After three quarters of a strong push toward an upset over No. 14-ranked Montclair State University, the College sputtered again.
The Lions allowed 20 points in the fourth quarter, falling to the Red Hawks 30-14 on the road, and falling to 1-4 on the season.
Montclair State’s offense came alive as soon as the game’s final 15 minutes began, when junior quarterback Tom Fischer found senior wide receiver Joe LaSala for a 19-yard touchdown pass on the quarter’s first play. The Red Hawks did not look back, scoring quickly on an intercepted Lions’ pass returned for a touchdown on the College’s following drive.
“Playing catch-up down by 10 at the end of a game hurt us … the turnovers really hurt us,” head coach Eric Hamilton said.
The Lions defense played well until the end, especially on the ground, holding the Red Hawks to just 74 rushing yards on 30 attempts.
“We keep showing glimpses of the defense we can be, and when we all play in sync, we are really good,” senior defensive back and co-captain Matt Kreider said. “The line played great, they constantly were pressuring the quarterback and did a great job stopping the run; when you can get pressure like that without sending the blitz, that’s when your defense can really take over. Now we just have to carry it throughout the entire game, not just three quarters.”
The College’s running game was strong, led by the duo of sophomore and junior running backs Joe Falco and Justin Doniloski. The pair combined for 112 yards rushing and two touchdowns, both coming from Falco.
“Our running backs are some of the toughest kids on the team,” junior quarterback Jay Donoghue said. “Falco and Doniloski are particularly successful because they never stop their feet on contact. They’ve got the ability to turn small gains into first downs and gave us a lot of life early on.”
The passing game continued to struggle on Saturday, as Donoghue completed only eight passes for 65 yards and an interception. He was also sacked five times.
Despite the difficulties, Donoghue feels the offense is close to breaking out.
“The passing game is only a couple big plays away from being really productive,” he said. “We had some opportunities in the first half and took advantage of some quick throws, but in the second half (Montclair State) gave us their best shot. So far we’ve faced the first, second, and third best defenses in the nation and it just so happens they’re all in the New Jersey Athletic Conference. The first half against Montclair gives us a lot of hope for the upcoming weeks.”
Hamilton commented on upcoming changes in the offense. “You will start to see some faces in different locations and the use of new positions as well,” he said. “It also gets better as we improve as a team under fire. We have just faced the top two defenses in the NJAC and both are ranked in Division III.”
Bobby Olivier can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.