Photo Credit: Monmouth Football

Monmouth's First-Half Struggles Have Been A Challenge To Overcome

WEST LONG BRANCH – Monmouth University has lost its last two games by a combined five points to fall to 3-5 overall and 2-3 in the Coastal Athletic Association. In those two games, they’ve been outscored by a combined score of 42-13 and outgained 543-332 yards in the first half.

Conversely, in the second half, they’ve outscored their two opponents by a combined score of 41-17 and outgained them 549 to 310 yards.

Unfortunately for the Hawks though, it was a case of too little too late as they suffered agonizing defeats in both games.

“Maybe we should play the second half first and the first half second,” Monmouth head coach Kevin Callahan joked before taking on a more serious tone. “I think we have started slow in the last two weeks and a lot of that is on us, but some of it you got to give credit to our opponents and their preparation and the way they’re planning for us. We did finish well and that’s something that says a lot about our team’s character and once we’re down at the half we’re not going to settle for that and they have a lot of fight in them. But we’ve got to figure out how to play full games.”

In both instances, the Hawks' kicking game played a critical role in defeat.

In their 28-26 loss to Elon, the Hawks scored to pull within 14-6 in the second quarter, but Michael Calton Jr.’s extra-point kick was no good forcing Monmouth to alter its in-game decision making and ultimately chase points all game.

Then last Saturday against William and Mary, the Hawks were in position to tie the game and send it into overtime. but Vincenzo Rea’s 27-yard field goal attempt with three seconds left was low and blocked after it glanced off a Hawk offensive lineman sending the Hawks home with a brutal 31-28 loss.

"We haven't been very effective at close range in terms of point after attempts and short field goals," Callahan said. "That's something we need to do a better job at."

In that game, Monmouth received the opening kickoff and marched 80 yards in nine plays to take an early 7-0 lead. They were then shutout for the remainder of the first half and outgained the rest of the half 309 yards to 74 as the Tribe took a 21-7 lead into intermission.

Following a punt on their first possession of the second half, the Hawks scored touchdowns on their next three possessions to take a short lived 28-24 lead. A Monmouth personal foul penalty on the kickoff then gave William and Mary excellent field position starting at their own 44-yard line and they drove 56 yards in 10 plays to take a 31-28 lead with 6:14 remaining in the game.

Monmouth then embarked on what appeared to be a game-winning drive. Taking over on its own 10-yard line, the Hawks drove to the William and Mary 7-yard line, but on second-and-5 they were called for an illegal shift setting up a second-and-10 at the 12-yard line with under a minute to go. Jaden Shirden picked up two yards on second down but Marquez McCray’s third down pass fell incomplete setting up what seemed like a chip-shot field goal attempt to send the game into overtime.

Shirden had another monster game, rushing for 251 yards and touchdown runs of 75 and 45 yards on 21 attempts for a whopping 12-yards per carry average. Shirden now leads the nation in rushing yards per game with 146.6 and total rushing yards with 1,173.

The Hawks outgained William and Mary 281-129 yards in the second half and outscored them by a margin of 21 to 10. It was another strong second half where the Hawks completely outplayed their opponent to no avail.

The defense did an outstanding job in the second half until William and Mary’s final drive, which unfortunately ended up being the deciding points.

“I think our defensive staff did a really good job making some adjustments changing some of the things we had gone into the game with that weren’t as successful as we thought they would be,” Callahan said. “We decided to go in a little different direction in the second half and I think that helped. We were fortunate to make a few more plays than they were able to in the second half up until the very end of the game.”

At Elon, Monmouth outscored the Phoenix 20-7 in the second half and outgained them 268 to 181 but the Hawks eventually ran out of time to finish off the comeback and lost by two, 28-26.

"Our approach is to find the little differences that can turn those close losses into wins and I think we're close," Callahan said. "But close isn't enough, we have to play the full game. As I've said many times before, it doesn't matter who you play in this conference you better play a full game and be at your best for the three hours that game is going on. We're coming up short on being our best the entire time we're on the field and that's something as coaches we need to do a better job at."

Without a doubt, those were two crushing losses and takes the Hawks out of postseason consideration. But they have to put it behind them and forget about what could’ve and should’ve been. They have three games left in the season, two against ranked teams, New Hampshire, and Albany.  If they can win out, they would finish above .500 at 6-5 and 5-3 in the conference and salvage the season.

The Hawks' second season begins this Saturday with a home game against Stony Brook.



Photo courtesy of Monmouth football
#20 Jaden Shirden