Sacred Heart Earns Convincing 38-7 Win over Robert Morris
FAIRFIELD, Conn. – For the second straight week, the Sacred Heart football team turned out over 300 yards of rushing en route to a strong 38-7 win over Robert Morris (2-7, 0-5 NEC). All five SHU touchdowns came in the first half as the Pioneers' defense allowed season lows of 172 yards of total offense and 70 yards rushing.
With the win, SHU (6-3, 4-0 NEC) can clinch at least a share of the Northeast Conference Championship and the conference's automatic bid to the FCS Playoffs with a win next weekend at Duquesne.
Senior Jordan Meachum followed up last weekend's school record performance with 145 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 18 carries, putting him over 1,000 yards rushing for the first time in his career. First-year Julius Chestnut tallied a game-high 152 yards on the ground and one score, and graduate quarterback Kevin Dukecarried 10 times for 38 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Junior Kezio Snelling had a game-high 59 yards receiving and Andrew O'Neill caught three passes for 45 yards.
On defense, senior Noah Provenzano made his second interception of the season to set up SHU's second touchdown. Chris Agyremang (1.5), Mike Wilen (0.5) and DeAndre Byrd (1.0) combined for three Pioneer sacks. Wilen led the team with eight total tackles, Agyemang chipped in seven and Bryd finished with two tackles, both of which were for a loss.
SHU got off to fast start, wasting no time by driving 78 yards on seven plays to take a 7-0 lead when Duke ran in untouched from a yard out at the 10:33 mark. The drive was sparked by a 29-yard run by Meachum, that put him over 1,000 yards rushing on the season and set up first and goal from the 10-yard line.
On the ensuing drive, RMU faced a third down and long when Provenzano stepped up with the interception and returned it 17 yards to the RMU 43.
SHU picked up two first downs before Meachum scampered 16 yards into the end zone to make it 14-0 with 6:17 remaining in the opening quarter.
The Pios struck once again right before the end on the quarter to take a 21-0 lead with 12 seconds remaining. Duke hit Snelling for 19 yards to set up 1st-and-goal at the one, then Duke used a play-fake and took the ball into the end zone himself for his second score of the opening frame
SHU scored on the first play of its next drive, as Chestnut took a handoff up the middle and broke past the secondary all the way to paydirt for a 72-yard touchdown run, making it 28-0 with 13:58 left in the first quarter.
SHU was forced to punt for the first time on its fifth possession.
The Pios got the ball back with 7:53 remaining and embarked on a 72-yard drive that spanned seven plays and 2:49. Duke connected with Snelling for a 36-yard completion on 3rd-and-6, and Meachum followed with a 19-yard run to the RMU 23. Meachum finished the drive off with a six-yard run to make it 35-0 with just over five minutes left in the half.
Agyemang and Wilen combined for a sack on third down for a nine-yard loss to force an RMU punt in the closing seconds.
SHU put up 368 yards of offense in the first half to RMU's 51, including a 247-16 edge on the ground and 121-35 through the air. RMU did not pick up a firth down until its fifth possession of the game in the middle of the second quarter.
RMU opened up the second half with a one-yard touchdown run by Jordan Johnson at the 7:48 mark, set up by the second interception of the game by Kyle Borgman on SHU's third play after the kickoff.
Chestnut picked up a first down with a short run, and a 10-yard pass to Driscoll moved the sticks once again. Josh Freiria came on to attempt a 40-yard field goal from the right hash, but the kick sailed wide left.
After an RMU turnover on downs, SHU took over at their own 28 with 12:55 to go. On the third play, Chestnut took a handoff, juked around multiple defenders before breaking loose inside the 20 and fought his way down to the nine-yard line for a 44-yard gain.
Three plays later, Noah Gettman connected on a 22-yard field goal from right down the middle to up the SHU advantage to 38-7.
SHU has scored seven rushing touchdowns of 40+ yards, and five of 60+ yards over the last two games.
Sacred Heart has scored touchdown runs on the first play of drives five times over the last two games.
Meachum became the 10th player in program history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season, and the first since Keshaudas Spence in 2013.
Chestnut and Meachum each rushed for 145+ yards for the second week in a row.
SHU's 70 rushing yards allowed was the fewest this season, besting the 78 allowed at Bucknell.
The 172 total yards of offense allowed is the lowest of the season. It is the second time this season SHU has allowed fewer than 200 yards of offense and the fourth time they've allowed under 300.
QUOTES: HEAD COACH MARK NOFRI
"Our kids did a great job and if you can run the ball like we have the last couple games, we'll put ourselves in a good position to win."
"Our defense did a great job. That was a credit to the kids on that side of the ball running, playing hard, knowing their assignments, and the big thing is their communication."
"Their heart, how hard they play, and how they stay together has been a key for success. This is a tight-knit team with a lot of chemistry and great senior leadership. They stay together and there's no finger-pointing. When things look bleak, they find a way to stay together and understand what's at stake."
Kickoff next Saturday in Pittsburgh against Duquesne is set for noon on NEC Front Row.