By Todd Hummel
For The Daily Item
LEWISBURG -- Sacred Heart's offense entered Saturday night's game with some pretty impressive numbers, averaging 306 yards per game on the ground and 467 yards of total offense per contest.
The Pioneers didn't come close to matching those numbers against the Bison defense. However, Sacred Heart showed why its defense might be just as good.
The Pioneers sacked Bucknell quarterbacks seven times and forced six turnovers as they remained undefeated with a 16-0 victory over the Bison at Christy Mathewson Memorial Stadium.
"(Sacred Heart) tries to outnumber you at the line of scrimmage and play a lot of man-to-man (in the secondary)," Bucknell coach Joe Susan said. "We didn't do a good job of getting off the jams (by the defensive backs) off the line of scrimmage. That slows everything down and it allowed them to get pressure."
Bucknell (1-2) played without starting quarterback Brandon Wesley, who missed the game with a lower leg injury. It's first time Wesley hadn't started a game at quarterback for the Bison since the first game of his true freshman year.
Without their leader, the Bison offense struggled with just 29 yards on 26 plays in the first half. Once the Bison got on track, the turnover problems cropped up again. Bucknell actually outgained Sacred Heart in the second half, but turned the ball over five times after halftime. The end result was the first time the Bison were shut out in 77 games, since a 31-0 loss to Lafayette back on Sept. 9, 2006.
"We knew (Brandon) wasn't going to play (at the start of the week) with a lower leg injury. It's not debilitating, but it's painful," Susan said. "We're not sure he's going to be back for next week's game (at Lafayette)."
The Bison's best chance to get back into the game came late in the third quarter, but, of course, it ended with turnover. With a first-and-10, Travis Friend caught a 5-yard pass, but tried to make a cut back into the field of play. Sacred Heart forced and recovered a fumble, and the Bison got back into Pioneer territory just once.
"It was first-and-10 and he got about five yards; it would have been second-and-five. Regardless if you get a touchdown or not, you still have a chance to put points on the board. It's still only 9-0 at that point, we have chance to play to win the game," Susan said. "We teach him not to do too much: get it, get up the field. You make that cut back into the field of play and you head back into the teeth of the defense."
Bucknell's defense once again shut down a potent offense, allowing just 71 yards on 28 carries through three quarters, before the Pioneers ran for 85 yards in the fourth quarter.
Saftey Matt Steinback had 11 tackles, while linebacker Evan Byers added 10 tackles for Bucknell, which had three sacks of its own.
Bucknell also got strong play from its defensive line. Tracey Smith and Dylan McDonnell combined for 10 tackles, 2.5 sacks and three tackles for a loss. Shamokin graduate Brett Forbes, a senior defensive tackle, had two tackles, including 1.5 for a loss, and blocked an extra point.
The game was scoreless until the 10:52 mark of the second quarter, when the Pioneers had the only big offensive play of the game. Moses Webb turned a 10-yard pass into a 64-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown by making one Bucknell defender miss. Forbes blocked the extra point to make the score 6-0.
The only other score -- before a Pioneers TD with 2:02 left in the game -- came on their final possession of the half. Chris Rogers hit a 33-yard field goal with no time left.