Pioneers Run Past Bryant 49-26 on Record Setting Day
FAIRFIELD, Conn. – The Sacred Heart football team turned out a record setting performance on Saturday afternoon, powering through heavy wind and rain to a 49-26 victory over Northeast Conference rival Bryant. The Pioneers move to 5-3 overall and 3-0 in NEC play with the victory, while Bryant falls to 5-3 (2-2 NEC).
Senior running back Jordan Meachum broke the program record for rushing yards in a game with 318 yards on 23 carries, surpassing the previous benchmark of 302, set by Marvin Roya in 2000 against Iona. Meachum's 13.8 yards per carry also broke the school's single-game record of 13.1 (minimum 10 carries), set by Kiheme Cowan against Robert Morris in 1998. The 318 total yards also sits as the fourth-most in a single game in Northeast Conference history.
As a team, the Pioneers broke their own program record and became the first team in Northeast Conference history to rush for over 500 yards in a conference matchup, totaling 538 yards on the ground. The previous NEC record of 468 was set by Albany in 2003 against Wagner. The previous school record of 459 yards came against Iona in 2000.
First-year Julius Chestnut rushed for a career-best 164 yards on 13 carries. His 12.6 yards per carry is good enough for third-best in school history. Both Chestnut and Meachum rushed for three touchdowns apiece while fifth-year senior quarterback Kevin Duke rushed for 44 yards and one score.
Duke and the Pioneer offense totaled 579 yards of offense, and only attempted three pass plays on the afternoon, completing two of them for a total of 41 yards. It is the second straight week SHU has put up over 500 yards of total offense.
Sacred Heart struck quick and for big plays, with four of their six touchdowns coming on the first play of drives, including all three of Meachum's scores. They also turned out six plays of 40+ yards, five of which went for touchdowns, including a 99-yarder from Meachum. SHU also scored on special teams as Kevin Peprah scooped up a fumble on an extra-point attempt and returned it all the way for two points in the fourth quarter.
Defensively, Pat Lukert had a career-high 13 tackles, including 0.5 sacks to lead the defense. Mike Wilen also hit double-digits stops with 10 tackles. Aaron Donalson and Robert Steffe also collected sacks.
Bryant struck quickly, taking advantage of a SHU fumble on the opening play from scrimmage. In four plays, Alfred Dorbor had the ball in the end zone on a one-yard run to make it 7-0.
SHU tied it up at 7-7 at the 9:57 mark on Meachum's first score of the day, a 40-yard run on the first play of the drive.
Bryant regained the lead with 2:15 remaining in the first quarter, going 90 yards on 10 plays as Brenden Femiano finished it off with a 13-yard run to make it 14-7.
The Pioneers answered immediately, scoring on the first play of the drive for the second time in the quarter, as Chestnut burst through the middle for a 75-yard score to knot it 14-14.
SHU grabbed its first lead at the 9:08 mark of the second quarter, as Chestnut scampered in from 10 yards out to culminate a 15-play, 92-yard drive. The extra point attempt was blocked, keeping it 20-14. The scoring play was set up by a fourth-down conversion when Duke floated a ball perfectly into the hands of Andrew O'Neill near the left sideline for a 20-yard completion on 4th-and-7, which set up first down at the 10.
SHU's defense forced a punt on the ensuing possession. SHU then scored on its first play from scrimmage for the third time in the half as Meachum took a handoff and burst for 71 yards for a touchdown, giving him an even 200 yards rushing on 13 carries to up SHU's lead to 27-14.
Bryant made it 27-20 with 10 seconds left in the half on a two-yard pass from Price Wilson to Andrew Schultz, making it 27-20 going into the locker room.
SHU turned the tables on Bryant, forcing a turnover on the second half kickoff as Chestnut stripped the returner and Pat Ferraro fell on the loose ball, setting up SHU at the Bryant 33.
Facing a 4th-and-1 from the 24-yard line, SHU kept its offense on the field and Duke rushed up the middle to paydirt to increase the lead to 33-20, after the PAT failed.
Sacred Heart's defense forced a turnover on downs at the SHU 27. SHU picked up one first down before Chestnut broke off another long scoring run, this time for 62 yards to double-up Bryant 40-20 with 4:42 remaining in the third quarter.
Bryant punted in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter, pining SHU inside its own one-yard line following a 47-yard punt.
The Pios struck on the first play again, with Meachum bursting through the line untouched, sprinting 99.5 yards to the house for his third touchdown of the game and tying the NEC record for longest play from scrimmage.
Special teams struck for the final two scores of the game. SHU had a punt from its own goal line blocked, and returned six yards for a touchdown to make it 47-26 with 8:06 remaining.
On the ensuing Bryant PAT, the holder fumbled the snap, resulting in a scramble where Peprah scooped up the loose ball and returned it 75 yards for two points that gave SHU the 49-26 edge.
QUOTABLE: Head Coach Mark Nofri
"The running success starts up front with our offensive line. Our O-Line played as good of a game as I've seen in the last six years that I've been the head coach. The backs were hitting the holes downhill, and made some great cuts and runs."