Following the efficient disposal of Dartmouth College of the Ivy League on Oct. 13, the Sacred Heart University football team’s schedule took a familiar turn.
Beginning on Saturday, the Sacred Heart Pioneers five-game stretch run consisted of only Northeast Conference opponents.
However, Duquesne University proved to be quite inhospitable to the conference-returning warriors of Sacred Heart; and, in front of a packed house at Arthur J. Rooney Athletic Field in Pittsburgh, Pa., the Duquesne Dukes handed the Pioneers a 35-3 loss.
Coming off a career-high of 138 rushing yards against Dartmouth, Sacred Heart sophomore running back Keshaudas Spence was held to 69 yards on 17 carries while the Duquesne defense limited the Pioneer offense to just 215 total yards, one yard shy of their season low.
On the other side of the ball, the Sacred Heart defense, ranked second in the NEC heading into the game, surrendered 355 yards of total offense, including 199 yards on the ground. Duquesne senior running back Larry McCoy, the 12th leading rusher in the nation, contributed 93 yards on 22 rushes.
Also, the Pioneers plus-two takeaway margin was erased, as they turned the ball over three times. Junior linebacker Justin Sexton recorded Sacred Heart’s only turnover when he grabbed his team-high third interception on the Dukes’ first drive of the game.
Sexton, who is 18th in the country in tackles, also chipped in five tackles and a sack.
After Sexton’s pick, both teams were quiet until the beginning of the second quarter. 2:45 into the second frame, Duquesne senior quarterback Sean Patterson capped an eight play, 51-yard drive with a 14-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 lead.
Patterson accounted for all five Duquesne touchdowns, three on the ground and two through the air, and 208 of his team’s 355 yards of total offense.
Following two punts from each squad, the Pioneers got on the board after their longest drive of the afternoon stalled on the one. Sacred Heart r-sophomore kicker Chris Rogers nailed an 18-yard field goal, cutting the Duquesne lead to 7-3 with 48 seconds left.
That would be more than enough time for Patterson.
With seven ticks left, Patterson hit junior wide receiver Gianni Carter with a 44-yard touchdown strike, putting the exclamation point on a 34-second, five play drive and giving the Dukes a 14-3 halftime advantage.
The next 30 minutes would quickly unravel into unwelcomed repetition for the Pioneers, as they were shutout out in the second half for the third time this season.
Following a 23-yard miss from Rogers on the first Sacred Heart possession of the second half, it was all Duquesne.
Patterson rushed for touchdowns on the next two Duquesne possessions, from 15 yards and 44 yards out respectively, giving the Dukes a comfortable 28-3 lead.
Patterson finished the scoring midway through the fourth quarter when he hit Carter again, this time from 12-yards out, for the 35-3 final.
Carter, the Dukes leading receiver, finished with four catches for 86 yards.
Defensively for Duquesne, junior linebacker Dorian Bell terrorized the Pioneers all day. Bell left the field with 14 tackles, five tackles for loss, four sacks, and a forced fumble. He also intercepted Sacred Heart r-junior quarterback Tim Little in the first quarter, one of two Little picks.
Little finished 15-27 for 111 yards, his first 100-yard passing game in a month.
Sophomore defensive tackle Troy Moore led the Pioneers with nine tackles.
The loss drops Sacred Heart to 2-5 overall and 1-3 in the NEC, tied with Robert Morris and Central Connecticut State for last place.
The Dukes improve to 5-2 overall and 3-1 in NEC play. They are third in the NEC, behind Albany and Wagner.
Albany (6-1, 4-0 NEC), ranked no. 22 in the country, visits Sacred Heart on Saturday for “SHU Family Weekend.” Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Campus Field.