Montclair State Football vs. F&M - Abellany Mendez
Abellany Mendez (Photo courtesy Montclair State Athletics)

Jersey Heartbreak: Montclair State falls in overtime to Franklin & Marshall

Fall and Football! It doesn’t get any better than that!

A beautiful September afternoon paved the way for the Red Hawks home opener against the Franklin & Marshall Diplomats. Both teams came in riding high after opening week wins and looked to continue their strong starts to the year.

The first quarter was all Franklin & Marshall, forcing the Red Hawk offense to turn the ball over twice. Montclair State could not get any momentum on the offensive end which took a toll on the Red Hawk defense. 

The Diplomats crept into the red zone off a defensive pass interference and cashed in on a 19-yard TD pass from Jake Fant to his wideout Jack Sutton putting F&M up 7-0 early. Montclair State's defense would stand tall later in the quarter. With 4:12 left in the first, Jake Colon kept it a one-score game, blocking a Diplomat kick and holding the deficit at just seven going into the second quarter.

The second quarter started out a lot like the first with both teams punting on their opening drives. Franklin & Marshall on their second drive of the quarter took the ball down to the Montclair State two-yard line and the drive would stall out forcing the Diplomats to settle for a field goal, extending their lead to 10.

Another Red Hawks' miscue came immediately after on the first play of the following drive. Montclair State quarterback Andrew Sanborn scrambled up the middle but lost the football and the Diplomats would recover setting up a first-and-10 at the Montclair 21.Ty Tremba and the F&M offense took advantage scoring on a 15-yard touchdown pass from Tremba to Gary Lewis, extending their lead to 17-0.

The Red Hawks was staring down a blowout down three scores and getting nothing done on the offensive end. With 5:17 left in the half, Sanborn and company needed a spark. Montclair State had to put some points on the board before the half to stay alive. The offense would get a first down and Sanborn would then hit Clarence Wilkens for a 68-yard bomb that would finally put the Red Hawks on the board. The offensive line gave the Sanborn time and he showed off his big arm to get some momentum back. The point after attempt was no good and it was 17-6 now in favor of the Diplomats.

After the next F&M drive stalled out and resulted in a punt, the Red Hawks got the ball back looking to cut into the deficit even more before the end of the first half. Starting at their own 42, Andrew Sanborn absolutely took over for the Hawks. Sanborn would lead the offense down to the F&M 16-yard line. After just missing Anthony Roige for a touchdown the play before, Sanborn took the ball himself and willed his way into the endzone with an incredible 16-yard scramble. The touchdown cut the Diplomat’s lead to just five and Montclair went into halftime trailing by a score of 17-12.

F&M started the second half with the ball but after driving for 45 yards, were forced to punt. It was tough sledding for both offenses for the next two drives, as neither one resulted in any yardage gain. Starting at MSU’s 18-yard line, Red Hawks running back Abellany Mendez took off on a 45-yard run. Sanborn then completed a pass on fourth-and-8 to Clarence Wilkins, but that play was negated due to a holding penalty and the Red Hawks were forced to punt.

F&M took over the ball at their 16, but on the first play of this drive, their backup quarterback Jake Fant was sacked by Red Hawk defensive lineman, Chris Buchta and linebacker, Dorian Gashi for only a loss of one yard. On the next play, Tremba came back into the game to play quarterback for F&M and completed a 46-yard pass that took the visitors just past midfield. Tremba drove the Diplomats to MSU’s 20, but then he was picked off by Red Hawk defensive back, Jalil Terrell.

The Red Hawks started the next drive at their own 13 and thanks to a 25-yard run from Mendez, got better field position. On the next play, Sanborn handed it right back to Mendez, who rushed up the middle and had his facemask grabbed. The penalty put the Red Hawks at the 50-yard line and the third quarter ended. 

As the fourth quarter rolled around, the Red Hawks knew that they needed to score on their next drive. Sanborn completed a pass on third down to Nahsir Bryant for 17 yards, which placed Montclair State on the F&M 31. On the next play, Mendez ran for 13 yards, and again F&M took a face mask penalty. The Red Hawks had first and goal and would eventually cash in when Mendez rushed the ball in from the one-yard line to put the Red Hawks ahead 18-17. The Red Hawks failed to make a two-point conversion after the touchdown but scored 18 unanswered points to take their first lead of the game.

There was still 11:20 remaining in the fourth quarter, so the game was far from over. With under five minutes left in the game, F&M’s quarterback was sacked for a loss of eight yards by Eric Cowan, which forced the ball loose. The fumble was recovered by MSU linebacker Jake Colon at F&M’s five-yard line and the Red Hawks would capitalize thanks to Andrew Sanborn rushing the ball into the end zone to put Montclair State ahead 25-17, with just under four minutes remaining in the game.

The Franklin and Marshall team name is the Diplomats and they stayed true to form by not leaving Montclair without having their demands met. On the next F&M Drive, the key play involved a Red Hawks defensive player being called for pass interference, this brought the Diplomats to a first-and-goal situation, which they would score on thanks to a six-yard touchdown pass from Tremba. 

With the game now in overtime, MSU started with the ball on the F&M 25. On the second play, Sanborn threw an interception and now F&M had just 25 yards to go to reach the endzone. Tremba completed a pass for 21 yards into the endzone, but a pass interference was called against F&M, which moved them back 15 yards. They gained 14 yards on a pass to Jack Sutton and a running play before ending the game on a rush for two yards. The Franklin and Marshall players and coaches all rushed the field while the Red Hawks players hung their heads, knowing they were so close to winning their home opener. The score ended 31-25 in favor of F&M.

Aside from the touchdown pass that Sanborn threw to Wilkins at the end of the second quarter, Montclair State definitely lacked a bit in the passing game. The Red Hawks finished the game with 164 passing yards, while Franklin and Marshall had 304. They made up for that with 217 rushing yards. Abellany Mendez ran for 154 yards on 12 carries. 

After the game, the Red Hawks sophomore quarterback Andrew Sanborn gave credit to his offensive line and running backs for helping spark the comeback that saw his team roar back with 25 unanswered points.

“It starts with the guys up front. They did a really good job today. Pass blocking and upfront with the run. Shout out to the O-Line and Mendez hitting the holes when we needed it.”

Montclair State’s head football coach Mike Palazzo came close to starting his head coaching career off 2-0, but his team could not get the job done. During the post-game press conference put his finger on some of the issues that his team was having.

“We preached getting through adversity. We talked about it every day and in the locker room, there was a lot of belief. The score before halftime really helped our philosophy and we just put some plays together. I think we’re still a young team and it shows. We start off slow and we have too many ebbs and flows. So that just shows we’re a young team and we just gotta put a whole game together, gotta play a good four quarters. We played two good quarters, but we gotta put a good four.”

What’s Next for Montclair State

The next opponent for the Red Hawks is Union College, who they will face next weekend in New York State. Kick-off is slated for 1:00 p.m. Union has started off their season 3-0 so the Red Hawks will need to get off to a better start if they want to come away victorious.