Football Looks to Bounce Back with 2019 Home Opener against Bucknell on Saturday Night

Football Looks to Bounce Back with 2019 Home Opener against Bucknell on Saturday Night

 

GAME INFORMATION

  Matchup

  Sacred Heart (0-1) vs Bucknell (0-1)

  Date/Time

  Saturday, Sept. 7 | 6:00 p.m.

  Location

  Campus Field | Fairfield, Conn.

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  NEC Front Row

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  N/A

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  Game Notes

  Sacred Heart | Bucknell

  Twitter

  @SHUBigRed | @SHU__Football

 

FAIRFIELD, Conn. – Following a tough loss to then-No. 7 ranked Maine, the Sacred Heart football team looks to bounce back with the Pioneers' 2019 home opener on Saturday night from Campus Field against Bucknell. SHU hopes to prolong an extended string of success in home openers as the Pioneers have won their last seven consecutive home openers, all of which have come since Head Coach Mark Nofri took the reins of the program in 2012. Kickoff is set for 6 PM. 

OPENING KICKOFF

  • SHU is 13-7 in home openers at the Div. I level (since 1999) and head into Saturday's contest having won their last seven consecutive home openers, all of which coming with Coach Nofri at the helm
  • The Pioneers have dominated in their home openers of-late, outscoring the opposition by an average margin of +27.9 in the seven-game win streak. In the 2018 opener, the Pioneers dominated Lafayette, 35-6
  • SHU opened their 2019 season with a tough 42-14 loss at then-No. 7 nationally-ranked Maine on August 30. For the Pioneers, the loss snapped the program's three-game winning streak in games played against ranked foes while the contest also marked the first time in program history SHU faced a Top 10 opponent
  • Fifth-year transfer Logan Marchi started at quarterback for SHU and played all but one series, going 12-for-29 for 104 yards and no interceptions against a Maine team that forced 18 last season. Marchi also punched in a one-yard score in the first quarter, good for the second rushing score of his collegiate career
  • Now in his eighth season at the helm, Coach Nofri has already become the winningest head coach in program history owning an all-time career mark of 44-37 (.543) with five winning seasons to his credit
  • Rushing for 241.1 yards per game last season (15th nationally), SHU featured the NEC's top rushing attack last season as well as the nation's fifth-best passing defense (148.8 yards allowed per game)
  • SHU's 42-14 loss at Maine last Friday snapped a six-game win streak as the last time the Pioneers had lost a game to open a campaign, prior to this season, came back in 2012 with a 30-27 overtime loss at Morgan State
  • On offense, leading the charge will be the Pioneers' dominant two-headed duo at the running back position with 2019 Preseason All-NEC pick in Jordan Meachum (1,396 rushing yards, 11 touchdowns in 2018) and 2018 NEC Rookie of the Year Julius Chestnut (713 yards, seven TDs) combining for over 2000 yards last season
  • The strength of this SHU team is on the defensive end as the Pioneers return nine starters, including all three linebackers, from a unit that ranked second in the NEC in total defense (336 yards allowed per game) and scoring defense (22.1) while ranking fifth in the nation in pass defense (148.8)
  • The Pioneers were picked second in the NEC Preseason Coaches' Poll, earning one first place vote, as SHU finished last season 7-4 overall (5-1 NEC) on their way to a split of the NEC Regular Season title which represents the program's third NEC crown over the last six seasons
  • Maine, who finished 10-4 overall and 7-1 in CAA play to earn the outright CAA Championship in 2018, advanced all the way to the national FCS semifinals for the first time in program history. The Black Bears feature seven CAA preseason All-Conference honorees and three STATS FCS Preseason All-Americans – CB Manny Patterson, DL Kayon Whitaker and LB Deshawn Stevens – while Maine owned the nation's top-ranked rush defense in 2018 (79.2 yards allowed per game)

TALE OF THE TAPE (2018 stats/rankings)

