BUIES CREEK, NC – Monmouth University wiped away any lingering aftereffects from last week’s crushing last-second loss to Princeton with a dominating 34-17 road win over Campbell University to remain undefeated at 3-0 in Big South play.
“I think it was a great win on the road against a very tough team that had won three in a row and was 2-0 equal to Monmouth in the conference,” said Monmouth head coach Kevin Callahan. “We knew that and came down here with some urgency and it was important that we came down here and got this win. We thought we had to start fast and play complementary football with the offense and defense kind of complementing each other and as the game unfolded that’s exactly what we did. It was a very complete game on our part.”
The Hawks moved to 4-3 overall on the season and now have a much needed – and well deserved - bye next week giving them time to rest and heal up as they gear up for the final push of the season with four Big South games still remaining on the schedule.
“I think it’s really important going into the bye coming off a win,” said Callahan. “ We have a lot of guys banged up here so we’re hopeful this bye week will give us a chance to rest up and heal up and get ready for A&T (Monmouth's next opponent, North Carolina A&T).
“And getting over the Princeton loss, which was a very disappointing loss for us as a program, was important. It was a game in which we really controlled the better part of three quarters and let it slip away from us. But our guys were focused on conference play and it was important to get a leg up on everybody today. The way it goes right now, we have four one-game seasons left and we’ll do everything we can to win every one of them.”
Monmouth’s sophomore quarterback Tony Muskett was phenomenal in the game passing for 286 yards and three touchdowns, completing 17-of-31 passes and had two long first-half passes dropped that were sure touchdowns.
“Tony had an outstanding game,” said Callahan. “He was accurate and did a good job delivering the ball where it needed to go and getting in-and-out of plays. It was just a complete game on his part.”
The Hawks finished with 454 yards of total offense in the game, including 168 yards on the ground.
“Ever since I walked in the door here, coach Gallo and coach Dimuzio have had confidence in me,” Muskett said. “They’ve always given me the keys to the offense and trust me to make the right decisions and get us in the right plays. I feel if I can do that consistently we’re going to be a tough offense to stop and you saw that today.”
Monmouth scored on the opening possession of the game, which Callahan felt was important.
“We knew we had to start fast,” said Callahan. “Those two early scores were important and there’s evidence of it. We also wanted to be aggressive in the game on both sides of the ball. And going for it on fourth down just signified us being aggressive and just having a lot of confidence in our offense.”
Monmouth was 3-for-4 on fourth down conversions for the game.
Muskett picked apart Campbell’s man-to-man, cover one defensive alignment on their 10 play, 75 yard opening possession scoring drive to take a quick 7-0 lead.
Zack Tredway had a big 23-yard catch on third down to keep the drive alive and Muskett found Lonnie Smith IV on fourth-and-6 for another big first down. Muskett, who was 3-of-4 for 51 yards on the series, then finished off the drive with an 18-yard scoring strike to Terrance Greene Jr., who made a leaping grab with a defender draped all over him.
“They play cover one so basically its just man coverage with one safety in the middle of the field,” said Muskett. “So coming into the game we knew we were going to have opportunities for big plays in the passing game and you saw both Lonnie and TG both having over a hundred yards. All the other guys stepped up and played great and we won our one-on-ones and the score reflected that. I've said this before, 'I think we have the best receiving room in the country.'”
The Hawks defense gave the ball right back to its offense on Campbell’s first possession of the game when linebacker Ryan Moran’s hit on Camels quarterback Wiley Hartley forced a fumble with Monmouth’s defensive lineman Lorenzo Hernandez – who had a monster game - recovering. Senior lineman Erick Massey flushed Hartley out of the pocket to set the play in motion.
“It was a big moral booster especially after the offense scored on the first drive,” said Hernandez of his fumble recovery. “Ever since Holy Cross the hole D line has been trying to step it up. Me personally after the Holy Cross loss I never want to feel like that again. So, I’ve been trying to push ever week and giving it all I’ve got. With all our injuries on the D line I know I have to put a little more pressure on my shoulders and give more out there.”
The 5-foot-10, 215 pound Moran was a tackling machine on Saturday finishing with 11 total tackles (4 solo) with a number of his tackles coming on key third-down plays.
Entering the game, Campbell’s offense were first in the Big South in points scored per game (38.4) but Monmouth’s defense held them to just 10 points until Campbell scored a garbage-time touchdown with under a minute left in the game and the starters having been already pulled.
Campbell had no answer for Hernandez, who was mostly unblockable all afternoon even when Campbell was forced to double and triple team him.
Hernandez had four tackles, a sack, two tackles for loss (TFL), fumble recovery and numerous quarterback pressures in the game, but it’s also all the intangibles he brings that don’t show up on the stat sheets that make him so indispensable.
“Lorenzo was outstanding, he made so many plays and created a lot of havoc on their side of the line of scrimmage” said Callahan.
Following the Hernandez fumble recovery, Monmouth was held to a field goal with Nick Null converting on a 39 yarder giving the Hawks a 10-0 lead.
"Our mentality this week coming into the game was to just force turnovers and get to the ball carrier, get to the quarterback and secure tackles," said Hernandez. "And that's what we did today. We got off the field when we needed to and really ignited our team."
Campbell’s Caleb Snead – who came into the game second in the FCS with seven touchdowns – made it eight on the Camels next possession hauling in a slant over the middle and taking it 43 yards to the house to pull the Camels to within three, 10-7.
