FAIRFIELD — After getting blown out by a top-10 team to begin the season, Sacred Heart University didn’t exactly bounce back with a first-round knockout.

In fact, the Pioneers’ offense spent the first quarter of their home opener against Bucknell stuck in neutral. Four drives produced three punts, one missed field goal and an unquantifiable amount of frustration.

One play was all it took, though, for them to kick it into high gear.

Arms flailing, knees pumping, heart racing, running back Julius Chestnut sprinted past defenders for an 86-yard touchdown midway through the second quarter. Sacred Heart took off from there, hammering the Bison 30-10 Saturday at Campus Field before a record crowd of 4,187.

“It’s great to have a guy like that in your backfield,” quarterback Logan Marchi said. “They can do plays like that, kind of change momentum, the whole personality of how the offense was going. You’ve got players like JuJu, you keep feeding him.”

With last year’s leading rusher, Jordan Meachum, sidelined with an injury, Chestnut shouldered a larger role. He produced 162 yards on a game-high 21 carries. In addition to his long run, which put Sacred Heart up 10-3 with 6:49 left in the half, Chestnut caught touchdowns of 12 and 9 yards.

Chestnut’s first scoring reception gave Sacred Heart a 23-3 lead three seconds before halftime. The Pioneers closed the half with 20 unanswered points and a resounding edge in yardage, 325-74.

“The first quarter was a little rough. We couldn’t get going as fast as we wanted to,” Chestnut said. “Before that drive, we needed a spark. Our O-line made a great hole for me, so I just kept running.”

Added coach Mark Nofri: “JuJu’s a great back. He broke one out and kind of opened it up for us.”

Marchi, the graduate transfer and former St. Paul-Bristol star, was efficient in his second start, completing 21-of-37 attempts for 316 yards and three touchdowns. In doing so, he helped the Pioneers (1-1) turn the page on their dismal opener, a 42-14 loss to No. 7 Maine.

“You never want to come out flat, but the guys responded really well,” Marchi said. “(Offensive coordinator Matt) Gardner was making really good calls, we just had to execute. We started doing that … and it carried over to the rest of the game.”

Myles Talley recovered a pooch kick at Bucknell’s 33-yard line following Chestnut’s touchdown run, setting up the Pioneers to add to their lead. Marchi connected with Tyrese Chambers for a 28-yard touchdown, making it 17-3.

“Logan did a great job staying under pressure and keeping his poise and hitting the receivers,” Nofri said. “We probably could’ve had three or four more completions. We had a couple drops in there.”

Even so, Bucknell — which rotated three quarterbacks — couldn’t keep pace. The Bison gained only 311 yards and turned it over twice through the air.

“We got after it,” Nofri said.

Sacred Heart struck first when Noah Gettman hit a 32-yard field goal with 12:30 left in the second quarter. Ethan Torres answered for Bucknell with a 31-yarder of his own.

Sacred Heart will return to the road Saturday for a 12:30 p.m. kickoff against Lafayette. The Leopards are 0-2.

dbonjour@ctpost.com; @DougBonjour