Bucknell (PL rank) Category Sacred Heart (NEC rank)
13.3 (6) Points 28.1 (4)
227.0 (7) Total Offense 409.5 (3)
57.0 (6) Rushing Yards 241.1 (1)
170.0 (5) Passing Yards 168.5 (7)
27:31 (6) Offensive Time of Possession 29:03 (7)
388.6 (5) Total Defense 336.0 (2)
171.9 (5) Rushing Yards Allowed 187.2 (4)
6/10 Rushing TDs/Passing TDs 26/13
216.7 (5) Passing Yards Allowed 148.8 (1)
25/11 Rushing/Passing TDs Allowed 18/12
32:29 Defensive Time of Possession 30:57
+1 (3) Turnover Margin +2 (2)
28.3 (5) Points Allowed 22.1 (2)

 

INSIDE THE MAINE BOX SCORE

  • SHU's ground game, which led the NEC with 241.1 yards per game average last season, was largely held in-check by a Maine run defense that led the nation in 2018. The Pioneers gained 115 yards on 33 carries, led by Julius Chestnut who totaled 65 yards on nine carries (7.2 ypc). Fifth-year Eli Terry, who suffered a season-ending injury on the first play from scrimmage last season, saw the bulk of the work in the fourth quarter in his first game back and scored his second career touchdown.
  • New faces led the SHU defense last Friday as sophomore inside linebacker Robert O'Donnell racked up a game-high eight tackles in his first career action. Junior Lamar Evans made six takcles while three Pioneers turned in four apiece. Sophomore Kevin Peprah recorded the game's only sack, the first of his career.
  • Fifth-year transfer QB Logan Marchi started for SHU and played all but one series, going 12-for-29 for 104 yards and no interceptions against a Maine team that forced 18 last season. Marchi also punched in a one-yard score in the first quarter, good enough for the second rushing TD of his collegiate career.
  • The Black Bears put the game away in the first half, scoring a touchdown on all six of their drives in the opening two quarters of play.
  • Maine's three-year starter at QB, Chris Ferguson, tossed for a career-high 423 yards and three touchdowns including 404 yards in the first half alone, all against a SHU pass defense that ranked Top 5 in the country in 2018.
  • After being outscored 42-7 and outgained 487-65 in the first half, SHU came back to shutout Maine (7-0) and outgain the Black Bears 142-95 in the second half
  • Entering the game with 1952 career rushing yards, fifth-year RB Jordan Meachum gained 33 yards on nine carries to move to within 15 yards of becoming the eighth SHU player in program history to gain 2000+ career rushing yards
  • Sophomore WR Naseim Brantley caught a career-high five receptions for 25 yards
  • Sophomore WR Troy Holland went for 33 yards in his first career action, including an impressive 32-yard catch in the fourth quarter
  • Prior to the loss, the last time SHU had lost in the team's first game of the season came all the way back in 2012 with a 30-27 overtime loss at Morgan State.
  • In the first-ever meeting between the two sides, SHU dropped to 3-3 all-time in games played against nationally-ranked opponents.
  • The Pioneers came into the game riding a three-game win streak against ranked foes, having beaten No. 24 Delaware (2014), No. 21 Bryant (2014) and No. 20 Stony Brook (2016) all within the last six seasons.
  • The game also represented the first time SHU has ever faced an opponent ranked Top 10 in the nation.

MILESTONE ALERT

  • Fifth-year RB Jordan Meachum is on the cusp of becoming the eighth player in program history to rush for over 2,000 career yards. Entering Saturday's game, Meachum has rushed for 1,982 yards and needs just 18 yards to cross the milestone. If he hits the mark, Meachum joins an exclusive club that includes Keshaudes Spence (2011-14; 3,745 career yards), Ed Pricolo (2002-05; 3,052 yards), Brian Ihlefeld (1993-96; 2,408 yards), Jason Payne (2004-07; 2,381 yards), Ron Stopkoski (1991-94; 2,183 yards), Evin Jones (2005-08; 2,154 yards) and Marvin Royal (2000-01; 2,008 yards) as the only 2,000+ yard players in program history

