Oct. 29, 2008
Sacred Heart Pioneers (7-1, 3-1 NEC) vs. Wagner Seahawks (3-5, 1-3 NEC)
Game #9 - Friday, Oct. 31, 2008 - 7:00 pm - Fairfield, Conn. - Campus Field (4,000)
TV: MSG Plus (Direct TV, ch. 635; AT&T U-Verse, ch. 706; CABLEVISION ch. 72; CHARTER COMMUNICATIONS-Newtown/Heritage, ch. 37; COMCAST CABLE, ch. 31 ACCESS ADVISORY GROUP,LP-Stratford-Oronoque Village Apts., ch. 50) & Fox College Sports-Atlantic
Radio: WICC 600 AM, SacredHeartPioneers.com
Setting the Scene... The Sacred Heart Pioneers and Wagner Seahawks are ready for the Friday night "prime time" treatment as they face-off in a special Halloween Northeast Conference match-up live on the MSG television network. The Pioneers are back at home after a thrilling comeback win at Duquesne last week. SHU dug out of a 17-0 hole with a dominating defensive effort en route to 29 unanswered points and the win, their fourth-straight on the road. The Pioneer defense allowed just 171 yards of total offense while coming up with three interceptions, a fumble and a sack to lead the way. The Seahawks have lost three of their last four and are coming off a 35-3 loss at home at the hands of Robert Morris, dropping them to 1-3 in the NEC. The Seahawks turned the ball over six times, twice for touchdowns, in falling to the Colonials.
The SHU - Wagner Series... The all-time series between the Pioneers and Hawks is tied at 5-5. The two schools have met each season since 1998, Sacred Heart's first year in the Northeast Conference. The Seahawks took the first meeting in 1998, 40-8, in Fairfield, in what was also SHU's first-ever NEC game. The Pioneers won three-straight in the series from 2000 through 2002. SHU is 4-1 at home against Wagner and 1-4 in Staten Island. The two teams have alternated wins each year since the 2002 season, each winning on their home field. The two teams have twice played overtime games, both Sacred Heart wins, 10-7 in 2002 and 30-24 in 2004.
SHU in the NEC... The Pioneers are in their 11th season of competition in the Northeast Conference. SHU holds a 34-39 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... Sacred Heart will hit the road for their final away game of 2008 as they travel to Monmouth next Saturday. The Pioneers are 4-0 on the road this season. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:00 pm.
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 22-28 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. Wagner head coach and athletic director Walt Hameline (Brockport `75) is in his 28th season at the head of the Seahawk program and owns a 189-102-2 record at the school and overall. Hameline took over the reigns of the Wagner program in 1981 and has become the school's all-time winningest head coach. On of the highlights of his career was a 19-3 win over Dayton in the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bow for the 1987 NCAA Division III National Championship.
Last Meeting with Wagner... Wagner senior Piotr Czech connected on three field goals of 46, 31, and 47 yards to lead the Seahawks to an 18-15 win over visiting Sacred Heart last September. SHU freshman quarterback Tyler McKeon got the call to start for injured starter Dale Fink and completed 20-of-34 passes for 207 yards with an interception. McKeon and receiver Steve Tedesco found some chemistry, hooking-up 11 times for 143 yards in the loss. Tedesco's 11 catches were one shy of a new school record. Pioneer safety John Wilson piled up 16 tackles in the loss to the Seahawks while linebacker Rich Marrone made 10 stops, both players setting new career highs. Pioneer place kicker Joe Schroeder missed three field goals, one with 2:03 left in the fourth quarter that would have tied the game at 18-18. The Seahawks led 9-0 at the half thanks to a safety and a Lon Woods nine-yard touchdown pass from Matt Abbey and went up 12-0 in the third. SHU got touchdowns from Evin Jones and Jason Payne on the ground. Wagner's Jason Butler ran for 157 yards on 37 carries.
Last Time Out... Senior running back Evin Jones caught one touchdown pass and ran for two more scores as Sacred Heart overcame a 17-0 first half deficit in a 29-17 win at Duquesne last Saturday. After a pair of early Dale Fink interceptions led to a 17-0 Duke lead, Fink led the Pioneers down the field connecting with Jones on a 19-yard touchdown screen pass to get the comeback started. After a safety cut the Duquesne advantage to 17-9, Fink, who completed 27 of 34 passes for 268 yards, threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Brian Friedman on a fake field goal late in the second quarter. The Pioneers made it 29 unanswered points in with a pair of Jones one-yard TD runs in the third quarter, the second capping a 99-yard drive. Jones rushed for 74 yards on 26 carries and caught three passes for 31 yards. The SHU defense sealed the win, picking up two of their three interceptions in the fourth quarter along with a fumble recovery to seal the win. After a five-for-five start to the game that included a pair of touchdown throws, Duquesne quarterback Connor Dixon finished the game completing just nine of 24 passes for 107 yards. The Pioneers had 359 yards of total offense and held Duquesne to 171 yards.
