Monmouth University football resumes non-conference play at Lafayette
By MARK MOHRMAN
Associate AD for Communications
Monmouth University (1-2, 1-1 CAA) at Lafayette College (2-1, 0-0 Patriot League)
Saturday, September 23, 2023; 3:30 p.m.
Fisher Stadium (13,132), Easton, PA
Play-by-Play: Gary Laubach
Analyst: Mike Joseph
Monmouth Radio Coverage
Monmouth Digital Network (MonmouthHawks.com)
Eddy Occhipinti (Play by Play); Zach Fabel (Color Analyst)
For tickets click HERE for more information
Fisher Stadium Information
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Monmouth is looking to rebound from its first conference loss of the season when it resumes non-league play on Saturday afternoon at Lafayette. The Hawks dropped a high-scoring game to Campbell, 45-31, in their home opener to fall to 1-1 in CAA play and 1-2 overall.
A WIN WOULD
A win would give the Hawks their second victory of the season and move the team to 2-2 overall. Monmouth is looking to move to 4-1 all-time against Lafayette and win their fourth straight in the series. Kevin Callahan would win his 180th career game.
Monmouth is coming off a 5-6 season in 2022 and was picked to finish eighth in the CAA Preseason Poll. Lafayette was picked fourth in the Patriot League Preseason Poll after going 4-7 overall and 3-3 in league play.
THE COACHING MATCHUP
31st Season / 179-137
18th Season / 98-75
Series Record 3-1
At Monmouth 2-0
At Lafayette 1-1
Most Monmouth points 31, 9/2/17
Most Lafayette points 30, 9/7/02
Most combined points 59, 9/7/02
Biggest Monmouth win 31-12, 9/2/17
Current streak Monmouth, W3
PRESEASON ALL-AMERICA HONORS
Jaden Shirden claimed five national preseason All-America honors from Phil Steele, Stats Perform, Hero Sports, Athlon Sports and The Bluebloods. Shirden completed his sophomore season as the nation’s leading rusher and earned consensus All-America honors from six different major publications. Shirden led the entire country in rushing at the end of the regular season, including FBS running backs, with 1,722 yards. His 8.4 yards per carry and 156.5 rushing yards per game were both tops in the FCS, earning him CAA Offensive Player of the Year honors. Shirden averaged an impressive 52.8 yards on 13 touchdown runs, including eight 50+ yard touchdown runs.
Coming off a third-place finish in last year’s voting, junior RB Jaden Shirden was named to the 2023 Stats Perform Walter Payton Award Preseason Watch List presented by FedEx Ground. The award is given annually to the top offensive player in the FCS following the regular season. Shirden’s inclusion on the Payton Award Watch List is the second of his career and he is the sixth in program history to be named to the list, joining Monmouth greats David Sinisi (2008), Reggie White Jr. (2018), Pete Guerriero (2019), Kenji Bahar (2019) and Juwon Farri (2021 and 2022).
SHIRDEN AND THE CENTURY MARK
Jaden Shirden has rushed for over 100 yards 12 times in his career, and has accomplished the feat in 11 of his last 13 games. He is the fourth player in program history to have 12 career 100-yard performances. Along with Shirden on the list is Juwon Farri (12), Pete Guerriero (20) and the all-time leader David Sinisi (25).
DOUBLE THE FUN
Jaden Shirden has run for more than 200 yards four times, including a program-record 299-yard performance on 12 carries against Forham in 2022. Shirden trails only Pete Guerriero (2017-19), who owns the Monmouth record with five-career 200-yard rushing games. Monmouth’s all-time leading rusher David Sinisi (2006-09) also had four 200-yard games during his career, a mark Shirden reached during his electric sophomore season.
POUND THE ROCK
Sone Ntoh’s 66-yard TD run at Towson is tied for the second longest in the league this year. Ntoh scored three rushing TDs against Towson, tied for the most in a single game in the CAA in 2023. Jaden Shirden’s 165 rushing yards against Campbell ranks second and his 33 attempts at Towson are tied for the most in a game for a CAA player this year. Shirden leads the country in rushing attempts with 88 (FCS and FBS) and is third in the FCS with 376 yards on the ground through three games. Ntoh leads the CAA and is tied for second in the FCS in rushing touchdowns with six.
WHAT CAN BROWN DO FOR YOU?
Harvard graduate transfer linebacker Jake Brown was named the CAA Defensive Player of the Week following his performance in the Hawks’ win over Towson. Brown led Monmouth’s defensive efforts with a team-high seven tackles, a pair of sacks and forced a critical fumble in the 42-23 victory. Holding on to a 28-23 lead with less than six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Brown jarred the football loose from Towson quarterback Nathan Kent. The fumble was recovered by Miles Mitchell inside Towson territory and Monmouth scored two plays later to regain a two-possession lead.
Monmouth is tied for second the CAA in turnover margin with a plus-three differential after forcing a season-best four turnovers in the win at Towson. The Hawks recovered two second-half fumbles, Eddie Morales III intercepted a pass to end a long Towson drive and Davis Smith sealed the game with an interception to offset an early fumble on offense. Monmouth won the turnover battle with a Jake Brown interception and Morales III’s fumble recovery in the season opener against FAU. Campbell won the turnover battle, 2-1, against Monmouth with a pair of interceptions.
TAMING THE TIGERS
Monmouth’s defense held Towson to 75 yards rushing, the best total since it limited Georgetown to 61 yards on Sept. 17, 2022. Monmouth had its first four sack game of the season, a feat it accomplished twice last season against Rhode Island and Stony Brook. Monmouth held Towson to 2-of-10 on third down and 1-of-2 on fourth down in the victory. The last time Monmouth had four sacks and four turnovers in the same game was against Gardner-Webb in 2014.
