- Category: Volume 87 (Fall 2015 - Spring 2016)
- Published: 02 December 2015
- Written by JOHN SORCE | STAFF WRITER
The Hawks completed their second season of Big South football on a high note as they topped the Runnin’ Bulldogs of Gardner-Webb on Nov. 21 by a score of 23-9.
MU opened the scoring on their first drive as redshirt freshman quarterback Cody Williams completed a second and one pass to junior wide receiver Darren Ambush for a 49 yard touchdown to cap a quick five play, 80 yard drive and put the Hawks up early 7-0. Monmouth scored again two drives later on a two yard run by junior running back Zack Welch giving them a 14-0 lead after the first quarter. Gardner-Webb added the only points to the board in the second quarter, a 35 yard field goal by sophomore kicker Paul Schumacher that capped an 18 play, 56 yard drive but the Hawks had the lead going into halftime, 14-3.
Schumacher added two more field goals in the Runnin’ Bulldogs first two drives of the second half, but the Hawks answered with a big play of their own as Williams threw a strike in the end zone to redshirt freshman wide receiver Reggie White Jr. after a fourth down conversion for 36 yards and a 21-9 MU advantage. Monmouth recorded a safety in the fourth quarter as sophomore kicker/punter Matt White was able to pin the Gardner-Webb offense at their own two yard line and freshman linebacker Tre Nelson recorded a sack in the end zone for the safety, adding two more points to the board. Senior cornerback Joe Johnson recorded the game-sealing interception on the second-to-last play of the game.
“It was a great way to end the season, to finish third in the Big South in only our second season says a lot about our players,” Monmouth head coach Kevin Callahan said. “Today was a terrific defensive effort. There were a number of times we were backed up deep in our own territory and we held them to field goals or forced a fourth down stop. I’m very happy with the way the kids played and kept rising to the occasion.”
Sophomore safety Mike Basile recorded ten tackles and an interception on the day. The Brick native finished the season leading the Big South and setting a new Monmouth single season record with 119 tackles, passing Aaron Edwards’ record of 114 set back in 2001. Basile led all of FCS football with 7.1 solo tackles per game, recorded double digit stops in nine games and led the Big South with 70 solo tackles.
“If you look at what he did as a freshman and to say he was going to top that in year two, there are people who would be skeptical about that,” Callahan said about his safety’s 2015 season. “I thought Mike had an outstanding sophomore year and that was another significant step in his development. He’s a terrific player, he’s instinctive and he always puts himself in a position to make plays.”
Basile’s focus is just on doing what he can to help his team win games.
“I just go out and do anything I can do to make our team win whether that’s making tackles, play deep or play the ball then that’s what I want to do,” Basile said in an interview with Matt Harmon of the Monmouth Digital Network. “I practice hard and I go through practice to make it easier for game time. Once game time comes, anything I can do to help the team win is what I’m going to do.”
Williams finished the day 11-17 for 148 yards and two touchdowns. Junior running back Lavon Chaney tallied 51 yards on 18 carries. Welch picked up 34 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries. Freshman wide receiver Ugo Ezemma led the team with four receptions and had 33 yards. Ambush and White Jr. had one catch each, both of those going for touchdowns.
MU completed the season with a 5-6 record and finished at 3-3 in the Big South, which was good for third place in the conference after being picked to finish sixth in the preseason. The two teams that finished ahead of them were selected to compete in the FCS playoffs. The Hawks had seven players earn All-Big South honors. Basile and Ambush were name first-team All-Big South while Chaney, senior tight end Hakeem Valles, sophomore center Alex Thompson, junior linebacker Payton Minnich and Johnson were named to the conference’s second team.
“Each one of our players represented on the All-Big South list have worked hard and are deserving of this recognition,” Callahan said. “They were all an integral part of Monmouth’s third place finish in the Big South.”