BUCKNELL SCOUTING REPORT

  • Bucknell wrapped up the 2018 campaign with a 10-0 (1-5 Patriot League) record. The Bison, who took seventh in the Patriot League a year ago, were chosen to finish in the same spot in the 2019 preseason poll
  • The Bison are currently 0-1 (0-0 PL) following their 56-12 loss at FBS foe Temple on August 31
  • WR Brandon Sanders starred in the Temple loss, catching nine passes for 115 yards which CB Gavin Pringle returned an interception 36 yards for a touchdown
  • Bucknell used three different quarterbacks: Logan Bitikofer (6-for-9, 39 yards), John Chiarolanzio (3-for-8, 69 yards) and Tarrin Earle (11-for-25, 82 yards) in the season-opening defeat
  • Bucknell is in its first season under head coach Dave Cecchini, who spent the previous six seasons at Valparaiso
  • The Bison return a total of 53 letterwinners in 2019, a group that includes two fifth-years, 19 seniors, 22 juniors and 10 sophomores. Fifth-year P Alex Pechin is a four-time letterwinner while six seniors—TE Marcus Ademilola, WR Justin Bethea, QB John Chiarolanzio, LB Sam Chitty, LB Jon Fox and DL John Hunt—are three-time letterwinners
  • Chitty and Pechin are serving as team captains in 2019
  • Bucknell returned its top passer from 2018 (Logan Bitikofer, 1,050 yards) and 2017 (John Chiarolanzio, 1,069 yards), its top rusher from 2018 (RB Jared Cooper, 525 yards) and 2017 (RB Chad Freshnock, 525 yards) and its top receiver from 2018 (WR Brandon Sanders, 516 yards). Freshnock lost the 2018 season to injury
  • The Bison lost three of their top four tacklers from a year ago in S Joe Lauro (86), CB Bryan Marine (85) and LB Matt Robinson (74). Chitty (74) rounded out that group and was also the team leader in tackles for a loss (13.5)
  • Coach Cecchini has a track record of having explosive offenses going back to his time as an offensive coordinator at Lehigh, The Citadel and Harvard, where each of those offenses broke school records
  • Defensively, the top three tacklers are gone. But Simeon Page is a special player to return and lead that unit. He was an All-Patriot League First Team honoree despite playing in only seven games due to injury. Page played a hybrid defensive lineman/linebacker role called the "X' in the old scheme. 
  • The Bison got a huge bonus when punter Alex Pechin was granted a fifth year of eligibility due to an injury he suffered his sophomore year. He is one of the best to do it in college football and is a multi-time All-Conference and All-American selection, becoming the first Bucknell specialist to earn All-American honors in program history

INSIDE THE SERIES: SHU vs. BUCKNELL

  • This if the fifth meeting in the series between the Pioneers and Bison. The teams have split the first four meetings, with each team owning a 2-2 mark in the series
  • Three of the previous four games took place in Lewisburg as the only time the two sides have played at Campus Field was back in 2014 (Bucknell won 36-20)
  • SHU won the most-recent game, a 30-14 victory at Christy Mathewson-Memorial Stadium, last season as RB Jordan Meachum and QB Kevin Duke dominated with a combined 282 yards on the ground
  • Bucknell won meetings in 2014 and 2017 while SHU won the first-ever meeting between the two sides in 2013, with a 16-0 decision on the road 

LAST MEETING (2018): SHU 30, BUCKNELL 14 (LEWISBURG, PA.)

  • A stout defensive showing saw SHU limit the Bison to just 14 points and 178 total yards of offense while generating five sacks
  • RB Jordan Meachum rushed for 178 yards on 28 carries with one TD while QB Kevin Duke picked up a career-best 104 yards on the road while throwing for 138 yards and one score
  • DT Noel Hijazi put an exclamation point on the win by scooping up a fumble and returning it 32 yards for a touchdown as time expired
  • DB Salaam Horne led the way with a career-high 10 tackles while DE Chris Agyemang added five tackles, including two sacks and three tackles-for-loss
  • Bucknell led 14-7 in the second quarter but SHU scored 23 unanswered points the rest of the way to knock off the Patriot League foe

SEASON NOTES:

PRESEASON HONORS

  • Fifth-year Jordan Meachum (RB) and senior Chris Agyemang (DE) earned Preseason All-NEC honors
  • Meachum was also named to the CFPA FCS Performer of the Year Watch List, one of just 40 players across the nation to earn a spot and one of just three from the NEC to gain recognition. Meachum was one of just 14 non-quarterbacks listed on CFPA's 2019 preseason watch list, for an award handed to the nation's top player

