Pioneers and Great Danes Set for First Place Clash
Oct. 16, 2008
Sacred Heart Pioneers (6-0, 2-0 NEC) vs. Albany Great Danes (3-3, 2-0 NEC)
Game #7 - Saturday, Oct. 18, 2008 - 1:00 pm - Fairfield, Conn. - Campus Field (4,000)
Radio: WICC 600 AM, SacredHeartPioneers.com
Setting the Scene... The 6-0 Sacred Heart Pioneers welcome the defending Northeast Conference Champion Albany Great Danes to Campus Field this Saturday in a battle two of the leagues unbeaten teams. The Pioneers (2-0) and Great Danes (2-0) sit atop the NEC standings along with Monmouth (3-0) as the league's only unbeaten teams. SHU picked-up their sixth-straight win last week in convincing fashion with a 41-24 win at Saint Francis (PA). UAlbany has won two-straight with conference wins over Duquesne, 33-23, and Central Connecticut, 24-22, as they make the trip to Fairfield. The Great Danes opened their season facing three teams ranked in the top-20, in UMass, New Hampshire and Delaware. The Pioneers and Great Danes are both 2-0 in league play and are tied with Monmouth (3-0) for first place.
The SHU - Albany Series... The University at Albany leads the all-time series, 8-2. The Great Danes have won six-straight in the series dating back to the 2002 season. UAlbany won the first two-meetings, both shutouts, in 1997 (42-0) and 1999 (41-0). Sacred Heart's two wins came during the 2000 and 2001 season. The Pioneers posted a 34-28 win in overtime at home in 2000 and scored a 32-17 win on the road during their perfect 11-0 2001 season. The Pioneers are 1-3 against the Great Danes at home and 1-5 in Albany. Albany has averaged 33.6 points in their eight wins over the Pioneers.
SHU in the NEC... The Pioneers are in their 11th season of competition in the Northeast Conference. SHU holds a 33-38 record in NEC competition since joining the league in 1998. The Pioneers won their only league championship during the 2001 campaign, finishing a perfect 8-0. SHU finished second to Robert Morris in 2000, going 7-1 in the league. The Pioneers last winning season in conference action was 2002, finishing tied with Stony Brook for second place at 5-2.
Up Next... The Pioneers head back to Western Pennsylvania next week to face the Northeast Conference's newest member, Duquesne University. The Pioneers are 1-2 all-time against the Dukes.
The Head Coaches... Sacred Heart head coach Paul Gorham (New Hampshire `84) is in his fifth season on the Pioneer sideline. Gorham was named the school's seventh head coach in June of 2004 and owns a 21-27 record in his five year career. Prior to becoming the Pioneer's head coach, Gorham had stops at UMass, Brown, New Haven and his alma mater New Hampshire. Albany head coach Bob Ford (Springfield `59) is in his 36th season at the head of the Great Dane football program. Ford, who has been UAlbany's only head coach since the program was reinstated after a 46-year absence, was appointed on April 27, 1970. Since then, he has compiled a 34-year varsity record of 219-143 as the Great Dane mentor, while his 228 career victories ranks second among active NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (formerly I-AA) head coaches.
Last Meeting with UAlbany... Senior Jason Payne ran for 82 yards on 16 carries in a 35-7 loss at Albany last October. Payne averaged 5.1 yards per carry on the day and was key on the Pioneer's lone scoring drive, ripping off runs of 13, 18 and 14 yards to help set up the score. Dale Fink capped the drive hitting Steve Tedesco from seven yards out. The Great Danes piled up 273 yard on the ground and got rushing touchdowns from running backs David McCarty and Justin Gannon and another from quarterback Vinny Esposito. McCarty led all rushers with 97 yards on 14 carries in the win. UAlbany held the ball for 37 minutes, running 86 plays and piling up 524 yards and 28 first downs of total offense in the win. Defensively, the Great Danes held the Pioneers to just 12 first downs and 187 yards of offense, 70 coming on their lone scoring drive. SHU was held to just two-of-11 on third down and turned the ball over three times. Esposito threw for 236 yards and two scores, completing 17-of-27. Tim Bush caught four balls for 66 yards and a score to lead the receiving corps. Quarterback Dale Fink finished the game 17-of-24 for 107 yards and a touchdown.
