[divider]MORE FCS FOOTBALL:
Holy Cross 27
Next up: Monmouth @ No. 2 JMU
Time/Date: Dec. 7 – 1 p.m. ET | TV: ESPN3
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME: Pete Guerriero, RB, Monmouth | 220 rushing yards on 31 carries (7.1 yards per carry), 3 touchdowns
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME: Evan Powell, LB, Monmouth | 2 total tackles, 2 INT.
OTHER STAT STANDOUTS:
Da’Quan Grimes, LB, Monmouth | 8 total tackles, 1.5 tackles-for-loss
Kurt Aumer, DL, Monmouth | 3 total tackles, 2 tackles-for-loss
Matt Considine, QB, Holy Cross | 20-37 passing for 196 yards and 3 touchdowns, 1 rushing touchdown
Domenic Cozier, RB, Holy Cross | 97 rushing yards on 15 carries (6.5 yards per carry)
Jacob Dobbs, LB, Holy Cross | 11 total tackles, 0.5 tackle-for-loss
FCS COACHING CHANGES: The List – And Why
THE TURNING POINT
With 4:26 remaining in the first half, Holy Cross (down 23-0) got its first points of the afternoon via Matt Considine’s 14-yard touchdown pass to tight end Derek Mountain and followed that score up with a successful onside kick (recovery by Grant Holloman) that gave it possession at its own 49-yard-line. The ensuing drive would stall, however, when sophomore running back Peter Oliver was stuffed for no gain on 4th-and-1 at the Monmouth 32.
Had this drive turned into a Holy Cross touchdown, the Crusaders would have found paydirt on back-to-back possessions and would likely have made it a single-digit deficit knowing it would start the second half with the ball. In reality, the Crusaders had their momentum sapped by the turnover on downs and would later fall further behind before the half (26-7) by way of Matt Mosquera’s 47-yard field goal. Looking back, Holy Cross’s best chance to insert itself into a truly competitive first-round game came at this juncture, but Monmouth stood tall and maintained its sizable lead.
The atmosphere at Kessler Stadium leading up to the opening kickoff had all the flavor of playoff football. The crowd, which included plenty of hometown Monmouth rooters and a healthy contingent of Holy Cross supporters clad in purple, was into it and both sidelines were energetic. Holy Cross got the start it likely envisioned when it won the coin toss and deferred its choice to the second half; the Crusaders forced a Monmouth three-and-out before blocking the Hawks’ punt to gain possession in plus territory at the 48-yard-line.
The Monmouth defense, however, did not budge, as the Hawks came up with a third-down sack by Kurt Aumer that knocked Holy Cross out of field-goal range. The ability of MU’s defense to hold off Crusader drives set up by special teams plays became a theme of the day. Special teams were a bright spot for Holy Cross, as the Crusaders came up with a surprise onside kick recovery late in the first half to pick up some momentum and had success in kickoff returns throughout the game (Mack Kortebein was particularly potent in the return game with a long runback of 54 yards highlighting his performance.)
However, Monmouth’s defense answered the call however deep the Crusaders’ field position may have been, and that allowed the Hawks’ high-flying offense to pull away as the game went on and ultimately put away the Patriot League champions at home.
“Obviously, really excited about this win today. (It’s) the first time that Monmouth has advanced in the NCAA tournament, the first 11-win season that we’ve had in our history, and I couldn’t be happier and prouder of this group of guys. They’ve really approached each game this season with a sense of purpose and a sense of cause. They’re very focused on the task at hand and I think that’s what you saw again today. It was a very good effort all the way around and, as in most games, there are spots that I think we can still play cleaner and still play better, but extremely happy with the win.” — Monmouth head coach and Big South Coach of the Year Kevin Callahan
PREVIEW OF NEXT WEEK
Though Monmouth avoided having to travel to a CAA school in the first round, as is the fate of some automatic qualifiers from “non-big 3” conferences in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions, it will now confront CAA champion James Madison in Harrisonburg, Virginia in the second round. In turn, as time winded down on the scoreboard at Kessler Stadium during the Hawks’ convincing win over Holy Cross, Monmouth fans could be heard chanting for “J-M-U! J-M-U!”
In a historic season that has been defined by firsts, Monmouth has an opportunity to notch yet another first in the second round by knocking off the rested Dukes and moving to its first-ever FCS quarterfinal. It will be no easy task, but watching prolific Monmouth quarterback Kenji Bahar and record-setting backfield mate and tailback Pete Guerriero duel with Dukes like John Daka, Ron'Dell Carter and Rashad Robinson? Sign me up.
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