by Anthony Mauro Jr.
WEST LONG BRANCH – Monmouth University (4-4, 3-2) took on Duquesne University (7-2, 5-1) last Saturday in a battle to stay alive for a shot at the Northeast Conference championship.
A strong icy rain and 35 mph winds pummeled Kessler Field, but couldn’t keep the 1,050 in attendance out. Duquesne would ultimately rain on Monmouth’s Homecoming Day though, dealing them a 16-0 defeat.
The shutout was the first Monmouth had seen since September 27, 2004 in a 27-0 loss to Stony Brook University.
In a game with such inclement weather, turnovers and field position would prove to be key factors. Monmouth seemed to get a break early when Ian Simon sacked quarterback Sean Patterson on Duquesne’s first drive, forcing a fumble that was recovered by the Hawks on the Duquesne 37-yard line.
Monmouth made it to the Duquesne 19-yard line, but quarterback Craig Peterson was sacked on third down for a 7-yard loss to set up a 4th and 11. Head coach Kevin Callahan opted not to attempt a field goal in the nasty and windy weather, which led to another sack and turnover on downs.
“It was a tough afternoon for us. I think field position and turnovers were two keys in the game and we gave them a couple of short fields, which they capitalized on. We had a short field early and we really weren’t able to get anything out of it there. That made it difficult. I thought they were a little bit more successful when they did try to throw the ball than we were able to be. I think ultimately that was probably the difference in the game,” said Callahan.
Duquesne’s longest drive of the game would come on their next possession, going 72 yards on nine plays. Running back Larry McCoy broke off a 21-yard rush on the first play, followed by two more attempts for five yards; putting the Dukes in Monmouth territory. Several plays later, Duquesne was forced with a fourth down at the Monmouth 31-yard line. Patterson would complete a 12-yard pass for a first down, and run for a 19-yard touchdown on the next play. The extra point was blocked, making the score 6-0 with 5:21 left in the first quarter.
With 6:07 left in the half, Hawks’ running back Julian Hayes lost a fumble that was recovered by the Dukes at the Monmouth 37-yard line. Duquesne would proceed to methodically march down the field and cap off the drive as Charlie Leventry knocked down a 33-yard field goal with 2:04 left in the half to make the score 9-0.
On Monmouth’s next drive, Peterson completed a pass to Tyler George, but the ball was jarred loose and recovered by Duquesne at the Monmouth 13-yard line. After a delay of game penalty, Patterson completed an 18-yard touchdown pass to Isaac Spragg with 40 seconds left in the half; giving the Dukes a 16-0 lead.
This was all Duquesne would need to clinch a victory, as neither team scored in the second half. Duquesne maintained their lead by dominating the second half. Monmouth could not get anything going on offense as Duquesne committed to stopping the run and dared Peterson to throw the ball in the abysmal weather.
“I think you have to give credit to their defensive unit. They’re ranked at the top of the NEC in several defensive categories. They’re ranked in the top 20 in the nation in defense as well. They’re good. We knew it was going to be a challenge for us to be able to run the ball and get some big looks,” said Callahan.
In a game plagued by punts and failed fourth down conversions, turnovers were one thing neither team could afford and field position proved to be critical. Monmouth had five fumbles, losing three of them, and threw one interception. Duquesne’s only giveaway came on their only fumble. Monmouth made it into the red zone one time and failed to put up any points, while Duquesne had seven red zone scoring opportunities and capitalized on three of them.
“Turnovers and field position on a day like today are very important,” said Callahan.
Peterson, taking over for the injured Kyle Frazier (ACL), seemed to have a tough time dealing with the elements and Duquesne’s stingy defense as he struggled for most of the day. He finished the game 5-for-13, throwing for 41 yards and an interception.
“I just had a little bit of trouble handling it [the ball] all day. Obviously that’s on me because they [Duquesne] weren’t having the same problems that I was, so I put a lot of the blame on myself. When you know I’m not throwing the ball effectively, it makes it a lot harder for Julian [Hayes] to make some big runs,” said Peterson.
Hayes finished the game with 114 yards rushing on 34 carries, his first career 100-yard game, and one reception for 12 yards.
Duquesne’s Patterson completed 6-of-15 passes for 68 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed for 35 yards and a touchdown. McCoy rushed for 110 yards on 34 carries for the day. Spragg had three receptions for 42 yards, one of which was Patterson’s only touchdown pass.