Football Set to Open 2019 Season Friday Night at No. 7 Nationally-Ranked Maine

Football Set to Open 2019 Season Friday Night at No. 7 Nationally-Ranked Maine

GAME INFORMATION

 Matchup

 Sacred Heart (0-0) at No. 7/7 Maine (0-0)

 Date/Time

 Friday, Aug. 30 | 6:00 p.m.

 Location

 Alfond Sports Stadium | Orono, Me.

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 GoBlackBears.com

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 Game Notes

 Sacred Heart | Maine

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 @SHUBigRed

 

ORONO, Me. – The Sacred Heart University football team opens its 2019 season this Friday night at the No. 7/7 nationally-ranked Maine Black Bears from the Alfond Sports Stadium. The game is set for 6:00 p.m.

OPENING KICKOFF

  • SHU is 12-9 in season openers in the Division I era (since 1998) and is riding a six-game win streak as the last time the Pioneers have lost a game to open a campaign came back in 2012 with a 30-27 overtime loss at Morgan State
  • This marks the first-ever meeting between the Pioneers and Black Bears while Maine's No. 7 national ranking represents the first Top 10 opponent SHU has ever faced in program history
  • SHU sports an all-time mark of 3-2 in games played against nationally-ranked foes and are riding a current three-game win streak in such contests with wins coming over No. 24 Delaware (2014), No. 21 Bryant (2014) and No. 20 Stony Brook (2016)
  • Sacred Heart has won six consecutive season openers by an average of 22.2 points. SHU is 6-1 under head coach Mark Nofri in season openers
  • Now in his eighth season at the helm, Coach Nofri has already become the winningest head coach in SHU's program history owning an all-time career mark of 44-36 (.550) with five winning seasons to his credit
  • Rushing for 241.1 yards per game last season (15th FCS), SHU featured the Northeast Conference's top rushing attack last season as well as the nation's fifth-best passing defense (148.8 yards allowed per game)
  • 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)

Maine (CAA rank) Category Sacred Heart (NEC rank)
26.5 (5) Points 28.1 (4)
349.0 (8) Total Offense 409.5 (3)
134.4 (6) Rushing Yards 241.1 (1)
214.6 (7) Passing Yards 168.5 (7)
31:54 (2) Offensive Time of Possession 29:03 (7)
313.1 (4) Total Defense 336.0 (2)
79.2 (1) Rushing Yards Allowed 187.2 (4)
17/26 Rushing TDs/Passing TDs 26/13
233.9 (12) Passing Yards Allowed 148.8 (1)
10/28 Rushing/Passing TDs Allowed 18/12
28:06 Defensive Time of Possession 30:57
+5 (4) Turnover Margin +2 (2)
23.4 (5) Points Allowed 22.1 (2)


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. 21st as 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 15th in 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 (23rd FCS, 2nd NEC), 148.8 passing yards per game (5th FCS, 1st NEC) and 336 total yards per game (26th FCS, 2nd NEC) while the team also excelled in red zone defense (.686; 7th FCS, 1st NEC) and third-down defense (.318; 20th FCS, 2nd NEC)
  • 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 100th in 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 10th player 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