Snead entered the game first in the Big South in receptions, yardage, touchdowns and average yards per catch. He finished with six receptions for 178 yards but was a non-factor in the second half except for a 41-yard reception on the Camels first possession of the second half.
“He’s a great player but our guys settled down and knew they could play with him and run with him,” said Callahan. “And they made some big plays accordingly.”
Snead was not to be heard from again until the Camels last drive of the game against Monmouth’s second-team defense.
Credit the Hawks secondary, senior cornerback Justin Terry and junior Tyrese Wright in particular, for shutting Snead down in the second half. Terry and Wright had tremendous games both in coverage and run support.
“Our DB’s really stepped it up in the second half,” said Hernandez.
On Campbell’s first drive of the second half with the Hawks up 24-10, the Camels drove to Monmouth’s 10-yard line where they were looking to make it a one-score game. On third-and-9 with Hartley looking for Snead all the way, Terry knocked Hartley’s pass away from Snead in the end zone and it fell incomplete.
Campbell’s 27-yard field goal attempt was then no good so the score remained 24-10.
“Down on that part of the field we had some really big pass breakups on third down that forced them to settle for a field goal,” said Callahan. “Fortunately for us they missed them.”
Monmouth’s defense was particularly resourceful on Campbell’s third-down plays with the Camels successful on just 3-of-14 third-down conversion attempts and 1-for-4 in red zone chances.
“We had some key stops on third downs,” said Callahan. “A couple times deep in the red zone we put them in situations where they had to go for field goals and to get off the field in those situations is huge. We had our backs to the wall a couple of times on defense and we came up with the plays.”
On Campbell’s first possession of the fourth quarter with the game still 24-10, the Camels drove to the Monmouth 21-yard line where they were again looking to make a one-score game.
Wright, however, had different a idea sacking Hartley for a five-yard loss and forcing a fumble that the Camels recovered. Now looking at a fourth-and-9 at the 10-yard line, the Campbell opted to attempt a 44-yard field goal and again it was no good – Campbell’s third missed field goal of the game.
The 6-foot-0, 210 pound Wright finished with 10 tackles, including four solo tackles and two pass breakups.
Monmouth then put the game out of reach with a 75-yard scoring drive that gave the Hawks a 24-point lead with 2:32 left in the game.
Behind its veteran offensive line, which began to wear down the Camels front seven, the Hawks got its running game untracked in the second half rushing for 105 second-half yards - with most of it coming on the Hawks final two possessions of the game.
“We have so many seniors across the offensive line and Juwon’s an older guy too,” said Muskett. “It makes everything that much easier. There’s nothing we haven’t seen, so you can’t throw something at us that will get us off our mark.”
Junior running back Juwon Farri began to pick up huge chunks of yardage and finished off the drive with a 10-yard run to seal the win.
Farri rushed for 114 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries for a 5.0 average for the game.
With the Hawks still holding onto a 10-7 lead late in the first quarter, Snead had a 48-yard catch-and-run down to the 7-yard line but on third down Hernandez sacked Hartley for a 5-yard loss forcing a field goal attempt that was wide right.
“It happens so quick, I’m always trying to make sure I don’t miss the guy,” said Hernandez of his sack. “I missed maybe one or two this year and I’ve been trying to put my body on the guy. I feel like we were dominating the line of scrimmage and me specifically. They were double teaming me on every play and calling it out before the play so just to see the offense line do that shows a lot of respect.”
On Monmouth’s ensuing possession, they drove to the Camels 24-yard line but on first down Muskett was hit as he threw and fumbled with Campbell recovering.
Snead then struck again, with a 35-yard catch-and-run down to the 24-yard line but Monmouth’s bend- don’t-break defense held. Facing a third-and-5 from the Monmouth 7-yard line, Hartley’s pass intended for tight end Jalen Hill was broken up by Wright and the Camels settled for 24-yard field goal that tied the game at 10.
Monmouth answered with a three play, 74-yard scoring drive to go up 17-10. On third-and-4 from the Camels 32-yard line, Greene Jr. broke free down the right sideline and Muskett laid it in perfectly for a 68-yard touchdown play and a seven point lead with 6:25 left in the half.
The Hawks defense forced a three-and-out on the Camels ensuing possession with sophomore linebacker Caleb Dennis, junior linebacker Dale Sieczkowski and linebacker Eddie Hahn all contributing big plays in the series.
Monmouth then seized control of the game with a quick strike that stunned the Camels. On second-and-4 from the 42, Muskett found Lonnie Moore IV over the middle and he double-clutched the defender to break free before racing into the end zone for a 24-10 lead with 4:40 left in the second quarter.
Greene Jr. and Moore IV combined for 219-yard receiving with both standouts surpassing the century mark in yardage. Greene Jr. finished with four catches for 104 yards and two touchdowns with Moore IV adding seven receptions for 115 yards and a touchdown.
The Hawks then recorded interceptions on back-to-back Campbell possessions to close out the first half.
Terry picked off Hartley on first down at the Hawks 35-yard line but the Hawks went three-and-out on their ensuing possession resulting in a punt.
Terry’s numbers for the game were outstanding as he contributed three tackles, an interception, sack, TFL, forced fumble and a pass breakup
On the Camels last possession of the half, they moved to the Monmouth 42, but on first down, Sieczkowski and Massey combined for an 8-yard sack of Hartley. One play later, on second-and-18, cornerback Eddie Morales III stepped in front of the intended receiver for the interception at the Monmouth 24-yard line with 42 seconds left in the half and the Hawks held on to a 24-10 lead at the intermission.