The Monmouth University Hawks (4-2, 2-1 CAA) won their first ever Colonial Athletic Association home game on Saturday, surviving the Albany Great Danes’ (1-4, 0-2 CAA) late surge at Kessler Stadium, 38-31.
Monmouth fell down 7-0 early in the first quarter, before ripping off three consecutive rushing scores, making the score 21-7. The Hawks’ ground game was rolling again, with sophomore running back Jaden Shirden posting his fifth consecutive effort of 100 yards or more and adding Monmouth’s first two scores of the day, bringing his total to seven on the year. Shirden rumbled for scores of 30 and 75 yards, the latter being his fifth of 50 or more yards this season. Monmouth’s final touchdown of the first half came by the legs of Shirden’s partner in the backfield, fifth year Owen Wright. Wright galloped 99 yards with the Hawks backed up in their own territory after a stellar Hawks fourth down stop against Albany’s surging offense, and thus tying the school record for the longest offensive play from scrimmage. Junior Eric Bernstein knocked through his first field goal as a Hawk, trading field goals with Albany’s John Opalko to end the half. Albany were unfortunate not to come away with more points, with their 90-yard march resulting in Opalko’s field goal with only nine seconds remaining in the half, bringing the score to 24-10.
Albany would continue their momentum on offense into the second half, with Todd Sibley converting in the red zone on a 19 yard rush and bringing Albany within one score at 24-17. Sibley’s efforts would all be for naught, as junior tight end Jack Neri answered back with his first score of the season on a pass from none other than junior quarterback Tony Muskett, extending the Hawks lead to 14 and making the score 31-17. Muskett and junior wide receiver Dymere Miller continued to build their electric chemistry on Saturday, as Miller accounted for 116 of Muskett’s 187 passing yards. Miller gave Albany’s defense all they could handle, ripping off six catches in the game and averaging 19.3 yards per catch.
Albany quarterback Reese Poffenberger would take matters into his own hands and cap off a 12 play, 70-yard drive with a one yard touchdown plunge early in the fourth quarter, bringing them within one score of the Hawks, who led 31-24. However, with time running down late in the fourth quarter, Owen Wright filled the box score once again, capitalizing on an 11 play drive by the Hawks. Wright’s second score of the day gave him 12 on the ground, and 14 in total on the year. This was Wright’s fifth game with multiple scores this season. Poffenberger would guide Albany to the game’s fourth consecutive touchdown drive, finding Roy Alexander open short on an eight yard touchdown pass. Neri, Wright, Poffenberger and Alexander scored consecutive touchdowns with no punts or turnovers coming in between.
The shootout between the two teams would end there, with the Hawks’ defense standing tall late in the game. Following a punt by the offense and the Hawks clinging to a 38-31 lead, the defense had to ward off Poffenberger and Albany one final time, with Albany having under a minute to muster a game-tying touchdown. With Albany driving once again, Hawks junior defensive back, CAA Defensive Player of the Week and Maryland native Mike Reid swatted down Poffenberger’s last ditch attempt at the end zone, securing the Hawks’ first ever home win in the CAA. Reid’s strong game in the secondary, which included a fumble recovery and two other defensed passes, allowed the opportunistic Hawks to capitalize and put points on the board. 24 of Monmouth’s 38 points followed a turnover or punt by Albany. The Monmouth Hawks (4-2, 2-1 CAA) , winners of four straight games and scoring 30 points or more in each of those games, will travel to Harold Alfond Sports Stadium on Oct. 15 to face off with the Maine Black Bears, (1-4, 1-1 CAA) who are coming off of their first win of the season.