By Maximillian C. Burgos | Staff Writer
The Monmouth University football team, for the first time in school history, has climbed to 3-0 in the Big South Conference after their 42-21 win over Presbyterian College at Kessler Stadium on Saturday afternoon. Monmouth won the game in the final box score, but it struggled in the first half with turnovers and with moving the ball.
Coming out of the starting gate, both teams went three-and-out, not being able to make anything of their starting drive.
On their second drive, Presbyterian set the tone for the first half by scoring on a nine play, 50-yard drive that was capped off with a nine-yard pass from quarterback Will Brock to wide receiver DaShawn Davis.
Monmouth answered the score with a touchdown of their own. On a ten-play, 80-yard drive, the Hawks were led down the field by their rushing attack. Running backs Pete Guerriero and Devell Jones both had touches on the drive. Guerriero accounted for 39 yards on the drive and Jones punched in the touchdown from four yards out to cap off the drive.
Both teams scored to tie the game at 14-14 going into halftime, but neither team exceeded 200 yards of total offense in the first half. Monmouth head coach Kevin Callahan talked about his team’s first-half struggles in the post-game press conference.
“Obviously, we are very happy with the victory,” Callahan said. “Our goal was to win [on Saturday] and go 8-1 overall. I’m very happy we were able to do that. But I don’t think we were hitting on all cylinders in the first half. You have to credit Presbyterian for that. I think they had a good game plan on both sides of the ball. They played it close and made things difficult for us.”
Presbyterian did make things difficult for the Hawks in the entire game. The Presbyterian defense forced three interceptions throughout the game. Defensive back Rock Ya-Sin had two interceptions on the day, giving him five on the season, which tied him for a Presbyterian Division I record.
Monmouth quarterback Kenji Bahar had only thrown four interceptions before this game. His three interceptions during the game, contributed to the Hawks struggles on offense early on. Bahar commented on his struggles in the post-game press conference.
“The run game defiantly helps,” Bahar said. “You have to keep pushing past it. You have to keep trying to make plays in the run game so that I can have that confidence later to make those throws done field.”
The run game definitely did come through for the Hawks. Coming into the game, Monmouth’s run-game was ranked No. 16 in the FCS, averaging 210.5 yards a game. Against the Blue Hose, Monmouth posted 237 yards on the ground and 4 touchdowns, scores by four different players.
The leading rusher for the Hawks was Guerreiro. He posted 153 yards on 21 carries and a touchdown. His longest play of the day was a 17-yard dash.
Callahan talked about the solid rushing attack for the Hawks.
“I think it speaks to the weapons we have on offense, ” Callahan said. “As an offense, we have a lot of running backs, we have a lot of receivers that have all shown the ability to score in a variety of ways up to this point in the season…We’ve even scored on special teams. Anytime you can be explosive in multiple ways, it will bode well for your team.”
The Hawks demonstrated their ability to the multifaceted team. Aside from their passing touchdown and four rushing touchdowns, wide receiver Vinny Grasso also scored his first career punt return touchdown in the third quarter.
Presbyterian punter Brett Norton booted a long high-arching punt. Grasso stood under it, made the first two men miss, cut through the middle of the field, and then outsprinted the entire Blue Hose punting unit for a touchdown. His touchdown would also mark the second punt return touchdown for Monmouth on the year.
After the dust settled in the game, Monmouth pulled out a solid 42-21 win over Presbyterian. After halftime adjustments, the Hawks were able to pull themselves together and finish the game elevating themselves to 8-1 on the season.
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