Football Ends Season With Home Victory Over Stony Brook

Monmouth University (5-6, 3-5 CAA) closed out their 2022 season and senior day in victorious fashion, knocking off Stony Brook (2-9, 1-7 CAA) 24-21 on Saturday, Nov. 19 on their home turf at Kessler Stadium.

Despite the senior day occasion, the Hawks rolled with their usual lineup and handed freshman quarterback Enzo Arjona his third consecutive start alongside sophomore running back and CAA Offensive Player of the Year Jaden Shirden and junior wide receiver Dymere Miller.

Thanks to Shirden’s 64-yard touchdown run, his ninth rushing score of 50 or more yards this season, the Hawks jumped out to an early 7-0 lead. Fifth year backfield mate Owen Wright added to the lead with a three-yard plunge of his own late in the first quarter. An Eric Bernstein chip shot field goal midway through the second quarter made it 17-0, and though it seemed as though the Hawks would run away with this one, Carthell Flowers-Lloyd shifted the momentum towards Stony Brook with a 41-yard pick six off of Arjona.

Like the Hawks, the Seawolves did most of their work on the ground in this matchup. Despite going into halftime down 17-7, Stony Brook recorded the first two scores of the second half thanks to running back Ross Talarico’s 66-yard touchdown rush in the third quarter and five-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter.

Based on the last few weeks filled with difficult losses, the Hawks knew they would need to find an answer quickly to keep things under control and regain dominance of the game. Monmouth did so when Arjona connected with Miller on a 72-yard touchdown pass less than a minute after Stony Brook had scored.

Miller’s long distance score was a welcomed sight for the junior receiver, who after the game admitted that “I’ve been waiting on one of those all year, to be honest. I saw a lot of turf out there and just went for it. I’ve been watching Jaden [Shirden] break big plays all year, and I just wanted to be there with him.”

A Seawolves turnover shortly thereafter would be the final nail in the coffin as the Hawks, with the help of a heads up play from senior running back Juwon Farri, grinded away the final few minutes remaining on the clock and won 24-21. Coach Callahan was full of praise for Farri after the selfless play, stating “I don’t want this to be missed: Another one of the seniors, Juwon Farri, a guy who hasn’t played this year as much as he is used to playing, has the endzone in front of him with no defenders in sight, and he stops to take a knee because that’s the right thing to do. That’s the right thing to do to guarantee a win for the team. It’s a testament of how unselfish he is, and it’s that attitude and type of play that has gotten our program to where it is today.”

The Hawks outgained the Seawolves 419-199, and the 199 yards allowed was the defense’s best performance since Wagner had just 191 against them on Oct. 5, 2019. Despite the victory, the Hawks only managed to finish ninth out of the 13 CAA teams in their first season in the conference, posting a conference record of 3-5 and an overall record of 5-6.

In the win over Stony Brook, many Monmouth players set personal records and reached milestones cumulatively over the course of the season. Shirden’s 13 touchdowns this year and 2,219 career rushing yards are both good for seventh all-time in Monmouth’s history, while Dymere Miller set a career-high in single-game receiving yards with 143 and a career-long 72 yard reception on his clutch touchdown catch.

In addition, Owen Wright’s 16 scores this year ranks fifth all-time at the school, and grad student linebacker Da’Quan Grimes’ 273 career tackles places him sixth all-time at Monmouth.

After the game, it was revealed that Jaden Shirden was named CAA Offensive Player of the Year as well as receiving first-team all-conference honors. Owen Wright and senior punter Ryan Kost joined Shirden on the first team, and Miller earned second-team honors. A pair of offensive linemen, senior Greg Anderson and grad student Justin Szuba, as well as junior defensive back Mike Reid, earned third-team all-league honors.

Szuba, who was honored Tuesday with a place in the College Sports Communicators Football Academic All-District Team, reflected on the season and his career as a cornerstone of the Monmouth offensive line, saying that “Honestly, I’m just so grateful. I’m grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this team and get this win today. It was a hard season – anyone can see that. It didn’t turn out the way anyone wanted it to, but the way that the boys bounced back and responded today and for us to play what I think was our best team game of the year, it means a lot”. Da’Quan Grimes concurred with Szuba’s observation, and further lauded the Hawks’ turnaround effort. Grimes felt that “Personally, I think it was great that we were finally able to get it together. The big thing for us was showing up on third down and being able to get stops. All season long, we were not winning battles on third down, and I think that’s where we improved the most today”.

Arjona is expected to reprise his role as the starting quarterback next season, alongside Miller and Shirden as they maintain their statuses as fixtures in the offense. In his true freshman season, Arjona posted a record of 1-2 but performed well in the circumstances, passing for 548 yards and four touchdown passes against just one interception. The 12 sacks he endured in three starts are sure to be a point of emphasis for the offense and coaching staff next season.

The Hawks’ 2023 schedule is expected to be announced in the coming months, early in the spring.