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(Photo courtesy of Nikki Lepore)

Montclair State falls to Salve Regina, 24-21, in home opener

Coming into Saturday’s game against Salve Regina, Montclair State was looking to get on track after two tough road losses. The Red Hawks only picked up 181 yards of total offense in their first two matchups against RPI and Delaware Valley. After such defeats, Montclair State was looking for some home cooking at Sprague Field to begin a stretch of four straight games at home.

The Montclair State offense awakened, scoring 21 points in the second half, but the Red Hawks fell to the Salve Regina Seahawks, 24-21, on Saturday afternoon in Montclair.

The first quarter saw a Montclair State offense that seemed to attempt to find their identity. The first two Red Hawk drives were stalled after just five and eight plays. Salve Regina struggled on their first drive on offense but found the perfect balance of pass and run against the Montclair State defense. The Seahawks got on the board as Jack Macguire connected with Hayden Hulme on a 35-yard touchdown reception to put Salve Regina up 7-0 with 1:09 left in the first quarter.

Montclair State dodged a bullet after Chris Maida missed a 37-yard field goal, but the Red Hawks went three and out to give the ball right back to Salve Regina. After Salve Regina drove to the MSU’s 24-yard line, the Seahawks turned the ball on a fourth and eight after Macguire threw an end-zone interception to senior defensive back Mike Ramos. After another MSU punt, Slave Regina drove the ball inside Montclair State’s ten-yard line, but the Red Hawks defense did not break, holding the Seahawks to a field goal to go into the locker room down 10-0.

The second half began with Salve Regina (3-0) recovering a Montclair State onside kick attempt and eventually scoring on a 35-yard touchdown catch by John Hannon just 46 seconds into the second half. Dan Ramos returned the ensuing kickoff 42 yards to give MSU good field possession to start their drive.

After an up-and-down drive after the kick return, senior quarterback Ja’Quill Burch ran in the end zone from four yards out to cut the Salve Regina lead to 17-7. The touchdown was MSU’s first offensive touchdown of the season, a drought that spanned ten quarters.

After the MSU score, Salve Regina marched down the field as Joey Mauriello capped a 14 play, 55-yard drive with a three-yard touchdown run to extend the Seahawk lead to 24-7. The Red Hawks countered with a two-play drive as Makai Mickens ran it from 20 yards. The extra point was blocked, but the touchdown put Montclair State back within striking distance at 24-13. The other big play in the 36-second drive was a 36-yard catch by Clarence Wilkins.

Attempting a comeback, the Red Hawks recovered a fumble by Mauriello to get the ball back in Salve Regina territory with 6:46 remaining in regulation. After converting on a fourth down, Mickens continued his big day, catching a 29-yard touchdown from Burch on a screen pass. Burch ran in the two-point conversion to make the MSU deficit 24-21 with 4:24 left.

After MSU stopped Salve Regina on the ensuing drive, the Red Hawks got the ball back on their own 28-yard line with 2:22 remaining. After getting the ball into Seahawks territory, Burch’s fourth-down throw fell incomplete as MSU fell to 0-3 on the season.

Mickens finished with 152 total yards, which included 72 yards on ten catches. Burch threw for 166 yards and a touchdown in a very productive start. The defense was led by Mike Ramos, who made 13 total tackles and picked up an interception.

Joey Mauriello led Salve Regina with 102 yards rushing while Jack Macguire controlled a balanced Seahawks offense with 213 yards passing and two touchdowns.

What’s Next For Montclair State

The Red Hawks continue their four-game homestand to face Worcester Polytechnic Institute next Saturday at 2 p.m. at Sprague Field.

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