WEST LONG BRANCH, N.J. – Brandon Hill (Audubon, N.J./Audubon [UMass]) threw for 308 yards and four touchdowns and Kwabena Asante (Silver Spring, Md./James Hubert Blake [WVU]) rushed for 171 yards and two touchdowns as the Monmouth University football team defeated Cornell, 48-23, on Homecoming Saturday afternoon on Kessler Field at Monmouth Stadium. With the win, the Hawks improve to 4-4, while the Big Red falls to 1-4.
“I’m very happy with the way we played today, it was an excellent team win,” said MU Head Coach Kevin Callahan. “I thought we played well on both sides of the ball, especially the defense that held the fifth-ranked passer in check for most of the game. The defense really played their hearts out. Offensively we got the running game going again, with KB going for 171 yards and Brandon Hill had an excellent day throwing the ball as well. We had some issues with our punt team, which led to most of their points, that we need to get corrected.”
The Hawks’ offense accounted for 512 yards of total offense, with more than 300 yards passing and over 200 yards rushing. Lamar Davenport (Asbury Park, N.J./Asbury Park) caught four passes for a game-high 102 yards and a touchdown, while Neal Sterling (Belmar, N.J./Manasquan) had four catches for 57 yards and a touchdown. Mike McLafferty (Morgan, N.J./War Memorial) added three receptions for 49 yards and a touchdown, while Thaddeus Richards (Columbus, N.J./Northern Burlington) added two catches, one for a touchdown. Julian Hayes (Middletown, Conn./Xavier [The Hun School]) added 86 yards on 17 carries.
Defensively, the Hawks were led by Joe Johnson (Manchester, N.J./Manchester), who had six tackles. Anthony McDonnaugh (Philadelphia, Pa./West Catholic [Salisbury]) added five tackles and a sack, while Jack Eisenstadt (Locust-Rumson, N.J./Rumson Fair Haven), Zak Irizarry (North Brunswick, N.J./North Brunswick) and Darnell Leslie (Gaithersburg, Md./Quince Orchard) also had a sack. John Sieczkowski (Manalapan, N.J./Manalapan) also chipped in with his first-career interception, returning it for 34 yards.
The Hawks held Cornell quarterback Jeff Mathews, a much-heralded NFL prospect, to 13-of-29 passing and 223 yards, sacking him three times. Grant Gellatly had five catches for 86 yards and a touchdown, while Lucas Shapiro added three catches for 75 yards and a touchdown. Luke Hagy had a team-high 22 yards rushing.
The Hawks opened the scoring on Eric Spillane’s (Howell, N.J./Colts Neck) 25-yard field goal less at the 10:32 mark of the first quarter. The lead swelled to 10-0 when Richards made his first-career touchdown reception from seven yards out with 2:07 left in the first quarter. Davenport set up the score with a 30-yard reception on third down.
Monmouth’s lead extended to 17-0 when Hill found Sterling in the end zone with a defender draped on his back for an 11-yard touchdown connection with 9:37 left in the half. Eric Sumlin’s (Dover, Del./Dover) 32-yard catch on 3rd-and-16 kept the drive going to facilitate the score.
Cornell crept back into the game with the help of some Monmouth special teams difficulty. The Big Red got on the board first when Spillane was forced to kick the ball out of the end zone for a safety following a bad snap with 5:44 left in the half. Cornell’s Ben Rogers ran the free kick back to the Monmouth 43-yard line and Mathews immediately found Hagy for 21 yards. Following a 19-yard scramble from Mathews, the Cornell quarterback punched it in from one yard out at the 3:50 mark.
Monmouth’s offense went three and out on its next possession, before Spillane had his punt blocked. Cornell took over at the Monmouth 15 yard line and scored on its first play from scrimmage on a 15-yard screen pass from Mathews to Gellatly with 2:36 left in the second quarter. The Hawks got a first down and ran out the first-half clock to take a 17-16 lead into the locker room at halftime.
The Hawks’ special teams got some redemption to start the second half, forcing a fumble on the kickoff before a pair of 16-yard receptions by Davenport, the second for a touchdown, gave Monmouth a 24-16 lead less than two minutes into the third quarter.
On the Hawks next drive, Hill found McLafferty on 3rd-and-10 for a 32-yard touchdown connection down the right sideline to give Monmouth a 31-16 advantage with 6:28 left in the third quarter.
Following Sieczkowski’s first-career interception and a 34-yard return into Cornell territory, Spillane split the uprights on a 28-yard field goal to push the Hawks’ lead to 34-16 with 2:34 left in the third quarter.
Mathews connected with Shapiro for a 27-yard touchdown to cut the Hawks’ lead to 34-23 39 seconds into the fourth quarter. But that was as close as the Big Red would get. The Hawks rushing game accounted for 122 yards on 13 carries in the fourth quarter to both extend the lead and put the game on ice.
On Monmouth’s next drive, Hayes ran for a first down before Elijah Phillips (Willingboro, N.J./Holy Cross) went up high along the sideline for a 12-yard reception for a first down. Asante then caught a 14-yard screen pass, and followed with runs of 12, two and 23 yards, the last for a touchdown with 10:14 left to play.
After forcing a turnover on downs, Asante ran for 56 yards on five carries and Hayes added two carries for 17 yards as the Hawks marched seven plays and 73 yards. Asante punched it in from three yards out to give the Hawks the 48-23 lead with 2:05 left in the game.
The Hawks return to action following an idle weekend on Saturday, Nov. 2, when they travel to Fairfield, Conn., to take on former conference foe Sacred Heart. Kickoff from Campus Field is scheduled for 1 p.m.
Additional Callahan Quotes:
“Our offensive line really wore them down in the second half, plays that were going for two and three yards in the first half went for seven or eight in the second half.”
“On the snap that went over our head, Eric Spillane made a heads up play on that, kicking it out of the endzone to give up only the safety.”
“We’re making progress, I’ve been saying that since day one, I think we’ve made progress each and every week with the exception of last week. It’s good to go into the bye with this win and we can use this week to get healthy and finish out the last four games on the schedule.”
“It felt real good to get out there and contribute to the team. There’s a lot of weapons out there and you just have to be patient and your time will come.”
“It felt good, I think we established the pass early. We also ran the ball effectively, We had some shots and took advantage of some deep routes we had. The offense clicked well today.
-Asante’s 171 yards rushing eclipsed his previous career-high of 130 against Columbia
-Davenport’s 102 yards is the second 100+ yard day for the redshirt junior and the first since his 105 yard day against Sacred Heart in 2012.
-McLafferty started his first game since week 2 against Liberty when he suffered a lower leg injury
-Asante finished with a career-high 193 all purpose yards
-Monmouth’s 48 points were the most in a homecoming win
-The win broke a four-game losing streak on homecoming games, dating back to 2008 (30-20 win over CCSU)
-Today’s game was the first time an opponent from the Ivy league visited Kessler Field, MU is 2-0 against the Ivy this season
- Sieczkowski, a redshirt freshman, has started all 8 games at outside linebacker this season.
-Monmouth held a commanding 37:14 to 22:46 advantage in time of possession
-The Hawks defense, which came into the game ranked sixth in the NCAA in third down defense (29% conversion), held Cornell to just 4-of-11 on the day.
-The Monmouth offense was 9-of-14 on third down
-MU’s 48 points were the most points scored since a 2011 win at Saint Francis; also it was the most points scored at home since an overtime loss (49-48) to Central Connecticut State in 2010.