WEST LONG BRANCH, N.J. – Sophomore running back Lavon Chaney (Edgewater, Md./South River) ran for 88 yards and a touchdown, and caught six passes for 41 yards as the Monmouth University football team defeated Gardner-Webb, 31-15, for its first-ever Big South victory Saturday afternoon on Kessler Field at Monmouth Stadium.

With the win, the Hawks end their season at 6-5 (1-4 Big South), while the Runnin’ Bulldogs fall to 4-8 (0-5 Big South). The Hawks finished the season with a program record 322 points.

“I’m very happy for our guys, in particular the seniors that have contributed so much for our program,” said Monmouth Head Coach Kevin Callahan. “I’m happy they were able to finish with a winning season and they achieved the milestone of winning the first game in the Big South. I know all those things were important to that group. Defensively I thought we did a great job we created six turnovers on the day and kept the Gardner-Webb offense in check and gave the ball to our offense with positive field position. The offense was able to turn many of those turnovers into points.”

Jake Mauro (Cheshire, Conn./Salisbury) ran for a 76-yard touchdown on a fake punt, while Neal Sterling made four receptions for 50 yards. Thaddus Richards (Columbus, N.J./Northern Burlington) had three catches for a team-high 72 yards and a touchdown. Quarterback Brandon Hill (Audubon, N.J./Audubon [UMass]) threw for 161 yards and a touchdown.

Defensively, Joe Johnson (Manchester, N.J./Manchester) had two interceptions, including one for a 55-yard touchdown return. Darnell Leslie (Gaithersburg, Md./Quince Orchard) had three sacks and a forced fumble, while Payton Minnich (Harrisburg, Pa./Central Dauphin East) had a game-high 11 tackles to go along with a sack and a forced fumble. Mike Basile (Brick, N.J./Brick Memorial) also added 10 tackles and an interception.

The Hawks opened the scoring at the 8:23 mark of the first quarter, when Chaney capped a nine-play, 35-yard drive with a three-yard touchdown run. Lucas Santangelo’s (Jamaica Estates, N.Y./New Hyde Park) point-after try was true, giving Monmouth a 7-0 lead.

After a Leslie strip sack, Dan Sullivan (Manasquan, N.J./Manasquan) picked the ball up and ran it 44 yards back deep into Gardner-Webb territory. Santangelo then knocked through a 30-yard field goal to stake Monmouth to a 10-0 advantage at the 5:49 mark of the first quarter.

After a drive stalled at its own 26 yard line with 8:14 left in the second quarter, Monmouth lined up to punt. But the Hawks sent a direct snap to Mauro, who scampered 76 yards up the gut for the touchdown. Santangelo’s PAT was good, giving Monmouth a 17-0 lead.

Gardner-Webb got on the board with 3:19 left in the half on quarterback Lucas Beatty’s bootleg left for a three-yard touchdown run, cutting Monmouth’s lead to 17-7 at the half.

Monmouth would push its lead to 24-7 on Johnson’s 55-yard pick six with 19 seconds left in the third quarter, before pushing the advantage to 31-7 on a 30-yard connection from Hill to Richards with 11:39 left in the fourth quarter. John Coleman (Sparta, N.J./Sparta) was successful on the final two point-after tries.

Gardner-Webb got to within 16 points when Bobby Clark ran for a five-yard touchdown and Beatty found Jacob Henderson for the two-point conversion. But the Hawks kept the Runnin’ Bulldogs off the scoreboard the rest of the way to preserve the 31-15 victory.

Nest Notes:
-Lavon Chaney, who finished with 129 all-purpose yards against Gardner-Webb, finished the regular season as the Big South’s leader in all-purpose yards
-Darnell Leslie led the Hawks with three sacks. He also had six tackles and a forced fumble in the contest.
- Leslie led the Hawks in tackles for a loss with 12.5, which was third in the conference
-Through two seasons, Leslie has 11.5 sacks which is the 12th most in Monmouth history
-Monmouth’s defense forced a season-high six turnovers in the game, while his 201 completions is also second most all-time
-Hill’s 19 touchdown passes is tied for second most in school history with himself (2013)
-Senior Neal Sterling finished 2014 with 905 yards, third most in a single season for a MU WR
-Hill’s 2,396 yards in 2014 is second most in school history
-Lavon Chaney’s 835 yards is the eighth-best single season output in school history
-Chaney’s 1,486 all-purpose yards is sixth most in the annals
-Monmouth’s previous record for points scored in a season was 303, done in 1998 (10 games) and 2013 (12 games)

Quotes
Junior CB Joe Johnson on his 55 yard interception return
“We made the call to double the receiver on that play, and I got the double call. As I was stepping down the quarterback snapped the ball and I decided to jump it.”

Senior FB Jake Mauro on his 76 yard fake punt for a touchdown
“First thing I just caught the ball and the hole was huge and I knew I had to make one move to make the last guy miss and I put it on him. It was great to end my career that way, to help the team to get a score. It was a nice way to go out.”

Coach Callahan on the fake punt
“That play is in every single week, we always have a fake punt in. We were waiting for the right time to call it. I talked to the guys on the sideline and they felt good about it so I said ‘ok go do it’. We were trying to get the first down but we ended up getting a touchdown, they were big points at that point of the game. That touchdown gave us a 17 point lead and it was a big turning point in the game.”

Freshman safety Mike Basile, who had 10 tackles and an interception against Gardner-Webb
“I went into the game and told myself I was going to do anything it takes to get this win for the seniors. We had a good game plan going in and I just went out and played my role.”


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3rd Quarter

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