Last Time Out... The Sacred Heart Pioneers ran their winning-streak to six-straight to open the season thanks to a 41-24 win over the Saint Francis (PA) Red Flash on the road last weekend. The Pioneers got big days from quarterback Dale Fink, who threw for four touchdowns and senior running back Evin Jones, who ran for 127 yards and a touchdown in the win. The Red Flash turned the ball over three times in the second half helping lead to 24 Pioneer points. The Pioneer offensive attack, the Northeast Conference's top-scoring offense, put up 40 points or more for the third time this season as they finished with 363 yards of total offense in the win. The defense once again came up with timely turnovers, picking off two passes and recovering a fumble, all in the second half, to help break open what was a seven-point game. Junior Steve Tedesco was held with out a catch in the first half but came up with six grabs for 71 yards and two scores in SHU's big second half. Fink completed 20-of-31 passes while throwing to eight different receivers in the win. Freshman, Garry Coles again gave the Pioneers a spark on special teams with three returns for 98 yards including a long of 48 yards. Junior kicker Joe Schroeder nailed a pair of field goals, topping his career-longs with 45 and 42 yard make. Defensively, r-sophomore Rashod Underwood led the Pioneers with eight tackles, a forced fumble and fumble recovery while junior Chansler Davis recorded his fifth sack of the season.
Win Streak Hits Six-Straight... The unbeaten streak hit six-straight to start the season thanks to a 41-24 win at Saint Francis (PA) last week. The Pioneers are now 2-0 in the NEC for the first time under head coach Paul Gorham and the first time since the 2003 season. The win gave Coach Gorham 21 career wins on the SHU sideline, tying him with former coach Jim Fleming (2000-01) for the all-time lead in coaching wins at Sacred Heart.
Pioneer Offense on a Roll... The Pioneer offense has not missed a beat in their six games this fall as they will host Albany with the one of the NEC's most potent attacks. SHU is averaging a NEC best 34.5 points per game and are coming off their third 40-point plus performance of the year in last week's 41-24 win at Saint Francis (PA). Sacred Heart's offense is averaging 393.5 total yards per game, second among NEC leaders. SHU continues to shine in the red-zone, scoring on 21 of their 24 trips (87.5%) with 19 touchdowns. SHU is third in the NEC on third down, converting 43.2%.
Offensive Success Starts Up Front... Six games into the 2008 season and the Pioneer offensive line has yet to surrender a sack of quarterback Dale Fink. SHU is the only team in the NEC not to allow a sack this season. Under the guidance of assistant coach Kevin Bolis, the Pioneer front-five of senior tackle Ryan Arroyo, junior tackle Abel Malae, r-sophomore guard Dan Plunkett, r-sophomore guard/center Justin Smith, freshman guard Will Martin and freshman center Dylan Larson continue to impress not only protecting the quarterback but paving the way for the SHU ground game. The Pioneers are averaging 175.2 yards per game on the ground, third among NEC leaders.
Ground Game led by Evin Jones... Senior running back Evin Jones has found lots of room to run in the early going and has hit the century mark in four of the six games this season with a 200-yard game to his credit. Jones is coming of his second-straight 100-yard game and is closing in on the 1,000 yard mark for the season. The senior tailback has carried the ball 139 times on the season for 812 yards, an average of 5.8 yards per carry. Jones is fourth in the NEC and seventh in the nation in rushing at 135.3 yards per game. Jones' eight touchdown rushes leads the team and is second to Monmouth's back David Sinisi's 13 scores. Jones carried the ball a career-high 33 times two weeks ago against Robert Morris finishing with 187 yards, an effort second only to his 210 yard night against Assumption in the opener as a career bench mark. His season-opening performance against Assumption earned him NEC Offensive Player of the Week honors.
