FAIRFIELD, CT (September 16, 2011) – Bryant junior running back Jordan Brown piled up 334 all-purpose yards including 248 on the ground to lead the Bulldogs past Sacred Heart 26-6 Friday night in the Northeast Conference opener for both teams. Brown broke the game open with a 53-yard punt return for a touchdown mid way through the second quarter, giving his team a 16-3 lead en route to the win in a game televised live on MSG Plus.
In addition to Brown's punt return, the Bulldogs registered a safety on special teams with a blocked punt out of the endzone to open the scoring. Bryant quarterback Mike Croce need only throw16 times in the win, completing eight for 72 yards while hooking up with tight end Matt Tracey for a pair of touchdowns.
The Pioneers (0-2, 0-1 NEC) were held to three-and-outs on their first four drives of the game, not picking up their initial first down until the second quarter. The Pioneer defense thwarted a Bryant on their first drive, recovering a bad snap fumble on the SHU 13-yard line. After no success on offense, Bryant was able to flip field position and pinned the Pioneers back on their own three-yard line. After a failed third down pass, SHU punter Rob Sheperd (Groton, CT) set up with his feet at the back of the endzone. Bryant's Matthew Hunt came up with the blocked and the ball cleared the back line for a Bulldog safety and 2-0 lead with 3:03 on the clock.
The Bulldogs (2-1, 1-0 NEC) pushed their lead to 9-0 on the ensuing possession as Croce led his team on six play, 40-yard drive that ended with him finding his tight end Tracey for six from 11-yard s out on third-down. SHU produced points on their next drive as a 28-yard Greg Moore (Newark, NJ) scamper and a Little to fullback Pat Casey (Berlin, NJ) 15-yard completion set the Pioneers up first-and-goal on the Bulldog six-yard line. The drive would stall when Little was dropped for an eight-yard sack by Nick Sengotta and SHU settled for a 29-yard Rogers field goal with 10:47 left in the second.
The Bryant special teams would strike again just three minutes later after holding the Pioneers to another three-and-out. Shepard's punt was a low line-drive that Brown collected on the run at the 47-yard line before breaking into the clear and flying up the sideline for six and a 16-3 Bryant lead with 5:17 left. A third special teams miscue would haunt the Pioneers once again on their next possession.
After being held to a three-and-out for sixth time in the first half, Shepherd tried to handle a bad snap and was dropped for a 14-yard loss setting up the Bulldogs at Pioneer 22-yard line. It took just three plays for Croce to find Tracey once again for six and a 23-3 lead with 5:17 left.
SHU put together a late first half scoring drive capped by a Rogers 39-yard field goal as time expired. The halftime score, 26-6, would go on to be the final score as well with neither team finding pay dirt in the second half.
Brown carried the ball 38 times for 248 yards, averaging 6.5 yards per touch. He also added a 38-yard kick-return to his ledger. For the Pioneers, sophomore running back Gregory Ibe (Queens, NY) ran the ball 15 times for 89 yards in the loss. Quarterback Tim Little (Egg Harbor Twp., NJ) completed just 16-of-41 passes for 157 yards and an interception.
The Pioneers finished with 263 yards of total offense to 299 by Bryant but where just two-of-16 on third-down and one-of-seven on fourth down in the game. The only Sacred Heart offense came on the foot of place kicker Chris Rogers (Cazenovia, NY) who hit from 29-yards and 39-yards. The Pioneers have not produced a touchdown offensively since their second possession in the first quarter against Marist in game one.
Defensively, the Pioneers got double digit tackles from seniors Justin Embler and Chris Mandas. Embler turned in 11 stops, eight solo, to include five tackles for a loss a sack and forced fumble. Mandas had 10 tackles, eight solo, with a sack and a pass break-up.
Sacred Heart returns to action next Saturday, September 24th, when they host Dartmouth on Homecoming Weekend. Bryant will host Wagner in NEC action next week.