WEST LONG BRANCH, N.J. – Neal Sterling (Belmar, N.J./Manasquan) caught a career-high three touchdown passes and both Julian Hayes (Middletown, Conn./Xavier [The Hun School]) and Kwabena Asante (Silver Spring, Md./James Hubert Blake [WVU]) ran for more than 100 yards for the fourth-straight game as the Monmouth University football team defeated Robert Morris, 35-9, Saturday afternoon on Kessler Field at Monmouth Stadium. With the win, the Hawks improve to 3-3, while the Colonials fall to 2-3.
“It was a very solid win by us today,” said Head Coach Kevin Callahan. “In the first half we left some opportunities out there on the field and didn’t take always take advantage of some excellent field position. In the second half we played solid defense and was able to get the offense in good field position and we did capitalize on that. It was one of our better games to date and gets our record to three and three. We still have a lot of things we need to get better at, including being more consistent. It was a good win, we have three in a row and we are starting to build a little momentum and give this team an identity.”
Sterling led the Hawks with five receptions for 90 yards, while Hayes ran for 104 yards and Asante had 103 yards rushing and two touchdowns. Quarterback Brandon Hill (Audubon, N.J./Audubon [UMass]) completed 12-of-23 passes for 183 yards and three touchdowns. Eric Sumlin (Dover, Del./Dover) caught three passes for 53 yards.
The Hawks’ defense was led by Clark Coe (Hoboken, N.J./Carteret), who had six tackles and an interception. Tevrin Brandon (Bethlehem, Pa./Bethlehem Catholic [UConn]) also had four tackles and four pass breakups. Darnell Leslie (Gaithersburg, Md./Damascus) had a team-high 1.5 sacks and a fumble recovery, while Dave Damirgian (Churchville, Pa./Council Rock) had one sack and Eric Macik (Landisville, Pa./Hempfield) added a half sack. The Monmouth defense held Robert Morris to 2-of-13 on third down, stopping the Colonials on each of their first eight attempts.
After blocking a punt deep in Monmouth territory, Robert Morris took a 7-0 lead less than three minutes into the first quarter on quarterback Paul Jones’ 12-yard touchdown pass to D.J. Pearson. The Hawks immediately responded with a 10-play, 77-yard drive capped by Sterling’s one-handed grab at the goal line for a nine-yard touchdown to tie the game.
The Hawks forced a turnover on downs on Robert Morris’ next possession, when Pat O’Hara (Souderton, Pa./Lansdale Catholic) and Anthony McDonnaugh (Philadelphia, Pa./West Catholic [Salisbury]) stuffed Corey Garry on 4th-and-1 from the Monmouth 41-yard line with 3:49 to play in the first quarter.
After both teams possessed the ball twice, but could not score, the Hawks completed a nine-play, 74-yard drive on Sterling’s second touchdown reception of the game, this time covering 13 yards on third down to the right corner of the end zone. Sterling also made a 21-yard catch earlier in the drive, helping the Hawks take a 14-7 lead.
The Hawks forced a punt with just under three minutes remaining and took just 43 seconds to find Sterling for his third touchdown of the half. Hill stepped up in the pocket on 2nd-and-12, got the throw off before getting hit hard and found Sterling through double coverage for the 41-yard touchdown connection with 2:00 left in the half.
The teams exchanged possession in the final two minutes, and Robert Morris got on the board when punter Eric Spillane (Howell, N.J./Colts Neck) did well to field a bad snap but was tackled deep in the end zone for a safety. The Hawks took the 21-9 lead into the locker room at halftime. For the half, Monmouth held Robert Morris without a third-down conversion on seven tries.
Neither team could get on the scoreboard in the third quarter and Monmouth extended its lead to 28-9 on Asante’s 14-yard touchdown run up the middle at the 9:58 mark of the fourth quarter. Later in the fourth, Robert Morris looked to have an Asante run sniffed out behind the line, but the senior running back cut back to find a hole for a 55-yard touchdown run, accounting for the final 35-9 margin of victory.
The Hawks return to action next Saturday, Oct. 12, when they travel to Loretto, Pa., to take on former conference foe Saint Francis (Pa.). Kickoff from DeGol Field is scheduled for 1 p.m.
MU’s Kevin Callahan on the keys to success and the identity of the team so far:
“I think what you are seeing is a combination of the ability to run the ball and pretty sound defense in keeping the opponent out of the end zone. We had some key stops on fourth down and take aways in the redzone. Anytime you can play good defense and run the ball well those are two very important ingredients to being successful. Again we had two backs who went over 100 yards which gives us a good one-two punch. Our offensive line is doing a good job and as you saw today that opens up things for in the pass game.”
-Clark Coe recorded his first career interception to stop a 33 yard RMU drive coming out of the break
-Sterling’s three touchdowns was the first time since Tristan Roberts caught three in the 2011 season finale vs Wagner
-Monmouth’s defense did not allow a third down conversion until there was 1:51 remaining in the third quarter.
-RMU was 2-of-13 on third down and 0-of-2 on fourth down. Opponents are 2 of 25 on third down against Monmouth over the last two weeks and 7 of 40 over MU’s three-game win streak
-The last time Monmouth won three straight was weeks 2-4 last season when they defeated URI, Wagner and Sacred Heart.
-MU hasn’t won four straight since the 2008 season when it won five consecutive from 9/28 to 10/25
-With his four pass breakups, Tevrin Brandon now has 10 pass breakups this season
-Fifth-year seniors are the top-four tacklers on the Hawks (Gary Onuekwusi, Dave Damirgian, Clark Coe, Tevrin Brandon)
-Monmouth’s defense held RMU to 71 yards rushing, the second time MU has held an opponent under 100 yards
-After scoring three touchdowns, Sterling is tied for third all-time with 14 career TDs with Adam San Miguel
-Sterling also ties Tyler George for third all-time in receptions with 121. He now needs to hit 30 more to pass Miles Austin for second all-time
-Reserve safety Nick Carroll had a career-high five tackles, including two for a loss and a quarterback hurry
-Robert Morris’ longest drive was 38 yards on eight plays and ended with Leslie’s sack and forced fumble