SCHEDULE TALK

  • The defending NEC Co-Champion Pioneers' 2019 slate features 12 contests, the most regular season games SHU has played since the 2013 campaign
  • A year after going 4-1 in games played at Campus Field, SHU is set to host five games in 2019 with the home opener slated for Saturday, Sept. 7 against Bucknell at 6 PM
  • In the five-game non-conference slate, SHU challenges three Patriot League programs (Bucknell, Lafayette, Lehigh) in addition to the spotlight showdown at Maine to open the season and a mid-October contest at Penn
  • The NEC welcomes a new member in 2019 as the Pioneers travel to Long Island (formerly LIU Post) on Saturday, Sept. 21stas all league members face a seven-game conference schedule, an increase of one from previous seasons
  • In the Mark Nofri era (since 2012), the Pioneers have fared quite well in games played away from Campus Field, sporting a 22-21 record with six consecutive seasons finishing .500 or better as well as four straight 3-3 campaigns 

CAPTAINS

  • In a decision that was announced following the team's annual Spring Game, the Pioneers elected five captains for the 2019 season. Shawn Ramcheran (Sr., CB), Chris Agyemang (Sr., DE), Noah Provenzano (5th-Year, SS), Jordan Meachum (5th-Year, RB) and Josh Sokol (Sr., C) will serve as team captains this season
  • Ramcheran is entering his second straight season serving as a team captain while Agyemang, Provenzano, Meachum and Sokol are all entering their first season in a leadership position

GOING, GOING, GONE – SHU'S RUSHING ATTACK

  • SHU led the NEC and ranked 15thin the country in rushing offense in 2018, averaging 241.1 yards per game on the ground with a 5.50 yards per carry average
  • The Pioneers shape up well in 2019 with the return of running back duo Jordan Meachum (1396 rushing yards, 11 TDs in 2018) and Julius Chestnut (713 yards, 7 TDs), who combined for over 2000 yards in 2018
  • Meachum rushed for the second-highest single-season total in program history last season while also representing the program's first 1,000+ yard rusher since 2013
  • Chestnut was the program's first NEC Rookie of the Year since RJ Noel in 2013 as the four-time NEC Rookie of the Week had a huge breakout campaign in 2018 with 713 rushing yards and seven touchdowns while playing in all 11 games
  • In addition to the dynamic duo of Meachum and Chestnut, fifth-year Eli Terry returns in 2018 as the then-senior started the Pioneers' season opener against Lafayette and rushed for 27 yards on the first play of the game, only to suffer a knee injury on the ensuing tackle that cut his senior season short
  • In those seven victories, SHU rushed for at least 153 yards in every one
  • In the seven SHU victories from last season, the Pioneers averaged 271.1 yards per game on the ground compared to 188.5 in the team's four losses
  • Three season-long starters along the offensive line last season – Anthony Della Fave, Josh Sokol and J.D. DiRenzo – return in 2019 with two new starters taking over at right guard and right tackle

ON THE DEFENSE

  • Hordes of Pioneers return in 2019 (9-of-11 starters) after putting together a very solid 2018 campaign wherein SHU allowed 22.1 points per game (23rdFCS, 2ndNEC), 148.8 passing yards per game (5thFCS, 1stNEC) and 336 total yards per game (26th FCS, 2nd NEC) while the team also excelled in red zone defense (.686; 7thFCS, 1stNEC) and third-down defense (.318; 20thFCS, 2ndNEC)
  • SHU returns nine starters on defense, including all three of its linebackers and three each on the defensive line and secondary units
  • Eight of the team's nine leading tacklers from last season return to the field for SHU in 2019 including the leader tackler from each position group – linebackers (Mike Wilen 79), lineman (Chris Agyemang 55) and secondary (Jayden Jordan 54)
  • SHU allowed less than 300 yards of total offense four times in 2018 and held opponents to single-digit point totals three times
  • In the last five seasons, SHU has held its opponent under 200 yards of total offense eight times including in two of the final three games of the 2018 season (Robert Morris – 172, SFU 162)
  • The Pioneer defense pitched a clinic in the 2018 season finale as SHU held SFU to just 49 yards rushing, a season-best for the Pioneers as well as the lowest rushing total for a SHU opponent since Lafayette rushed for 40 net yards on Sept. 9, 2017 (19 games ago)
  • One area wherein SHU can improve in 2019 is in forcing turnovers as the Pioneers posted just seven interceptions and 15 total turnovers last season, both of which ranking lower-third in the nation

