West Long Branch, NJ- Monmouth University (11-2, 6-0 Big South) never trailed en route to a 44-27 win over Holy Cross (7-6, 5-1 Patriot League) on Saturday in the first round of the 2019 NCAA FCS Playoffs.

Junior running back Pete Guerriero (Lyndhurst, NJ/Lyndhurst) ran for 220 yards and three touchdowns on a career-high 31 carries. Monmouth’s defense recorded a trio of interceptions, including two from senior captain Evan Powell (Marlton, NJ/Cherokee) as the Hawks built a 23-0 lead over the Crusaders.

Monmouth, the 11th-ranked team in the country coming into the game, won its record ninth straight contest which also served as its first playoff win. Fifth-year senior quarterback Kenji Bahar (Baltimore, MD/Calvert Hall) had 249 yards passing on 19-of-32 passing with a touchdown.

The Hawks had a short field on their third drive after Powell recorded his second interception of the season on the Holy Cross 22. The Hawks opened the scoring on Lonnie Moore’s (Sicklerville, NJ/Paul VI) 17-yard reverse to put up Monmouth 7-0. The drive was set up by Ryan Kost’s (Newton, CT/Newton) career-long 53 yard punt rolled out of bounds at the eight.

Monmouth extended its lead to 10-0 with 12:18 left in the second on a 30-yard Matt Mosquera (Middletown, NJ/Middletown South) field goal. The Hawks went up 17-0 when Bahar found Terrance Greene Jr. (Philadelphia, PA/St. Joe’s) in the endzone for a 20-yard touchdown with 9:11 to play. Guerriero pushed the Hawk lead to 23-0 on a 68-yard scoring run up the left side, out running defenders for his 15th rushing touchdown of the year.

Holy Cross got on the board on a 14-yard Derek Mountain touchdown after the Crusaders were awarded a first down on a pass interference call in the endzone.

Fifth-year senior Matt Castronuova (Jackson, NJ/Jackson Memorial) recorded the third Monmouth interception of the first half, leading to a 47-yard Mosquera field goal that gave the Hawks a 26-7 lead going into halftime.

Holy Cross had their best drive of the game to open the third quarter going 64 yards on nine plays capped off by a 22-yard Matt Considine touchdown pass. Guerriero responded on the next Monmouth drive, racing 34 yards for his third touchdown of the game. Mosquera added a 44-yard field goal with just over three minutes left in the third quarter and the eleventh-ranked Hawks led by a 37-13 margin.

Guerriero piled in from a yard out to finish the scoring for the Hawks while Considine threw a touchdown and ran for one in the final 15 minutes.

NOTES AND QUOTES
“We are obviously very excited for this win today: It is the first time Monmouth has advanced in the NCAA Tournament. The first 11-win season that we’ve had in our history, and I couldn’t be any happier and prouder of this group of guys. It was a very good effort all away around. As in most games, there are spots where we can player cleaner and better but I am extremely happy with the win. Going into the game, we thought it was important that we generate turnovers on defense and we did do that.” Monmouth Head Coach Kevin Callahan

“What we have seen from our defense this season is that we have a very opportunistic unit. They may give up some ground but they will make big plays at key points, whether it is generating a turnover, getting a key third or fourth down stop, a stop down in the redzone, we have seen to have come up with those plays when we needed to.” Callahan on the defense

“I think that what is key is that we have confidence in each other, we can rely on each other. No matter who is in the game, we have a bunch of guys and we do not miss a heartbeat. Our cohesiveness and our confidence help out as a unit.” Evan Powell

“I think that people say we are a small school but we play every game with a chip on our shoulder. We play every game with something to prove. We just got to keep it rolling and going forward and no matter who we are up against, we can continue making plays. It is about proving to everybody that no matter what size school you are, you can make plays, and as a whole offense, we have shown that.” Pete Guerriero

* Monmouth's nine-game winning streak is a new program record
* The Hawks also earned 11 wins for the first time in school history
* At halftime Monmouth held a 261-110 advantage in yardage
* Guerriero went over 100 yards for the 19th time in 31 career games
* Mosquera’s three made field goals ties a season-highs set against Lafayette and Albany
* The Hawks are now 17-1 at home since opening Kessler Stadium in 2017
* On his fourth rush of the game Pete Guerriero set the Monmouth single-season rushing record with 1,675 yards, surpassing former Hawk David Sinisi’s 2008 mark.
* Evan Powell’s two interceptions marked the second time this year a Hawk has had two picks in a game (Anthony Budd vs Albany)
* Holy Cross was 4-of-14 on third down, in the last four weeks Monmouth’s defense has held opponents to 14 of 52 on third down (26.9%)
* Guerriero eclipsed the 200-yard plateau for the third consecutive week – a Monmouth record – and now has run for over 200 yards in four of his last six contests
* In the last three weeks alone Guerriero has accounted for eight rushing touchdowns and two receiving scores
NUMBERS CRUNCH

* For the 13th time this season Monmouth held the advantage in time of possession, holding the ball 33:32 to 26:28
* Da’Quan Grimes led the Hawks with eight tackles
* Monmouth outgained Holy Cross 502 to 327 including 253-120 on the ground
* The Hawks had seven tackles for a loss with Kurt Aumer leading the way with two (including a sack)
* Mosquera finished with 12 points to push his season totals to 100 which is fifth all-time at Monmouth for a single season. He also has 216 career points is tied for third all-time with Miles Austin.
* Erik Massey blocked a Holy Cross extra point, the first XP blocked since 2018 (Pendarvis vs Bucknell). Monmouth had an extra point and a punt blocked in the contest.
* Holy Cross’ first six drives ended in four punts and two interceptions
UP NEXT
The Hawks will head to No. 2 James Madison in the Second Round of the FCS Playoffs. The showdown between the Hawks and Dukes will air on ESPN3 and can be heard on ShoreSportsNetwork.com. Kickoff is 1 PM.

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