WEST LONG BRANCH, N.J.- The Monmouth University (6-6) football team fell to Duquesne (7-4) on Senior Day at Monmouth Stadium, 33-23 on Saturday afternoon.
Monmouth fell behind 23-7 at halftime but battled back to tie the game on two Brandon Hill (Audobon, N.J./Audobon/UMass) touchdown passes which were followed up by two-point conversion receptions by Neal Sterling (Belmar, N.J./Manasquan). With the score knotted at 23-23, Duquesne used a big kickoff return to get into scoring position and got into the endzone four plays later, putting the Dukes ahead for good. Duquesne added a late field goal to finish the scoring.
“We had an opportunity going into today’s game to finished with seven wins,” said MU Head Coach Kevin Callahan. “I don’t think we played well enough, particularly in the first half, to come away with a victory. When you play against a good team, a conference champion it makes it very difficult. I was happy with the way we rebounded in the second half to get the score even. We were looking to get another stop and get the go ahead score but we were unable to do that. I feel badly for the seniors who are leaving the program, in that we were unable to get them a win in their last game.”
On the final play of the first quarter, back Kwabena Asante (Silver Spring, Md./James Hubert Blake/WVU) powered ahead for nine yards and in the process, joined backfield mate Julian Hayes (Middletown, Conn./Xavier/The Hun School) in crossing the 1,000 yard plateau in 2013. Monmouth is the only team among FCS schools to have a pair of 1,000 yard backs and the only other team in all of Division I to join the Hawks in the accomplishment is the University of Wisconsin.
“Having two backs over 1,000 yards is a tremendous accomplishment both for KB and Julian,” said Callahan.” I think you need to give a lot of credit to the work our offensive line did throughout the year, providing the holes and the blocking for them to run. They are both two very hard workers and they are both back next year. I know that while they are disappointed with the outcome of today’s game and possibly the overall record of the season, they are happy and they should be about their individual accomplishments.”
Duquesne opened the scoring with a first quarter field goal drive. Four Ryan Ho runs, including a 31 yard burst set up Austin Crimmins for a 33 yard field goal. The next possession for the Dukes saw Devin Rahming outrun his coverage for a 49 yard completion over the middle, and freed himself on the very next play for a 14 yard touchdown, putting the visitors up 10-0 with 5:55 remaining in the opening quarter. On the ensuing MU possession, Duquesne’s EJ Kosec broke through and blocked Eric Spillane’s (Howell, N.J./Colts Neck) punt, and took it back to the Monmouth 17 yard line. The Hawks defense stiffened, holding Crimmins to a 27 yard field goal to put Duquesne up 13-0.
On Monmouth’s next drive three straight runs by Asante and a Sterling 16-yard grab to set the Hawks up inside the red zone. Zach Fabel (Brigantine, N.J./Holy Spirit) ran a seam route and Hill put the ball over the defender for an 18 yard strike, getting Monmouth on the board and cutting the Duquesne lead to 13-7.
Crimmins tacked on a 30 yard field goal after a nine play, 57 yard drive to pad the Dukes lead to 16-7. On the ensuing kickoff, the ball bounced at the 19 yard line and before a Hawk could reach it, the ball was scooped up by Duquesne, setting them up with a first down inside the MU 20. On the very next play, Dave Thomas worked the middle of the field and secured a 19 yard touchdown reception, giving Duquesne a 23-7 halftime lead.
Monmouth would battle back in the second half, with Tevrin Brandon (Bethlehem, Pa./Bethlehem Catholic/UConn) cutting in front of a defender to intercept a Dillon Buechel pass. Though the Hawks wouldn’t convert on that possession, they would on their next drive after Gary Onuekwusi (Baltimore, Md./Dunbar/Temple) stripped the ball from Duquesne back Ethan Dorsey and it was recovered by Dave Damirgian(Churchville, Pa./Council Rock). Three plays later, McLafferty caught a 56 yard pass to the outside and outran everyone to score. Sterling would catch the two-point conversion at the one yard line and muscle his way across for the two-point conversion, making the score 23-15 in favor of the Dukes.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, Sterling went up and capped off a six play, 57 yard drive with a 17 yard touchdown catch in which he went up over his defender to haul it in. He made another great play on the ball on the two-point conversion attempt, going back to get it to tie the game at 23 early in the fourth.
Devin Rahming took the kickoff following the MU touchdown 55 yards, all the way back inside the Monmouth 40 to set up the Dukes with good field position. Following a 25-yard completion to Thomas, Dorsey snuck out into the flat and hauled in a five-yard touchdown grab to put Duquesne back on top, 30-23. MU would get the ball back three more times before the Dukes held on fourth down deep in Monmouth territory and turned it into a 25 yard field goal, giving them a 33-23 lead which would be the final score.
Hill completed 18-of-31 for 273 yards and three touchdowns. Asante, who broke the 1,000 yard mark with a first quarter burst, rushed for 124 yards on 27 carries, his sixth 100+ yard rushing contest in 2013. McLafferty caught four passes for 113 yards and a touchdown, the second time in three weeks that the tight end had 100+ yards receiving. Sterling totaled seven catches for 79 yards, as MU had seven different receivers catch passes. Defensively for the Blue and White, Onuekwusi and Damirgian led the way with eight tackles, with Onuekwusi adding a forced fumble and Damirgian adding 0.5 tackles for loss.
The Dukes were led on the ground by Ryan Ho, who carried 12 times for 74 yards. Buechel completed 14-of-27 for 223 yards and three touchdowns, including one to Thomas, who had six receptions for 102 yards. Christian Kuntz and Rich Piekarski each had ten tackles, with Kuntz recording 3.5 sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss.
Monmouth put up 407 yards of total offense compared to 383 for Duquesne. The Hawks went 6-for-16 on third downs, while the Dukes picked up seven third down conversions on 15 attempts. MU won the time of possession 33:03 to 26:57, but took ten penalties for 86 yards on the afternoon. Monmouth rushed for 134 yards and passed for 273, while the Dukes threw for 223 and added 160 on the ground.
Monmouth wraps up the 2013 campaign at 6-6 overall, and will begin play as a member of the Big South Conference next season.
-Monmouth is the only team in FCS and is one of two teams (Wisconsin) in all of Division I with a 2,000 yard passer and two 1,000 yard passers.
-Asante becomes just the fourth back to rush for 1,000 yards in MU’s 21 year history (Hayes, Chris Reed, Dave Sinisi 2x)
-Brandon Hill’s 19 touchdowns in 2013 is second only to Brian Boland’s 21 he threw in 2005
-Hill’s 2,356 yards passing is also second most in school history behind Kyle Frazier’s 2012 mark of 2,431
-With his 84 yards receiving, Neal Sterling moved past Anthony Galella for fourth all-time in receiving yards with 1,710 yards
-With his 501 yards in 2013, Mike McLafferty set the new MU record for single season tight ends, passing John Nalbone’s mark of 491 set in 2008
-Monmouth’s starting five along the offensive line was the same all season, including fifth year seniors Josh Patterson, Mike Hunchak and Brandon Maxwell along with junior Reece Johnston and sophomore Peter Ireland.