Football improves to 5-0, defeating Sacred Heart University 29-26

by Jake Philhower | 10/16/17 2:25am

It was a day of nail-biting action at Campus Field in Fairfield, Connecticut as the Big Green took down out-of-league foe Scared Heart University 29-26. The game featured an abundance of twists and turns as Sacred Heart really seemed to control the pace of the game well at times. But in the end Jack Heneghan ’18 connected with Emory Thompson ’18 twice in the second half to complete yet another sizable comeback.

Coming off a historic win during Homecoming against Yale University, the Big Green seemed to have the hot hand and hoped its second-half success at Memorial Field would carry over into its last out-of-league matchup. This appeared true early on as Heneghan connected on a go-route to Drew Hunnicutt ’19 for a 78-yard touchdown pass on the first play. The Big Green were on the board within 16 seconds of the opening kickoff and seemed to be firing on all cylinders.

But as the game wore on, it became increasingly clear that the first play would not be indicative of the direction of this game. Sacred Heart responded with a touchdown of its own on the next drive and really began to control the time of possession. By the half, the Pioneers had scored 16 unanswered points and took a 23-10 lead into the half.

“We have to make sure we execute as well in the first half as we do in the second half,” Kyran McKinney-Crudden ’18 said. “We are there to make the plays. We just need to make them.”

Coming out of halftime, the Big Green knew it had to produce and take control of the game if it expected to mount yet another comeback. The team had difficulty doing so at first after the Pioneers kicked another field goal before halftime to expand upon the lead, but the defense showed promise during this drive and the tide seemed to shift a bit as the third quarter wore on.

After five consecutive drives without putting any more points on the board, Heneghan connected with Thompson for a two-yard score following Dylan Mellor ’19’s 57-yard punt return to the four-yard line. By this point in the game, the Pioneers were faltering, allowing Dartmouth to capitalize and win.

When called upon, the defense delivered in the second half of Saturday’s game. After giving up a field goal on the first drive of the third quarter, the defense played shutout football for the rest of the game. At one of the pivotal moments in the second half, McKinney-Crudden picked off Sacred Heart quarterback Kevin Duke on the Dartmouth two-yard line, halting a drive that could have ended in a game-tying field goal.

“Although the interception was a great moment, we all understood that the game wasn’t over yet,” McKinney-Crudden said. “We knew we were going to have to make another great stop at the end of the game because there were still a couple minutes left on the clock. So the focus shifted pretty quickly to preparing for the last series.”

By holding the Pioneers to 26 points, the second touchdown connection between Thompson and Heneghan in the fourth quarter put the Big Green over the top and eventually resulted in a three-point win for the Big Green.

Thompson had arguably his best day of the season, hauling in two different key touchdown passes which helped the Big Green overcome Sacred Heart’s lead.

“On the game winning touchdown, I knew I had a one-on-one match up in the slot, was able to secure the pass from [Heneghan], make the defender miss and score,” Thompson said. “At the time, I was excited but knew the game wasn’t over until the clock hit zero.”

Heneghan has used an abundance of weapons on offense this year and has looked very sharp in the past few games. He has also clearly taken on a significant leadership role on the team and has embraced his role as a leader. Heneghan is known as one of the hardest workers on the team by coaches, and it is clear that much of the team follows his work ethic.

“Our team showed a lot of heart and composure,” Heneghan said. “That is something our coaching staff harps on during practice, and it was nice to see that reflect itself in our ability to execute near the end of the game.”

This past week, Heneghan was awarded the Gold Helmet award by the New England Football Writers’ Association for his play in the Homecoming game last weekend. This award is given out to the best Division I player of the week in both the Football Bowl Subdivision and Football Championship Subdivision in New England each week. Heneghan also won the Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week and earned honorable mention for the STATS FCS National Offensive Player of the Week. Heneghan, referred to by his teammates as “Quarterback Jack,” is seen as a calm and collective figure in the locker room by coaches and players alike. He has proven that he has both the skills and the leadership ability to take the Big Green into the heart of the Ivy League schedule and a huge matchup next weekend against also-undefeated Columbia University.

This past week, the Lions pulled off a stunning overtime victory against the University of Pennsylvania while having to overcome a deficit of their own at halftime.

“This will be a big one,” Heneghan said. “Columbia is a very strong team. On top of that, games within the Ivy League always have a heightened intensity and sense of excitement around them.”

The game-at-a-time approach continues to work for the Big Green, but one can’t help but recognize the magnitude of next week’s matchup and the consequences it will bear for the rest of the league. Kickoff is set for Saturday at 12:30 p.m. at Memorial Field.