Sacred Heart Getting Offensive... The Sacred Heart Pioneers employ the NEC's top-scoring offense at 32.1 points per game. SHU has scored at least 21 points in each of its games this season and has three times hit the 40-point mark. Sacred Heart's offense is averaging a league high 377.2 total yards per game, 228.1 through the air. SHU continues to shine in the red-zone, scoring on 28 of their 32 trips (87.5%) with 26 touchdowns. SHU is second in the NEC on third down, converting 46.9% and is the top-team on fourth down, converting 66.7% (8-12).
Dale Fink, SHU's Field General... R-Sophomore Quarterback Dale Fink is completing a NEC best and school record 70.2% (174-248) of his passes and has thrown for a league-leading 19 scores this season. Fink has thrown for 1,794 yards, an average of 224.2 yards per game, second in the league. Fink has thrown a touchdown in 17-straight games and has thrown for two or more scores in 14 games in his young career. He has tossed at least two scores in all but one game this season, the season opener. Against Saint Francis (PA), he threw for four touchdowns, a feat he has accomplished three times over his career, and tying the school record, held by five different SHU quarterbacks. 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 in the win over Marist. Fink, the reigning NEC Rookie of the Year, has shown no signs of a sophomore slump, posting a league best pass efficiency rating of 147.1 on the year. He has completed a league-high 174 passes.
Offensive Success Starts Up Front... The Sacred Heart offensive line saw their streak of seven game and 31-straight quarters without allowing a sack of quarterback Dale Fink fall to the wayside at Duquesne when Mykol Gardiner dropped the QB twice in the fourth quarter last Saturday. The Pioneers were the last team in the nation to surrender a sack in 2008 and lead the NEC with just two sacks allowed. The Pioneer starting front-five is made up of senior right tackle Ryan Arroyo, junior left tackle Abel Malae, r-sophomore right guard Dan Plunkett, r-sophomore guard/center Justin Smith and freshman left guard Will Martin. In addition freshman center Dylan Larson and r-sophomore Robert Russell have also seen time up front this season.
Ground Game led by Evin Jones... Running back Evin Jones is in the midst of a break out senior season, finding the century mark in four games this season with a 200-yard game on his stat ledger. Jones is closing in on the 1,000 yard mark for the season with 932 yards on 181 carries, an average of 5.1 yards per carry. Jones is fifth in the NEC and 12th in the nation in rushing at 116.5 yards per game. Jones has shown he has nose for the getting in the end zone with a team-high 12 touchdowns on the year, 11 rushing and one receiving. His 72 points on the year is second in the NEC only to Monmouth's back David Sinisi's 17 scores. Jones carried the ball a career-high 33 times in the win over 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.
Pioneer Receiving Corps... On the season, junior Steven Tedesco has a league leading and school record 60 caches for 704 yards, a 11.7 per catch average. His seven TD grabs leads all SHU receivers and the league. Tedesco is leading the NEC receptions per game (7.50), reception yards (704) and receiving yards per game (88.0). The rest of the Pioneer receiving corps have held their own as well with freshman Jared Kemp catching 25 balls for 215 yards and a score and r-sophomore Tony Patterson hauling in 23 catches while averaging 11.7 yards per catch and two touchdowns. Nine different receivers have caught Dale Fink touchdown passes this season including freshmen Garry Coles, Jared Kemp and Rich Rossi and r-sophomore tight end Tom Stripe hauling in their first career receiving touchdowns this season.
+9 In the Turnover Battle... The Pioneers have not had a game this season where they lost the turnover battle and are leading the NEC at +9 and are second in the nation with 23 take-aways on the season. The Pioneers have won the turnover war in six of the eight games this season and drawn even in the other two. Last week, the Pioneers picked off three passes and recovered a fumble in the win at Duquesne. On the season, Sacred Heart has 14 interceptions and nine fumble recoveries as a team. R-junior cornerback Andre Isla leads the team with four interceptions and a fumble recovery. Last season, SHU finished the year -14.
