Photo Courtesy of Monmouth University Athletics

Monmouth miscues open door for New Hampshire comeback win

DURHAM, NH – Some losses are tougher than others to swallow.

Monmouth University's 31-21 loss to the University of New Hampshire Thursday night on the road in their first-ever game as a member of the Colonial Athletic Conference was as tough as it gets to gulp down.

A blocked punt by the Wildcats returned for a touchdown, a late pick-six by Monmouth quarterback Tony Muskett that put the game out of reach, the inability to run the football, and a missed chip-shot field goal that took potential points off the board factored heavily in the loss.

Muskett was on fire in the first half when he completed 13-of-20 passes for 199 yards behind a rebuilt offensive line that gave him solid protection overall in the first half. But cracks began to show in Muskett's game early in the second half as New Hampshire's veteran defensive line began to rattle the quarterback with a revitalized pass rush.

On Monmouth's first possession of the second half trailing 17-14, the Hawks drove to the Wildcats' 41-yard line, but on third-and-long and under heavy pressure, an ill-advised throw by Muskett was intercepted – his first of three picks in the second half.

The Hawks' defense forced a three-and-out on the Wildcats' ensuing possession after cornerback Eddie Morales III, who played a great game with seven tackles, one tackle for a loss, and an interception, batted down a third-and-10 pass from New Hampshire quarterback Max Brosmer.

A poor 25-yard punt gave the Hawks excellent field position at the UNH 38-yard line.

Muskett regrouped and took the Hawks 38 yards in five plays to give them a 21-17 lead with 9:25 to play in the third quarter. Muskett stepped up in the pocket to avoid the rush and split two defenders in the end zone, hitting wide receiver Alex Bryant with a rocket right on the numbers for a 19-yard score and a four-point lead.

On New Hampshire's next possession on third-and-3 from their own 41, senior linebacker Isaiah Bishop pressured Wildcat quarterback Max Brosmer into an incompletion forcing the Wildcats to punt on their third straight possession to start the second half.

Seemingly back in control of the game with the lead and holding an edge in virtually every game statistic, including a better than 2-to-1 advantage in time of possession, the roof fell in on the Hawks late in the third quarter.

Taking over at the 50-yard line, it appeared the Hawks were in position to put the game away as Muskett drove the Hawks to the Wildcat 21-yard line with 2:11 remaining in the third quarter. But on third-and-7 from the 21, Muskett's pass was intercepted by Zadane Williams as another scoring chance for the Hawks went by the wayside.

The Wildcats then drove to the Monmouth 32-yard line, but the defense stiffened and Brosmer's pass on fourth-and-10 from the 32 intended for Andrew Edgar in the end zone was perfectly defended by safety Tyrese Wright and fell incomplete. However, Monmouth's offense couldn't capitalize on the momentum the defense handed them and they went three-and-out, turning the ball back over to New Hampshire with 11:30 left in the game.

Up to this point in the game, Monmouth's defense had played a really solid game forcing three three-and-outs to start the second half, but with the offense beginning to falter, the defense followed suit when it mattered most.

New Hampshire took over at their 28-yard line with 11:30 left in the fourth quarter and trailing 21-17. They drove 72 yards in nine plays scoring on a Dylan Laube 7-yard touchdown run to take a 24-21 lead with 6:20 left in the fourth.

Still, with plenty of time left, Monmouth took over at the 25-yard line following the kickoff, but on fourth-and-11 from the 24-yard line, Muskett telegraphed a pass that Randall Harris intercepted and returned for a game-clinching touchdown and 31-21 New Hampshire lead.

Monmouth left too many points on the board and made too many mistakes that came back to haunt them, which is not a recipe for success.
In the second quarter, with the score knotted at 14-14, the Hawks drove to the 21-yard line before the drive stalled and placekicker Vincenzo Rea's 38-yard chip shot was wide right.

At the end of the first quarter with the score tied at 7-7, the Hawks drove to the Wildcat 39-yard line but a sack on third down by New Hampshire's preseason All-American defensive end Josiah Silver ended that threat. Then, on the ensuing Kost punt, Silver burst through the line and blocked the punt, with Charles Briscoe III scooping it up and returning it 35 yards for a touchdown and a 14-7 lead.

It's hard enough to win a conference road game to begin with, but when you continually shoot yourself in the foot the way the Hawks did, it becomes an impossible task.

Monmouth's rushing game netted 62 yards on 37 attempts for a dreadful 1.7 yards per carry average. That was the key to the game. With Muskett under duress with intense heat from New Hampshire's from four after intermission, he was a different player in the second half.

Muskett was 13-of-21 for 82 yards in the second half with one touchdown pass and three interceptions.

Halfback Owen Wright did have touchdown runs of five and two yards out of the wildcat formation.

Junior wideout Dymere Miller, who had two catches for 66 yards in the first quarter, went to the sidelines late in the first quarter after a 37-yard reception and never returned. Bryant had eight catches for 67 yards and a touchdown in Miller's absence.

Monmouth racked up most of its total yardage (343 total yards) in the first half, while New Hampshire recorded 114 of its 353 total yards in the fourth quarter.

In his first game back since the Spring of 2021, Da'Quan Grimes led Monmouth with 11 tackles, including one tackle for loss, while Wright added eight tackles.

What's Next For Monmouth

The Hawks will try to regroup when it hosts Fordham University on Saturday, September 10 at Kessler Stadium.

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