Turnovers doom Pioneers in season-ending loss to Wagner
Published 12:00 am, Sunday, November 19, 2017
FAIRFIELD — Too many mistakes. Too many penalties. Too many missed opportunities.
Those factors were the key story line in Sacred Heart’s 28-15 season-ending loss to Wagner Saturday afternoon at Campus Field and have been the story line to the Pioneers season. A critical turnover here, a costly call there and too many close-but-no-cigar games have SHU now lamenting a second straight losing season.
“That was story of the game, turnovers and penalties,” SHU quarterback Kevin Duke said. “That’s really the story of the whole season. We should have beaten those guys. We shot ourselves in the foot every time we touched the ball.”
Sacred Heart fumbled the ball five times, losing three of them. The first coming on a mistimed handoff from Duke to Nate Chavious at the Pioneers 1-yard line that was recovered in the end zone by Wagner’s Lowry Wagner for a touchdown. The second came in the second quarter when R.J. Trimble-Edwards caught a 38-yard pass from Duke down to the Seahawks 4-yard line before fumbling the ball away.
The third came in the third quarter when Duke fumbled at the Wagner 11, ending a potential scoring drive. There was also a poor snap on a punt attempt deep in Pioneers territory that SHU recovered at the 1, which led to a Wagner score.
“The story of the whole season … turnovers,” SHU coach Mark Nofri said. “Look, you get the ball to start the third quarter and you’re driving, going for a score and … turnover. In the first half we catch the ball near the goal line and we fumble it. Fumble the handoff, results in a (Wagner) touchdown, bad snap (on a punt) … those are things that have been killing us and you’re not going to win too many games shooting yourself in the foot like that.”
Barely four minutes into the game Sacred Heart found itself down 14-0 as on Wagner’s fourth play from scrimmage Ryan Fulse burst through the SHU line and raced 65 yards for a touchdown. After the Pioneers’ Khaamal Whitaker intercepted a Seahawks pass at the SHU 1, the poor handoff from Duke to Chavious put Sacred Heart in a two-touchdown hole.
“That was the story of game, consistent penalties and consistently turning the ball over,” Duke said. “You can’t win the game with four turnovers. That put us in a big hole.”
Sacred Heart did answer with a 2-yard touchdown pass from Duke to Trimble-Edwards — who had six catches for 126 yards — and a 43-yard field goal from Josh Freiria to make it 14-9 Wagner at the half.
But that was a close as the Pioneers would get. Fulse — who rushed 26 times for 192 yards — scored on runs of seven and one yard in the third quarter, widening Wagner’s lead to 28-9.
A second Duke TD pass, this one a 31-yarder to Brandon Ricketts late in the fourth quarter, finished the scoring. Duke threw for 377 yards, completing 24 of 40 passes.
“We had a lot of opportunities that we could have capitalized on, but we didn’t do so,” Trimble-Edwards said. “I thought it was a team effort, we just failed to finish. We were getting down field we just couldn’t punch it in.”
After a 2-0 start, the wheels basically fell off the Sacred Heart bus. A four-game losing streak started the downward spiral and six losses in seven games had SHU reeling. The Pioneers were looking for a positive finish on Senior Day and carry that the momentum into the off-season, which Nofri says, starts Monday.
“If you look at our season, it doesn’t reflect how we played,” Trimble-Edwards said. “There were so many games here one bounce, one tipped pass, one fumble went the wrong way. We should have a lot better record. We never stopped fighting no matter what the score is. We have the same passion. We just failed to finish today.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Wagner RB Ryan Fulse. He rushed 26 times for 192 yards and scored three touchdowns on runs of 65, 7 and 1 yards. It was his eighth 100-yard plus game in nine starts. He has 1,383 yards for the season.
“The kids have been fighting all season but at times there’s a lapse where things just don’t bounce your way. Today was one of those days.” — SHU coach Mark Nofri
Matt Fumo of Ocean City, N.J., and friend of SHU senior DL Paul Stanton, was part of the pre-game coin toss as an honorary captain, thanks to Nofri and the Pioneers coaching staff. Fumo, 19, was totally paralyzed for three months after a diving accident but is slowly regaining his motor functions. He still needs a wheelchair but is learning to walk again.
WAGNER 28, SACRED HEART 15
WAGNER14 0 14 0—28
SACRED HEART0 9 0 6—15
WAG—Fulse 65 run (Cooper kick), 12:58.
WAG—Lowry 0 fumble return (Cooper kick), 7:59.
SHU—Edwards 3 pass from Duke (kick failed), 10:37.
SHU—FG Freiria 43, 0:23.
WAG—Fulse 7 run (Cooper kick), 2:38.
WAG—Fulse 1 run (Cooper kick), 1:49.
SHU—Ricketts 31 pass from Duke (pass failed), 2:21.
RUSHING—Wagner, R. Fulse 26-192, D. Knight 12-55, L. Massei 1-3. Sacred Heart, N. Chavious 17-31, J. Meachum 3-25, O. Imeokparia 5-17, K. Duke 10-10, A. O’Neill 1-3, E. Ennis 1-0.
PASSING—Wagner, L. Massei 6-14-1-47. Sacred Heart, K. Duke 24-40-0-377.
RECEIVING—Wagner, J. Bost 2-26, W. Dale 2-21, D. Knight 2-0. Sacred Heart, R. Trimble-Edwards 6-126, A. O’Neill 5-70, B. Ricketts 3-45, J. Meachum 3-37, O. Imeokparia 1-34, N. Chavious 2-33, E. Ennis 3-27, M. Whalen 1-5.