MCCRAY NAMED STARTING QUARTERBACK
Sacred Heart graduate transfer Marquez McCray will lead Monmouth’s offense in 2023. McCray played in 32 games across four seasons at Sacred Heart and helped the Pioneers win three Northeast Conference championships before joining the Hawks ahead of the Spring 2023 semester. McCray threw for 5,002 yards on 422-of-673 passing with 26 touchdowns and 15 interceptions and led the NEC in passing yards with 1,973 last season. McCray has at least 200 passing yards in three straight games to start his Monmouth tenure and has five touchdowns and three interceptions.
CONVERTING IN THE RED ZONE
Monmouth is a perfect 9-for-9 in the red zone this season with six rushing touchdowns, two passing touchdowns and one field goal. The Hawks scored on 36-of-42 red zone trips during the 2022 season.
Monmouth welcomed the addition of several impact players from the transfer portal ahead of the 2023 season. Graduate linebacker Jake Brown came to Monmouth from Harvard where he was a 2022 All-Ivy League Honorable Mention choice. The defensive line features two-time All-PSAC First Team selection Nick White (Gannon University - DII), Isaiah Oduro (Lackawanna College), Isaiah Rogers (Central Michigan) and Antonio Colclough (JMU). Offensively Harvard running back Sone Ntoh and reserve offensive lineman Matt Fries (Illinois) are the new faces to know. On special teams, Luke Schabel (Incarnate Word) has taken over as the team’s primary punter.
Five Hawks, three on offense and two on defense, will lead the Monmouth program this year as team captains. OL Greg Anderson, OL Tyler Williams, WR Dymere Miller, DB/PR Eddie Morales III and LB Ryan Moran will serve in leadership roles. Anderson, an All-CAA selection a season ago, has appeared 37 career games for the Blue & White, starting 19 contests. Williams started every game at center a season ago, leading the way for the CAA’s top scoring offense and the nation’s leading rusher. Miller is one of the most explosive wide receivers in Division I football, finishing with 820 yards and seven touchdowns in nine games last season. Morales III, a two-time captain, is in his sixth season with the Hawks after suffering a season-ending injury in 2022.The versatile defensive back has 144 tackles and seven interceptions in 44 games. Moran has started every game the last two seasons and leads the Hawks in tackles this year.
Dymere Miller was Monmouth’s leading receiver last season with 55 catches for 820 yards and seven touchdowns in nine games. Miller opened the 2023 season with a career-high 10 catches for 78 yards at FAU. Miller’s 10 catches were the most for a Monmouth player since Reggie White Jr. had 10 at Gardner Webb on Nov. 17, 2018. He is in the top 10 in program history with 1,371 career receiving yards and he is 11th in receptions with 102. Miller had a season-high 138 yards against Campbell, his fifth-career 100-yard game.
AK MAKES PLAYS
Wide receiver Assanti Kearney became a major weapon for Monmouth’s offense last season and he was second on the team in catches (37), yards (638) and touchdowns (4). He set new career highs in catches (6) at Maine, yards vs. Fordham (121) and touchdowns (2) in the win over Villanova. Kearney was named to Phil Steele’s CAA Preseason All-Conference Fourth Team and has three touchdown catches this year. Kearney delivered a 27-yard touchdown reception on fourth down in the season opener at FAU before hauling in TD receptions of 36 and 16 yards in the victory at Towson.
MORE WEAPONS EMERGE
In addition to Dymere Miller and Assanti Kearney, Marquez McCray has a number of options to spread the ball around. TJ Speight had career-highs of six receptions for 72 yards and a 15-yard rush in the season opener and followed that effort up with another six-catch night for 30 yards in the win over Towson. Dre Tucker hauled in a 16-yard touchdown in the season opener at Towson and recovered a muffed punt on special teams against the Tigers.
CAA IN THE POLLS
Five CAA teams are ranked in the Stats Perform Poll and four are in the top 25 of the AFCA Coaches Poll. William & Mary leads the group of ranked CAA teams at #5/5, followed by New Hampshire at #12/11, Rhode Island at #18/17 and Delaware at #16/19. Villanova is now in the top 25 of the Stats Perform Poll at No. 25. UAlbany, Campbell, Richmond, Hampton and Villanova were the other teams receiving votes in the polls.
MONMOUTH AGAINST THE COASTAL ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION
Monmouth is one of 15 current members of the CAA in football, with the new additions of former Big South Conference opponents Campbell (3-1) and North Carolina A&T (1-0) in 2023. The Hawks are 24-33 all-time against current CAA opponents. Monmouth has never played three teams in the conference; Elon, Richmond and William & Mary. The Hawks’ wins over Hampton (3-0) came as a member of the Big South Conference, while UAlbany (6-12) and Stony Brook (6-4) were foes at times during Monmouth’s time as a member of the Northeast Conference. The Hawks improved to 2-8 all-time against Towson. Bryant will join CAA Football ahead of the 2024 season and increase the league’s football membership to 16.
Monmouth had three specialists make their debuts in the season opener at Florida Atlantic, freshman placekicker Michael Calton Jr. is 10-for-12 on extra points, including a 6-for-6 showing at Towson, and made his first-career field goal against Campbell (26 yards), sophomore Luke Schabel is averaging 40.8 yards on 13 punts with a long punt of 58, and junior Justin Nyers is handling long snapping duties.
DID YOU KNOW?
Former Monmouth coach TJ DiMuzio is the offensive coordinator at Lafayette. DiMuzio spent eight seasons on the sidelines in West Long Branch, six in charge of the wide receivers and the final two as the Hawks’ Pass Game Coordinator/Quarterbacks coach. DiMuzio coached a First Team All-Big South selection in every season, with six straight wide receivers earning recognition and a pair of quarterback nods for Tony Muskett.
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