Turnovers doom Bucknell vs. Sacred Heart
LEWISBURG The sequence was a small look into a 60-minute football game, but the series in the fourth quarter shed a lot of light into the struggles of the Bucknell offense on Saturday night under the lights at Christ Mathewson-Memorial Stadium.
Minus their four-year starting quarterback, the Bison were far from ready for prime time.
There were six turnovers and those three false start penalties during that series in the fourth quarter that likely left the most faithful Bucknell fan a little restless. Tack on seven Sacred Heart sacks and it’s easier to understand Bucknell’s offensive struggles.
Those mind-numbing numbers led to the most important one. For the first time since Sept. 9, 2006, against Lafayette, the Bison were shut out, losing 16-0 to the undefeated Pioneers.
Wesley, who has started 34 games during his four-year career, missed Saturday night’s game because of what was described by Bucknell head coach Joe Susan as a lower leg injury. The senior quarterback holds Bucknell records for career completions, attempts and total offense, and without him against Sacred Heart each offensive miscue became harder to overcome.
Junior Trey Lauletta received his first career start and played all but one series. Freshman RJ Nitti played in the first half, but only for a series as he appeared a little overwhelmed by the experience, holding onto the ball for too long.
Few could blame him for being a little hesitant. Sacred Heart sacked the freshman twice and Lauletta another five times for a total of 61 yards lost. It was a tough night for an offensive line that started two juniors, two sophomores and freshman and a group of receivers who struggled to beat coverage.
“They are an out-number team and they play a lot of man-to-man,” Susan said. “Part of our problem today was we weren’t getting off the man. They were jamming us at the line of scrimmage so everything slows down that way and that enables their pressure to get to us and it did.”
Besides Wesley, Bucknell was without starting right guard Nevin Hagman, who has 11 career starts, and sophomore running back Matt DelMauro, the team’s second-leading rusher.
The Bison (1-2) ran 26 plays in the first half for 29 yards, but outgained Sacred Heart in the second half, 135-114.
The Bucknell offense reached Sacred Heart territory in its first four possessions in the second half, but three ended in turnovers two fumbles and an interception – and another on downs. Five of the Bison’s turnovers came in the second half.
Bucknell’s defense held its own against an offense averaging 46.5 points a game, surrendering only nine points before Keshaudas Spence scored on a 20-yard run with 2:02 remaining in the game.
Spence finished with 127 yards on 27 carries out of the Pioneers’ option attack against the nation’s top-ranked rush defense that was allowing just 28 yards a game before last night.
“They are basically running Colgate’s offense and that quarterback is a good player and that tailback is a real good player,” Susan said, “and in their offensive line they have a couple of players bigger than me.”
Perhaps the most imposing figure was 6-foot-9, 300-pound left tackle Daniel Polaski.
Sacred Heart (5-0) took the lead in the second quarter when a short RJ Noel pass to Moses Webb turned into a 64-yard touchdown. Webb caught the ball near the hashes, faked a move inside before darting outside and sprinting past the Bucknell defense down the sideline and diving into the end zone with 10:52 left before the half. The extra-point was blocked, but the Pioneers made it a two-possession game before the half with a Chris Rogers 33-yard field goal.
Lauletta finished 10 of 26 with four interceptions and 59 yards. Nitti didn’t attempt a pass in his one series.
“There were some shots where there was immediate pressure and we had guys open and we had to bail,” Susan said. “Unfortunately when you bail, not a lot of good things happen.”
Bucknell running back CJ Williams was nearly every bit of the workhorse as Spence, finishing with 66 yards on 21 carries. The Bison finished with 105 yards rushing and 164 total.
Bucknell’s six turnovers matched the six it had last week in a 45-13 loss at Cornell, leaving the Bison minus-9 in turnover ration this season.
Bucknell will attempt to fix its turnover woes before beginning Patriot League play at Lafayette on Saturday.
Sacred Heart0 9 0 7-16
Bucknell0 0 0 0- 0
SH-Webb 64 pass from Noel (kick blocked), 10:52.
SH-FG C.Rogers 33, :00.
SH-Spence 20 run (C.Rogers kick), 2:02.
Time of Possession28:5531:05
RUSHING-Sacred Heart, Spence 27-126, Noel 12-16, Goodwin 0-7, Bell 2-6, Team 1-(minus 1). Bucknell, Williams 21-66, Regan 8-33, Thompson 2-15, Lauletta 9-5, Nitti 2-(minus 14).
PASSING-Sacred Heart, Noel 13-30-0-161. Bucknell, Lauletta 10-26-4-59.
RECEIVING-Sacred Heart, Webb 3-66, G.Moore 3-42, Dube 3-23, King 1-25, Dim 1-7, Casey 1-2, Bell 1-(minus 4). Bucknell, Friend 4-28, Sullivan 2-10, Pini 1-11, Lebo 1-5, Brake 1-4, Williams 1-1.