Quak­ers stun Pioneers

Sa­cred Heart ral­lies from 24- point deficit, but stum­bles in fi­nal min­utes

Connecticut Post (Sunday) - - Sports - By Doug Bon­jour

FAIR­FIELD — Their of­fense was lethar­gic. Their de­fense was bul­lied. Their spe­cial teams — par­tic­u­larly the kick­ing game — were un­pro­duc­tive.

Noth­ing seemed to be go­ing Sa­cred Heart’s way out of the gates against Penn. The Pioneers found them­selves trail­ing by 17 at half­time and had given a Home­com­ing crowd of 4,503 no rea­son to be­lieve that the fi­nal two quar­ters would be any dif­fer­ent from the first two.

Ex­cept they were dif­fer­ent, dras­ti­cally dif­fer­ent. And yet, it didn’t mat­ter.

The Pioneers staged a fu­ri­ous rally, rip­ping off 27 unan­swered points to take their first lead with just un­der 10 min­utes re­main­ing. How­ever, Penn ral­lied, scor­ing late to steal a 31- 27 vic­tory Sat­ur­day af­ter­noon at Cam­pus Field.

“It’s de­flat­ing,” said Pioneers quar­ter­back Kevin Duke, who was 11- of- 22 for 189 yards through the air and rushed for 70 yards. “You play for 58 min­utes and it doesn’t go your way, it sucks. We’ve got to take the next step. ... It sucks, this one hurts bad.”

Penn ( 3- 1) de­liv­ered when it mat­tered most, march­ing 87 yards in eight plays in just one minute and 54 sec­onds. Ryan Glover’s 10- yard touch­down pass to Chris­tian Pear­son gave the Quak­ers the lead for good with 1: 19 re­main­ing. It was a punch to the gut of the Pioneers, who stun­ningly had come all the way back from 24- 0 down.

“To lose like we did, it hurts,” head coach Mark Nofri said. “It goes back to not play­ing in the first half like we are ca­pa­ble of play­ing. We de­cided not to turn un­til the sec­ond half. The first half we dug our­selves a hole and we climbed all the way out of it. We took a lead and had an op­por­tu­nity to win it, but we didn’t.”

De­fen­sive end Aaron Don­al­son made an ac­ro­batic play to put the Pioneers in front, bat­ting an op­tion pitch from Glover out of the air. Don­al­son picked up the loose ball and re­turned it 21 yards give the Pioneers a 27- 24 lead with 9: 54 re­main­ing.

The Pioneers ( 3- 2) had a chance to salt the game away, but Nofri passed up a fourth- and- 1 op­por­tu­nity at the Quak­ers’ 48 in fa­vor of a punt. Glover ( 15- of- 20, 162 yards, two touch­downs) and the Quak­ers re­sponded with the game- defin­ing drive.

Asked if he thought about go­ing for it in that sit­u­a­tion, Nofri replied: “I wasn’t go­ing to give them the ball at mid­field, no. The per­cent­ages and me, I was go­ing to kick the ball away and pin them. It was in­side the 20- yard line. I put my de­fense on the field with two min­utes, and they had no time­outs. I fig­ured with no time­outs and two min­utes to go and pin­ning them, all we needed was one stop.”

The Pioneers never made that stop.

“It’s a les­son for us,” Don­al­son said. “We came out flat. We can’t be down 17- 0 at half­time and ex­pect to ( win).” Jor­dan Meachum ( 17 car­ries, 71 yards) rushed for two touch­downs in the third quar­ter to pull Sa­cred Heart within 24- 14. The Pioneers would trim that deficit to just three be­fore the fourth quar­ter thanks to Duke’s 53- yard scor­ing strike to RJ Trim­ble- Ed­wards. “We came out in the first half and played re­ally well,” Penn head coach Ray Pri­ore said. “Those guys were on their heels a lit­tle bit. We gained great mo­men­tum the first drive of the sec­ond half, we went down and scored. I think all we did is we took our foot off the ac­cel­er­a­tor. When you give a good team an op­por­tu­nity to come back like that, you’re go­ing to have prob­lems.” Penn to­taled 485 yards of of­fense, a sig­nif­i­cant por­tion com­ing from run­ning back Karekin Brooks ( 28 car­ries, 191 yards and one touch­down). The Quak­ers held leads of 17- 0 at half­time and 24- 0 with 11: 59 left in the third quar-ter. The Pioneers, who have now lost back- to- back games af­ter a 3- 0 start, had three kicks blocked on the af­ter­noon: field- goal at­tempts of 44 and 33 yards, along with an ex­tra point.

Chris­tian Abra­ham / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

Sa­cred Heart Univer­sity’s Julius Ch­est­nut car­ries the ball as Penn’s Pat McIn­er­ney tries to snag him dur­ing col­lege foot­ball ac­tion in Fair­field on Sat­ur­day.

Chris­tian Abra­ham / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

Sa­cred Heart QB Kevin Duke tries to evade a tackle by Penn’s Nick Miller dur­ing Sat­ur­day’s game in Fair­field.

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