Sack Masters... Sacred Heart's two starting outside linebackers are among the Northeast Conference leaders in sacks this season. Junior Chansler Davis and sophomore Brian Flumere each have five quarterback sacks this season and share the NEC lead with Wagner's Robert Brown. Flumere has shown the flare for making big plays. He is second on the Pioneers defense with 46 total tackles but leads the team and is second in the NEC in tackles for a loss with 10.5. Add to that three forced fumbles and an interception.
Special Teams Advantage... The Pioneers have gotten a boost from their special teams this season in more ways then one. The SHU kickoff return team features the top-return man in the NEC in freshman Garry Coles who is averaging 24.1 yards per return this season (18 ret. - 434 yds). Junior place kicker Joe Schroeder notched his first career NEC Special Teams Player of the Week award after a pair of booming field goals at Saint Francis (PA). Schroeder has come in to his own this year and is in the midst of a break-out season. Schroeder hit field goals of 45-yards, a career-long by 10-yards, and 42-yards against the Red Flash. 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 43 points on the year. In addition, Schroeder has been effective on his kickoffs, averaging 60.9 yards per kick with four touchbacks. The SHU special teams has also shown a few wrinkles this year as well, twice converting on fourth down on fake punts and coming up with a touchdown on a fake field goal against Duquesne.
Fullback Friedman - SHU's Jack of all Trades... Junior fullback Brian Friedman has proven to be not only a valuable offensive weapon for head coach Paul Gorham but a special teams weapon as well. Friedman not only serves as a lead blocker and occasional ball carrier from his fullback position but he has also shown he can throw the football and punt it as well. For his efforts on special teams in last week's win at Duquesne, Friedman was the winner of this week's NEC Special Teamer award. On the same drive midway through the second quarter, Friedman converted on a fourth and two by rumbling for eight yards on a fake punt and then capped the drive by catching a 13-yard touchdown on a fake field goal. In addition he chipped in with a pair of kick coverage tackles. Friedman got into the act of tossing touchdowns this season when he hooked-up with Steve Tedesco on a 25-yard strike on a halfback pass in the win over Robert Morris. 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 backup punter and has been called upon this season, punting three times for an average of 34.3 yards, with one being downed inside the 20-yard line.
Evin Jones in the SHU Record Book... Senior running back Evin Jones is quietly climbing the rankings in the Pioneer Rushing Record Book. Jones is closing in on becoming the sixth running back in school history to hit the 1,000 yard mark in a season as he heads into the final three games with 932 yards. His 12 TD's this season, 11 on the ground, and 20 in his career has him ranked fifth in each category. Jones has 1,912 career rushing yards over his four years, as he tries to crack the top-five in that category.
Gorham Heads the All-Time SHU Coaching List... Sacred Heart head coach Paul Gorham got the Pioneers off on a six-game winning streak to open 2008, the longest in his tenure, that has rocketed him up Sacred Heart's all-time coaching wins list. Coach Gorham's 22 career wins on the SHU sideline move him past former coach Jim Fleming (2000-01) for the all-time lead in coaching wins at Sacred Heart. Gorham is in his fifth season at the helm of the Pioneer program.
Fink in the SHU Record Book... Quarterback Dale Fink, just 17 games into his collegiate career, is climbing his way up the Pioneer record book. Fink has thrown for 42 touchdowns in his career, passing Justin Holtfreter for the all-time record. Holtfreter threw 40 TD's in his two seasons under center in 2000 and 2001. Fink has completed 334 passes and thrown for 3,524 yards. His career completions percentage of 66.1% currently has him at the top of that all-time list. Fink is moving up the touchdown passes in a season (19), season passing yards list (1,794) and completions in a season list (174) as well. 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.
Tedesco is SHU's All-Time Receiving Leader... Before junior Steve Tedesco ends his career at Sacred Heart, the junior wide receiver may own every receiving record in the Pioneer record book. This season, Tedesco has set new career receiving records for receptions (145), yards (1,796) and touchdowns (23). Last week's 12 catch, 121 yard afternoon gave Tedesco three more records to add to his ever growing resume. Tedesco tied the school mark of catches in a game, matching the 12 Doug Geoffrey pulled down against Stony Brook in the 2000 season. He moved past former teammate Corey Bundy into first place on the career yardage chart and also broke his own record for catches in a season, raising this year's total to 60 grabs.
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.
History of Sacred Heart Football... This is the 18th football season at Sacred Heart University. The program is 81-101 (.445) all-time and 61-46 (.570) 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.