Dale Fink, SHU's Field General... R-Sophomore Quarterback Dale Fink is completing a NEC best 67.8% (122-180) of his passes and has thrown for a league-leading 15 scores this season. Fink has thrown for 1,279 yards, an average of 213.2 yards per game, fourth in the league. He is coming off throwing for four scores last week at Saint Francis, a feat he has accomplished three times over his career. Four touchdown throws in a game ties the school record, held by five different SHU quarterbacks. Fink has thrown a touchdown in 15-straight games and has thrown for two or more scores in 12 games in his young career. The sophomore signal caller picked up his first career NEC Offensive Player of the Week award after throwing for a season-high 281 yards and three scores the win over Marist. Fink, the reigning NEC Rookie of the Year, has shown no signs of a sophomore slump, posting a passing efficiency rating of 147.2 on the year. He has completed a league-high 122 passes.
+7 In the Turnover Battle... The Pioneers won the turnover battle 3-2 in last Saturday's win, all coming in the second half, and improved to +7 on the season. SHU has won the turnover battle in five of the six games this season. On the season, Sacred Heart has nine interceptions and eight fumble recoveries as a team. Last season, SHU finished the year -14.
Bend But Don't Break... The Pioneer defense is giving up a league-low 20.5 points per game but have twice allowed more the 400-yards of offense in a game this season. Sacred Heart is allowing an average of 364.5 yards per game and is coming off giving up 375 yards at Saint Francis (PA). Despite allowing big chunks of yardage, SHU continues to find a way to get big plays, picking off a pair of passes and grabbing a fumble in the win. R-Junior Andre Isla leads the team with three interceptions with r-sophomore Rashod Underwood coming up with two from his safety spot on the year. The Pioneers have also done a good job pressuring the quarterback with 12 sacks through six games. Junior linebacker Chansler Davis leads the team with five sacks. Senior linebacker Rich Marrone has a team-leading 40 tackles and three forced fumbles.
Joe Schroeder - Special Teamer of the Week... Junior place kicker Joe Schroeder won this week's NEC Special Teams Player of the Week. Schroeder has come in to his own this year and is in the midst of a break-out season. Schroeder hit a pair of booming field goals last week, nailing a 45-yarder, a career-long by 10-yards, and a 42-yarder. Schroeder has developed into another weapon for the league's most potent offense as he is 4-of-4 on field goal attempts this season with a total of 37 points on the year. In addition to his two 40-plus yard field goals, Schroeder averaged 66.1 yards on his kickoffs with a pair of touchbacks to his credit. On the year, he is averaging 60.6 yards on his kickoffs with three touchbacks.
Special Team Advantage... The Pioneers have gotten a boost from their special teams this season. The SHU kickoff return team features the top-return man in the NEC in freshman Garry Coles. Coles is averaging 25.5 yards per return this season, recording 357 yards on 14 returns. Fellow freshman Jared Kemp has joined Coles and had four returns for 102 yards, an average of 25.5 yards per return. The Pioneers have been the benefit of great field position all season and are coming off a win at Saint Francis (PA) where SHU had an average starting field position at their own 47-yard line.
Pioneer Receiving Corps... On the season, junior Steven Tedesco has 40 caches for 482 yards, a 12.1 per catch average. His six TD grabs leads all SHU receivers. Tedesco is leading the NEC in touchdown receptions (6), receptions per game (6.67), reception yards (480) and receiving yards per game (80.3). The rest of the Pioneer receiving corps have held their own as well with r-sophomore Tony Patterson hauling in 18 catches while averaging 12.2 yards per catch. Six different receivers have caught Dale Fink touchdown passes this season.
Tedesco Rewriting the SHU Record Book... Junior wide receiver Steve Tedesco set another career receiving record last week and is closing in on another. Tedesco came up with six catches against St. Francis and passed former teammate Corey Bundy for first on the all-time receptions list with 125 and counting.. Tedesco moved into sole possession of the top-spot with 22 career scores, passing DeVeren Johnson (2000-01). His 1,574 yards ranks him third behind both Bundy (1,758) and Johnson (1,748). Tedesco also owns the school records for receptions in a season (59 - 2007).
Fink in the SHU Record Book... Quarterback Dale Fink, just 15 games into his collegiate career, is climbing his way up the Pioneer all-time passing lists. Fink has thrown for 38 touchdowns in his career and is now two away from the all-time record of 40 set by Justin Holtfreter in his two seasons under center in 2000 and 2001. He has completed 282 passes and thrown for 3,009 yards and 38 touchdowns in his short career. His career completions percentage of 64.5% currently has him atop that all-time list. The two quarterbacks he is chasing, Tyler Arciaga (2005-06) and Justin Holtfreter (2000-01) rewrote the SHU record book in just two years with Fink on pace to equal their feats in just his first two years under center as well.