GETTING A PICK

  • SHU tallied just seven interceptions in 2018 but finished on a high note with two interceptions a 13-7 win over SFU in the season finale that won the Pioneers a share of the NEC Regular Season title
  • The Pioneers went five straight games without an interception last season for the first time in the team's Division I era (since 1999)
  • Noah Provenzano and Jayden Jordan tied for the team-lead with two interceptions in 2018, combining for four of the Pioneers' seven total INTs
  • One positive is SHU returns all five players who posted at least one interception in 2018 as well as 10-of-11 Pioneers who either forced or recovered a fumble

QUESTIONS AT QUARTERBACK

  • SHU needs to make up for the loss of two-year starting quarterback Kevin Duke to graduation as he finished his career third all-time at SHU in passing yards (4745), fourth in pass completions (375), fifth in touchdown passes (30) and second in completion percentage (.591)
  • Among the contenders for the starting job include incumbents senior Grant Lowary, junior Jake Radic and sophomore Marquez McCray along with fifth-year East Tennessee State transfer Logan Marchi
  • Whoever claims the job will look to improve upon a passing attack that finished last in the NEC and 100thin FCS averaging just 168.5 yards per game

JUMPING OUT FRONT

  • The Pioneers went 5-0 in 2018 when they scored first and were also undefeated at 4-0 when leading at the half

PUTTING THE GAME AWAY

  • When looking at the season as a whole, the Pioneers dominated the season halves of games all throughout 2018, outscoring opponents 154-66 (+92) in the third and fourth quarters combined
  • The single-largest margin came in the third quarter as SHU outscored opponents 96-45 (+51) 
  • On the defensive side, SHU allowed just 66 points in the second halves of games last season including just 21 points in the fourth quarter through 11 games in 2018
  • This is compared with the first halves of games where the Pioneers were outscored 177-155, allowing nearly three-times as many points than in the second half

SHOULDERING THE LOAD – JORDAN MEACHUM NOTES

  • After gaining less than 600 yards in his first two full seasons as a Pioneer, Jordan Meachum broke out with a monster 2018 campaign, ranking ninth in FCS with 148.5 all-purpose yards per game, fourth in FCS with 126.9 rushing yards per game and seventh in FCS with 1,396 total rushing yards
  • His 1396 rushing yards is the second-highest single-season total in program history while he ranked second on the team with 18 receptions for 237 yards (13.2 yards per catch) 
  • Meachum ran for a school record 318 yards and 13.8 yards per carry in a 49-26 home win over Bryant and produced seven 100+ yard performances on the ground in 11 games last season, including five straight to finish the campaign
  • He is the 10thplayer in school history to rush for 1,000+ yards in a season and the first to do so since Keshaudas Spence in 2013
  • Meachum was a two-time NEC Offensive Player of the Week in 2018 on his way to earning All-NEC Second Team honors
  • He enters his final season as a Pioneer with 1,952 career rushing yards, ranking eighth all-time at SHU 

EDGE PRESSURE – CHRIS AGYEMANG NOTES

  • SHU's top defensive lineman last season, Agyemang enjoyed a breakthrough 2018 season in which the then-junior earned All-New England and All-NEC First Team honors
  • Agyemang ranked fourth in the NEC with seven total sacks as well as 15.5 tackles for loss while appearing in all 11 games
  • He sat second on the team with 55 total tackles and added in a forced fumble and fumble recovery
  • An imposing force all season, he racked up three games with more than one sack in 2018 and produced a career-high nine tackles in a road win at Wagner (9/22)

CHESTNUTS AND BOLTS – JULIUS CHESTNUT NOTES

  • A rookie sensation in 2018, sophomore Julius Chestnut racked up 713 yards on 116 carries (6.1 yards per carry) with seven touchdowns in 11 games
  • The 2018 NEC Rookie of the Year became the first Pioneer to win the conference's major award since RJ Noel back in 2013
  • Chestnut was a four-time NEC Rookie of the Week honoree in 2018 as he rushed for 100+ yards three times (all of which came in NEC play)
  • He rushed for a season-high 164 yards and three TDs against Bryant (10/27) which started a string of three consecutive 100+ yard performances wherein he had a 70+ yard rush in all three games