STATEN ISLAND, N.Y.- Monmouth University (5-5) football scored two touchdowns on their first five plays while the defense turned in a dominating effort en route to a 23-6 victory over Wagner (2-8) on Saturday.
The Hawks sprinted out to a 13-0 lead on a pair of Julian Hayes’ (Middletown, Conn./Xavier/The Hun School) touchdowns while the defense yielded just a pair of field goals and held Wagner to a paltry 3-of-17 on third down. With the win MU takes an 11-10 edge in the all-time series, including an 8-3 mark in Staten Island.
“Our objective today was to get off a fast start and we planned all week to run a reverse on the opening kickoff if we were to receive,” said MU Head Coach Kevin Callahan. “That jumpstarted us and gave us great starting field position. The offense then took the field and put that ball in the endzone. From that point on our defense palyed outstanding football. They did a good job on third down, kept Wagner out of the endzone and forced turnovers. Offensively we sputtered a bit in the second and third quarters but then got some things going again in the fourth quarter.”
Hayes finished with 21 carries for 87 yards with the pair of scores while K.B. Asante (Silver Spring, Md./James Hubert Blake/WVU) finished with 19 carries for 65 yards. Brandon Hill (Audubon, N.J./Audubon/UMass) was 12 of 20 for 190 yards and a touchdown while tight end Mike McLafferty (Morgan, N.J./War Memorial) had a career high four catches for 119 yards. MU linebacking trio of Gary Onuekwusi (Baltimore, Md./Dunbar/Temple), John Sieczkowski (Manalapan, N.J./Manalapan) and Dave Damirgian (Churchville, Pa./Council Rock) led the defense with nine, eight and eight tackles respectively.
Monmouth got the action started with a big reverse on the opening kickoff. Lavon Chaney (Edgewater, Md./South River) took the kickoff then handed it to fellow freshman Darren Ambush (Dickerson, Md./Urbana) who took the kickoff up the right side for 56 yards out to the Wagner 30 yard line. Two plays later the Hawks went up 6-0 on a 29 yard Julian Hayes touchdown.
Wagner countered with a good kickoff return of its own and worked its way down to the MU 31 but Andrew Jurczynski (Ewing, N.J./Ewing) batted the ball down on fourth down and the Hawks took over. The next play was a career-long 65 yard one-handed catch by McLafferty off a play action pass that got the Hawks down to the Wagner five. Two plays later Hayes walked in for his second touchdown, putting the Hawks up 13-0 with 9:37 to play in the first quarter.
Wagner got on the board with 30 seconds remaining in the second quarter, a 37 yard field goal set up by a blocked punt to close the first half scoring at 13-3.
A 31 yard Spillane field goal on Monmouth’s opening drive of the second half put the Hawks ahead 16-3 with 9:42 to play in the third quarter. Wagner closed the gap to 10 two drives later on a 21 yard David Lopez field goal with 2:43 left in the third quarter.
Monmouth iced the game midway through the fourth quarter after a fair catch on a punt was dropped by Wagner’s Andre Yevchinecz, and was recovered by Damirgian at the Wagner 36. A couple Asante runs set up a first down from the Wagner 13 where Hill found a wide open Elijah Phillips (Willingboro, N.J./Holy Cross H.S.) in the back of the endzone to go up 23-6 with 7:05 remaining.
On the ensuing kickoff, Monmouth appeared to stop the Seahawks deep in their own territory forcing a punt but A.J. Firestone was hit and drew a roughing the kicker call. Reserve quarterback Kramer Berg then connected on three passes for a total of 56 yards, moving Wagner down to the MU five. After two plays of no gains, Berg dropped back and was strip-sacked by redshirt freshman Jack Eisenstadt (Locust-Rumson, N.J./Rumson Fair Haven) and the ball was recovered by defensive tackle Josh Siemanowicz (Toms River, N.J./Manchester).
The Hawks held the ball for 33:30, compared to Wagner’s 26:30 time of possession and outgained the Seahawks 336-252. Jurczynski finished with a career-high seven tackles and a sack. Redshirt freshman Darnell Leslie (Gaithersburg, Md./Quince Orchard) finished with three tackles, including 2.5 sacks from his defensive end position.
After a MU punt, Berg drove the Seahawks down to the MU 13 on their final offensive possession but the drive stalled on a fourth down incompletion.
Dominique Williams had 72 yards on 20 carries for Wagner, while Brian Gehring went 10-of-20 for 97 yards before Kramer Berg took over under center. Berg was 5-of-13 for 86 yards. Duke transfer Tyree Watkins had five catches for 69 yards to lead the Seahawk receivers. Trevor Loeveland led the Seahawks with eight tackles.
The Hawks face Bryant next weekend in Rhode Island for a 12 p.m. contest.
Monmouth linebacker Dave Damirgian postgame-
Coach Callahan on the recent play of the defense
“With some short fields, we did a good job of winning in the redzone and not allowing a touchdown either by creating turnovers or holding them to field goal opportunities. The kids are playing with along of confidence right now. The last six or seven weeks the defensive guys have done a great job and seem to be getting better every week.”
Coach Callahan on the play of Brandon Hill
“Brandon appeared to be more at ease than he was a week ago. Much more like he was in the Cornell game. I think when we’re running the ball effectively that’s gonna allow him to become more comfortable throwing the ball.”
-Each of Monmouth’s first two drives took 1:04 off the clock
-First scoring drive was two plays for 30 yards; second was 3 plays for 69 yards
-With his second touchdown, Julian Hayes passed Chris Reed for second all-time in rushing TDs with 31
-Leslie now has 12 tackles for a loss and seven sacks in his first season
-His seven sacks is tied for ninth all-time in a single season, also the most by a single player in a single season since Mike Defalco had nine in 2003
-Of Wagner’s 14 offensive possessions, eight ended in punts, two in fumbles, two in field goals and two on failed fourth down conversions
-The last time the Hawks allowed just six points and no touchdowns was on September 8, 2012 when they defeated Rhode Island 41-6 at home
-Monmouth, which entered into the contest third in the country in committed penalties (averaging 3.45 per game), committed nine penalties for 105 yards in the game