FAIRFIELD, CONN.- Monmouth University’s (4-5) football team outscored Sacred Heart (8-2) 14-0 in the second half but could not overcome a 17 point deficit at the break, ultimately falling 24-21 at Campus Field on Saturday.
The MU defense held Sacred Heart to 117 rushing yards, 130 yards off their 2013 average and allowed just 61 yards in the second half after allowing 24 points in the opening half. After allowing scores on Sacred Heart’s first three possessions, the Hawk defenders forced eight punts, two turnovers while allowing just one more score.
“You have to give this Sacred Heart team credit, they are a very opportunistic group,” said head coach Kevin Callahan. “We put ourselves into a big hole in the first half, struggling on both sides of the ball. In the second half I thought we played pretty well, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. We were able to get the ball back to our offense but unfortunately we weren’t able to finish off some of the drives. We had three turnovers in the second half that killed opportunities that we otherwise would have had.”
A bizarre play that featured two fumbles and a touchdown right before the half provided the final margin for Sacred Heart. Noel hit a wide open Moses Webb at midfield who was chased down and stripped by Pat Gray (Westfield, N.J./Westfield/Hargrave Military Academy). The ball was picked up by Ify Asoluka (South Orange, N.J./Columbia) but he was stripped trying to make a play at midfield by Webb who recovered the ball and went untouched for 51 yards. The play gave Sacred Heart a 24-7 lead with 56 seconds to play in the second quarter.
Monmouth cut the lead to 14 on a perfectly timed screen pass with 2:46 to play in the third quarter. Facing a third and eight from the Sacred Heart 19, Brandon Hill (Audubon, N.J./Audubon/UMass) hit Thaddeus Richards (Colombus, N.J./Northern Burlington) and the redshirt sophomore ran untouched to the endzone for his second receiving score in as many weeks.
Two drives later, Monmouth put together an 82 yard drive midway through the fourth quarter to get to within a field goal, 24-21. The nine-play drive was capped off by a three yard K.B. Asante (Silver Spring, Md./James Hubert Blake/WVU) run with 6:25 remaining in regulation. The Hawks would get the ball back two more times in the final 3:51 but ran just seven plays for a total of two yards with an interception ending the second to last Hawk drive.
Sacred Heart opened up the game with a 12 play drive that went 69 yards; putting the home team up 7-0 with just under 11 minutes to play after Noel took the ball himself for four yard touchdown on third down. On that opening drive the Pioneers got 28 yards on two plays and then converted two third downs and a fourth down to take an early lead.
Monmouth answered right back on six plays, scoring on a 58 yard Julian Hayes (Middletown, Conn./Xavier/The Hun School) touchdown to tie the game with 7:34 to play in the first quarter.
Sacred Heart moved right down the field on its second drive, going 61 yards on seven plays, scoring on a four yard Noel to Pat Casey touchdown pass. The drive took just 2:34 off the clock and put the Pioneers up 14-7. After a MU punt, Sacred Heart’s Chris Rogers kicked a 38 yard field goal on an 11 play drive that went 47 yards to put the Pioneers up 17-7 with 3:07 to play in the first quarter.
The Pioneers closed out the half with a 17 point lead after Webb’s 51 yard touchdown off the fumble recovery.
MU picked up 19 first downs compared to 16 for SHU. The Hawks also outgained the Pioneers on the day 340 to 301.
Neal Sterling (Belmar, N.J./Manasquan) led the MU wideouts with six catches for 70 yards, with Lamar Davenport (Asbury Park, N.J./Asbury Park) adding four more receptions for 34 yards. Hayes rushed 15 times for 105 yards, including his 58 yard score, and Asante chipped in with 77 yards on 12 carries. It marked the sixth time this season that Hayes eclipsed the 100-yard plateau. Hill completed 21-of-36 for 201 yards and a touchdown, as well as two interceptions.
Defensively for MU, Dave Damirgian (Churchville, Pa./Council Rock) led the way with 11 tackles. Clark Coe (Hoboken, N.J./Carteret) had an interception and a pass breakup from his safety position.
Noel passed for 184 yards, completing 16-of-33 on the afternoon and a touchdown. Noel also led the Pioneers with 43 rushing yards, including a score on the ground. Sacred Heart’s leading receiver was Tyler Dube, who caught six passes for 74 yards. Kellen Sperduto made 11 tackles for SHU, while Gordon Hill added ten.
Monmouth returns to the field next week for 12 p.m. against rival Wagner College.
-Punter Ryan Mohr (West Orange, N.J./Seton Hall Prep) had two punts that were downed on the SHU one and two yardline, respectively.
-Julian Hayes’ fourth quarter fumble was his first of the season, he had carried the ball 192 times prior to that play.
-The loss was just the second time in the last 11 years by the Hawks to the Pioneers but the second in the last four seasons.
-Monmouth is now 8-2 all-time at Campus Field.
-MU’s defense forced nine tackles for a loss but recorded no sacks in the contest.
-Damirgian’s 11 tackles marked the first time since last season (10-27-12) that a player had 10+ tackles in a contest.
-Elijah Phillips’ 22 yard punt return in the third quarter was a season long
-Eric Spillane’s second quarter missed field goal was just his third miss of the season
-Hayes scored his 29th career rushing touchdown, tying him with Matt Merklinger for third all-time at MU