In the 25th season of Monmouth Football, the Hawks opened the brand new $16 million Kessler Stadium and the 2017 season with a 2-0 record, including a 46-27 win over #19 ranked Lehigh on Saturday.
The Hawks’ running game was firing on all cylinders, rushing for a combined 351 yards and six touchdowns. Junior running back Devell Jones rushed for three touchdowns, while sophomore running back Pete Guerriero rushed for 192 yards and added two touchdowns.
“I can’t say enough about the job our offense did,” Head Coach Kevin Callahan said. “Rolling up 350 yards on the ground and throwing for over 200 yards, it is just an outstanding performance.”
In his first two games of collegiate football, Guerriero has rushed for a combined four rushing touchdowns and 338 rushing yards. He credited the experience of the offensive line for his hot start.
“It definitely makes it a lot easier. The running backs and offensive line are really close with each other. Every single day at practice we talk about being patient and running behind them. They open up holes that is like running through a tunnel. It is great to be behind such an awesome five.”
The blue and white started the game in Lehigh territory thanks to a 70 yard kick return by Guerriero on the opening kickoff. That drive ended with the first of three rushing touchdowns by junior running back Devell Jones.
After Lehigh turned the ball over on downs in Monmouth territory, Guerriero ran for a 71 yard touchdown. After a two-point conversion by Jones, MU had an early 14-0 lead.
Lehigh would then answer with back-to-back touchdown passes to end the first quarter, tied 14-14.
The Hawks would later add two field goals, while Lehigh added a touchdown, to make it 21-20 at the half.
The second half was all about defense for MU. “I was happy about in the second half how we took the lead and turned that into a dominant fourth quarter,” Callahan said. “Our defense did an outstanding job in the second half of getting themselves off the field and giving the ball back to the offense.”
Monmouth would give up an early touchdown pass, but would also keep Lehigh scoreless for the last 29 minutes of the game.
Sophomore quarterback Kenji Bahar would add to the rushing attack, pushing a 56-yard run all the way to Lehigh’s 13-yard line. Jones would finish the drive with an eight-yard touchdown run that tied the game at 27 all.
After a Lehigh three and out, Guerriero scored his fourth touchdown in two games from 4 yards out to give MU the lead.
In the fourth quarter, senior running back Michael Jolly ran for back-to-back 31-yard runs, his second of which was a touchdown.
On the next drive, junior wide receiver Reggie White Jr. extended for a 35-yard catch that set up Jones for his third touchdown of the day to extend the lead to the eventual final of 46-27.
On Sept. 2nd, MU opened the brand new Kessler Stadium with a 31-12 win over Lafayette. Guerriero rushed for a total 144 yards and two touchdowns. He scored the first touchdown at the new stadium, giving MU the 7-0 at halftime.
“It took the weight off our shoulders,” Guerriero said of scoring the first touchdown. “We’re able to keep it going from there.”
In the second half, Jones would score his first career touchdown on the first drive of the half to give Monmouth the 14-0 lead. Lafayette would answer with a 17-yard touchdown pass. White would score a nine-yard touchdown pass, which was set up by a 30-yard double reversal pass from Bahar to junior tight end Jake Powell.
White would set up an MU field goal after a 50-yard reception to extend the Hawks’ lead to 24-6 lead. On the next drive for MU, Guerriero would run for 47 yards to get his second of the game.
After a late touchdown by Lafayette, Bahar would kneel to seal the 31-12 victory.
Monmouth (2-0) will go on the road for the first time of the season, playing Albany University on Saturday, Sept. 16 at 7 p.m.
PHOTO COURTESY of B51Photography/Mark Brown