Hawks Football Steamrolls Robert Morris University

If the Hawks’ football team needed to prove that they would be okay without one of their star players, they made a quick statement as they dismantled their former Northeast Conference foe, the Colonials of Robert Morris University by a score of 51-20. The Hawks improve their record to 4-1 for the first time since 2006 while RMU drops to 0-5.

Even though the Hawks’ up-tempo offense was in full effect, the defense stole the show by forcing six turnovers. The defense also placed a ton of pressure on Colonial quarterback Derik Abbott, sacking him a season-high seven times as well as accumulating 12 tackles-for-loss. In back-to-back possessions in the second half, the Hawks intercepted errant Abbott passes, one of was by sophomore Kevin Butler for a 40-yard score in the fourth quarter, the Hawks’ first pick-six since 2010.

Freshman Mike Basile also continued his stellar play in his rookie campaign by hauling his third interception of the season and returning it 56-yards deep into Robert Morris territory. His forced turnover led to a six yard scoring plunge by sophomore sophomore running back Zach Welch.

“It’s a great win on our final trip out here to Robert Morris. I was particularly pleased with the way our offense and defense seemed to feed off each other,” said Monmouth head coach Kevin Callahan. “I thought the defense made an awful lot of big plays and turned some of them into touchdowns. They gave the ball to our offense in prime field positions and our offense took advantage of that and put points on the board. It was a very good team win collectively.”

The Hawks defensive pressure started up front with their defensive front seven, who deliver bone-crushing hits from the opening start until their last. Sophomore outside linebacker Payton Minnich led the way for with the Hawks with 11 tackles while junior linebacker John Sieczkowski contributed with nine tackles of his own. Basile and junior linebacker Tyler Thompson also added to their defensive efforts with eight tackles and several hellacious hits.

However, senior defensive lineman Zak Irizarry had a career day with five tackles, three tackles-for-loss, including 2.5 sacks. Irizarry also delivered some body-rattling blows to Abbott, which led to two forced fumbles that really dictated the flow of the game.

“I thought our defense live line did a great job of pressuring the quarterback,” Callahan said. “We got him on the ground seven times and forced him into some bad throws and bad decisions. We hounded him constantly and he put the ball on the ground. That type of tenacious defense is something we need to continue to have and improve upon as we move forward and get ready for the remainder of the schedule.”

If there was ever any doubt that the Hawks would be able to sustain its offensive output without the presence of senior running back KB Asante, it did not take long to silence those claims. Sophomore running back Lavon Chaney made his first career start and made himself known by scoring in remotely different fashion in the first quarter. On the Hawks’ second possession of the game, the offense drove the length of the football field and scored when senior quarterback Brandon Hill found Chaney on a screen play to the right as Chaney followed the convoy of blockers into the end-zone for the seven yard score.

On the ensuing drive, following a Colonials’ turnover, MU picked up where they left off by using their up-tempo offensive attack en route to a two yard plunge up the middle by Chaney. Chaney would add another score via a 23-yard run in the third quarter.

With Asante’s absence from the running back rotation, the Hawks needed to lean on Chaney to shoulder the load. His added workload meant more opportunities for various backs such as Welch and the emergence of junior Ed Royds, who was playing in the defensive secondary and special teams as of last week. The sophomore running back, Welch, chipped in with 51-yards on six carries, including his six yard score in the fourth quarter following Basile’s interception. Royds, a transfer from Navy, took nine carries for 48-yards.

“Lavon is someone we have the utmost confidence in,” Callahan said. “We were very confident that once he got the opportunity to demonstrate what he could do, he would take advantage of it and I think that is what we saw today. Not only did he rush the ball and make some big plays, he was very effective catching the ball. I’m very happy with what he did. The younger guys behind him stepped up and got some carries themselves in Zach Welch and Ed Royds.”

Chaney would finish the contest with 163-all-purpose-yards, including 113-yards on 22-carries as well as 50-yards on four receptions. Senior receiver Neal Sterling led the aerial assault with 144-yards on five catches. It’s worth noting that Sterling is 58-yards shy to move into second place all-time for career receiving yards.

During the game, the team also had contributions from fifth year senior Lamar Davenport (3-catches for 21-yards), sophomore Darren Ambush (2-catches for 32-yards), sophomore Matt Choi (2 for 27-yards), senior Eric Sumlin (2-catches for 22-yards), senior Hakeem Valles (a catch for 16-yards) and senior Jake Mauro (1-reception for 19-yards).

Hill continues to churn up impressive passing numbers as the weeks continue to pass. Hill, who completed 20-of-37 passes in the game, finished with 331-yards and two scores: a first quarter screen to Chaney and a perfectly thrown 31-yard rainbow to Sterling in the third. With four 300-yard passing performances in his career, Hill ties Kyle Frazier for MU’s first all-time in that regard. Hill now has thrown 11-touchdown-passes to 3-interceptions. As a whole, he led an attack that posted 523-yards on 78-plays. Needless to say, the Hawks’ offense is clicking on all cylinders as the weeks leading up to their Big South opener are drawing closer.

After winning two-of-three in their “Tour de Pennsylvania,” the Hawks will return home and prepare for their contest against the Lions of Columbia University (0-3) for the University’s Homecoming game. Kickoff at Kessler Field is set for 1:00 pm.

Following the Columbia game, the blue and white will have a week off before they finally take part in their first conference game as members of the Big South.

It will be a tough test to open up the conference part of their schedule as the team will travel to South Carolina to take on a Presbyterian team who is currently 3-2, with both losses coming against FBS powers Northern Illinois and North Carolina State.

PHOTO TAKEN by Taylor Jackson