Holy Cross Holds Off Monmouth, 27-19
WEST LONG BRANCH – Cody Williams (Springfield, MA/Central) completed 22-of-33 passes for 258 yards and a touchdown in his Monmouth Football debut, but the Hawks opened the season with a 27-19 loss to Holy Cross Saturday afternoon at Monmouth Stadium.
Darren Ambush (Dickerson, MD/Urbana) caught six passes for 102 yards, including an 81-yard touchdown reception, while Lavon Chaney (Edgewater, MD/South River) ran for 99 yards before departing with an injury early in the fourth quarter. With the loss, the Hawks move to 0-1, while the Crusaders are now 1-0.
Monmouth almost overcame a trio of turnovers when the Hawks drove down the field to set up a 27-yard field goal from Matt White (Gibsonia, PA/Mars Area) with 1:18 remaining to cut the deficit to eight. The Blue & White made things interesting as Reggie White Jr. (Randallstown, MD/Milford Mill Academy) recovered John Coleman’s (Sparta, NJ/Sparta) onside kick in stride at the Holy Cross 49-yard line. MU drove down to the 22 but Luke Ford intercepted Williams’ third down pass in the end zone with 14 seconds left to end the Hawks’ threat.
“As a team today, I don’t think we did enough things correctly in order to win the game,” said Monmouth Head Coach Kevin Callahan. “As I told our team, football games are difficult to win and you’ve got to be able to execute and do things right, especially in critical or important situations. While we did that at times today, I don’t think we did it enough to come away with a victory. You can’t take anything away from Holy Cross, I thought they played a very clean and tight game and executed.”
Chaney finished with 130 all-purpose yards, including four receptions for 31 yards. Williams also rushed 15 times for 38 yards, while Zach Welch (Middletown, MD/Middletown) matched his yardage on five carries. White Jr. also contributed five receptions for 39 yards and recovered an onside kick late in the fourth quarter. Pat Gray (Westfield, NJ/Hargrave Military Academy [Westfield]) chipped in with a pair of grabs for 36 yards.
Mike Basile (Brick, NJ/Brick Memorial) led the Monmouth defense with 10 tackles, nine solo, and a pair of pass breakups. Dimitrius Smith (Millstone, NJ/Jackson Memorial [Milford Academy]) and Joe Johnson (Manchester, NJ/Manchester Township) also had five tackles apiece, while Andrew Jurczynski (Ewing, NJ/Ewing) had a sack.
Holy Cross quarterback Peter Pujals was 16-of-26 passing for 165 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for 38 yards and a touchdown. Diquan Walker ran for a team-high 51 yards and a touchdown on nine carries, while Gabe Guild carried the ball seven times for 48 yards. Brendan Flaherty caught four passes for 22 yards and a touchdown, while Jake Wieczorek had three receptions for a team-high 45 yards. Kalif Raymond had three catches for 27 yards and Lucas Nikolaisen hauled in two passes for 25 yards.
After the Hawks went three-and-out on the first possession of the game, Holy Cross responded with a four-play, 42-yard drive, punctuated by Walker’s one-yard touchdown run. The key play on the drive was Gabe Guild’s 33-yard run to the Monmouth one-yard line on 3rd-and-2.
Monmouth responded with an 11-play, 54 yard drive that culminated with Matt White’s 38-yard field goal. Williams converted a 3rd-and-11, connected with Hakeem Valles (Sicklerville, NJ/Peddie School) on a 23-yard pass, before Chaney ran for another first down on 3rd-and-3. On the next play, Williams scampered for 14 yards, while Holy Cross was assessed a 15-yard penalty for a late hit out of bounds. But the Hawks’ drive stalled and White split the uprights from 38 yards out, cutting the deficit to 7-3.
Holy Cross countered with a seven-play, 85-yard drive that Pujals punctuated with a 15-yard run up the middle for a touchdown. The Crusaders got on the board once again, capitalizing when Williams couldn’t handle a snap out of the shotgun deep in Monmouth territory. Holy Cross recovered at the five-yard line and, after a five-yard penalty against the Crusaders, Pujals connected with Brendan Flaherty on a 10-yard touchdown pass to make it 21-3.
The Crusaders punted to the Monmouth 19 with 34 seconds left in the half. But Williams connected with Ambush on a screen and the junior wide receiver cut through the defense for an 81-yard touchdown. The Hawks went for two, but Reggie White came down with the ball out of bounds at the back of the end zone, leaving the score at 21-9 at the half.
After a scoreless third quarter, Monmouth cut the deficit to 21-16 on Chaney’s two-yard run on a direct snap. The run capped a 13-play, 56 yard drive at the 13:25 mark of the fourth quarter. The Hawks converted their third fourth-down conversion of the half on a seven-yard sweep by Ambush to the two-yard line before Chaney punched it in on second down.
But Holy Cross turned a pair of Monmouth turnovers on their next two possessions into two Connor Fitzgerald field goals at the 9:52 and 5:11 marks to push its lead to 27-16.
Monmouth returns to action next Saturday, when it plays its first-ever game against a FBS team at Central Michigan. Kickoff from Kelly/Shorts Stadium is scheduled for 3 p.m.
Coach Callahan on moving on to playing Monmouth’s first FBS opponent next week
“We’re going to address the issues that came up in today’s game in hopes that they don’t continue. We also have to move forward on the good things that happened today. Then we get ready to go play [Central Michigan]. We’re playing an FBS program for the first time in our history. All we can do is just get ready to play football. They were right there with Oklahoma State the other night. They have a lot of weapons and we’ll start preparing for them tomorrow.”
Redshirt Freshman Cody Williams
“The defense had a great game today. They gave us the ball back when we needed it but the offense just has to capitalize. It was different at first, but I feel like I acclimated well. I need to keep elevating my game so I can help this team win.”
Senior CB Joe Johnson
“On defense it’s easy to rally around each other and realize we have to step it up. As a whole we realized we weren’t playing as good as we can in that first quarter. They came out and punched us in the mouth and we didn’t react too well. We decided to rally around each other on the sideline and decided to play our brand of football. We can use this as a learning experience. The guys know how it feels and now we won’t let it happen again.”