoon, a 35-yarder with 2:18 left in the third to lead 23-14.
McKeon and the Pioneers started to click again offensively on their ensuing drive, putting together a 10-play drive that was highlighted by a 42-yard completion to Henley down to the Duquesne six. SHU couldn't punch it in and settled for a Joe Schroeder (Jackson, NJ) 25-yard field goal to pull within 23-17.
The Pioneer defense looking for a big play got one on Duquesne's next possession. A holding penalty on the kickoff buried the Dukes back to their own two-yard line. Rombach got the offense out to their 33 but the Pioneers stiffened and forced a punt. Wilson busted through the Duke line and blocked Dave Kovalcik's punt clean, scooping it up at the 18-yard line and running it in for the apparent go-ahead score. Needing just the extra point to pull in front by one, Schroeder's kick missed its mark, sailing wide right leaving the game tied at 23-23.
Wilson struck again on the Duke's next possession, recovering a Todd Gilcrest fumble at the Duquesne 49 with 6:30 left. The Pioneers couldn't advance inside the 40 and punted the ball away. Neither team put together any solid scoring threats in the closing minutes and the game headed to overtime.
The Dukes won the overtime coin toss and elected to go on offense first. Duquesne needed just three plays before Hough ran it in from the eight yard line for the go-ahead score. McKeon and the SHU offense took their turn from the 25-yard line knowing they needed a touchdown to keep the game alive. The Pioneers faced a fourth and eighth from their 23 when McKeon took aim at Henley at the back of the end zone. The senior drew some contact and got a flag on a Duke defensive back for pass interference, setting up SHU first-and-goal on the eight yard line. The Dukes ended it on the next play however as corner Aaron Strader picked off McKeon on the two-yard line, sealing the win.
McKeon passed for 91 yards completing 10-of-17 in just over a half of play. In addition to Payne's 72 yards, junior Evin Jones (Pennsauken, NJ) ran for 72 on 16 carries. Payne caught three balls for 67 yards and his lone score. Henley pulled down three balls for 74 yards and his fifth touchdown of the year.
Duquesne's Bruce Hocker caught eight passes for 96 yards to lead the Duke's through the air. Duquesne's defense finished with four sacks, two by Gardiner in the win.
Wilson led the Pioneer defensive unit with nine tackles, a fumble recovery, a blocked punt and return in the loss. Sophomore linebacker Andre Geraghty (Bellavue, WA) matched Wilson's nine tackles, 1.5 for a loss, while junior linebacker Rich Marrone (Brooklyn, NY) made nine stops. Junior punter Derek Marks (East Lyme, CT) punted seven times for an average of 36.7 per kick.
The Pioneers will open the Northeast Conference portion of their schedule next Saturday afternoon facing Wagner College in Staten Island, NY. Kick-off is at 1:00 pm.