Fullback Friedman - SHU's Jack of all Trades... Junior fullback Brian Friedman has proven to be a pretty valuable offensive weapon for head coach Paul Gorham. Friedman not only serves as a lead blocker and occasional ball carrier but he has also shown he can throw the football and punt it as well. Friedman got into the act of tossing touchdowns when he hooked-up with Steve Tedesco on a 25-yard strike on a halfback pass in the win over Robert Morris. Friedman was looking for his second late in the third when he hit QB Dale Fink on trick play that came up short of the goal line. It was the second career touchdown throw for Friedman who hooked-up with Fink on a halfback toss in a win over Marist last season. Friedman also serves as the team's punter when looking to "pooch-punt". He has three punts on the year for an average of 34.3 yards, with one being downed inside the 20-yard line.
Garry Coles, Sacred Heart's Impact Rookie... Freshman Garry Coles has scored six touchdowns this season and has provided the Pioneers with a spark on both offense and in the return game. Coles is averaging 120.8 all-purpose yards this season, racking up 151 yards rushing, 187 yards receiving and 357 kickoff return yards. The rookie running back owns two NEC Rookie of the Week awards this season. He is averaging 6.0 yards per carry average and is the Pioneer's third leading receiver with 16 catches, 11.7 yards per catch. He is averaging 25.5 yards per return on kickoffs, tops in the NEC.
Mortali Brothers Win NEC Awards... In back to back games, the Sacred Heart brother combination of senior Anthony and sophomore Mike Mortali picked up a pair of Northeast Conference Weekly Awards. Anthony was the recipient of the Special Teams Player of the Week after recovering a blocked punt and returning it for a five-yard score in the win at Iona. In a Week 2 win over Bentley, Mike was called upon to step in for injured strong safety Steve Young and came up with a game-high nine tackles (four solo), a sack, a fumble recovery and three pass breakups to win the NEC Defensive Player of the Week award.
Former Pioneer Makes NFL 53-Man Roster... Former Sacred Heart standout Jon Corto became the first Pioneer in school history to make an NFL 53-man roster, suiting up for his hometown Buffalo Bills this season. Corto, a backup linebacker and special teams player, paid early dividends for the Bills, forcing a fumble on a kickoff during Week 1 against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Corto spent last season on the Bill's practice squad. The Orchard Park, NY native, signed with the Bill's as an undrafted free agent last June after attending the team's rookie mini-camp after the draft. Corto had a stellar four-year career as a Pioneer, earning All-American honors as well as first-team All-Northeast Conference accolades. He finished his career at SHU as the program's second all-time leading tackler with 300 tackles over four years.
Tedesco a Preseason All-NEC Pick... Sacred Heart junior wide receiver Steve Tedesco was named to the 2008 All-Northeast Conference Preseason team. Tedesco led the league in receptions per game (5.36), while ranking second in receiving yards per game (67.0). Tedesco finished 2007 with a league-high 59 catches for 737 yards and a conference-best 11 touchdown grabs. Tedesco, a first team choice at receiver last season, is also a feared punt returner as evidenced by the 18.2 yards per return he averaged. The junior wideout set a new school record last season for receptions in a season (59) and twice tied the school mark for touchdown catches in a game nabbing three against both Assumption and Saint Francis (PA).
History of Sacred Heart Football... This is the 18th football season at Sacred Heart University. The program is 80-100 (.444) all-time and 60-45 (.571) since joining the Northeast Conference (NEC) and Division I FCS (formerly I-AA) in 1998. The program has had seven head coaches starting with Gary Reho (1991-96) who led the team to a 5-4 record in their inaugural season. Jim Fleming led the Pioneers to a 21-1 mark in his two seasons as head coach (2000-01) including the 11-0 2001 campaign that delivered the university and NEC title. 2001 also saw the Pioneers lone post season appearance, beating Duquesne in the ECAC Bowl, 31-15, laying claim to the Division I-AA Mid-Major National Championship.