(This story appeared in the October 28th issue of The Outlook, the student run newspaper of Monmouth University.)
The Hawks made history on Sept. 17 as they picked up their first victory against a ranked opponent in program history; a 20-17 overtime win against #22 Liberty in West Long Branch.
Junior running back Lavon Chaney gave Monmouth their largest lead of the day with a one yard run that gave the Hawks a 14-3 advantage with 7:57 remaining in regulation. But Liberty’s offense woke up and drove down the field for two touchdowns of their own on their next two possessions to take a 17-14 lead with 1:11 remaining.
The Monmouth offense was able to drive down the field and convert on a 35 yard field goal by sophomore Matt White to send the game into overtime. The key play of the drive was a 30 yard pass from redshirt freshman quarterback Cody Williams to redshirt freshman wide receiver Reggie White Jr. that got the MU offense into Liberty territory. A 19 yard gain by senior tight end Hakeem Valles two plays later set up the field goal.
“This week in practice we did the two minute drill and won on a Hail Mary,” Williams said. “It’s a critical time. Everyone needs to come together and play as one. We had faith in our line up front and just had to get the ball in our receiver’s hands to get downfield and put Matt White in a position to win this game.”
In overtime, the Hawks defense kept the Flames off the board as they were able to stop them on fourth down. A seven yard run by Chaney got the ball closer and Williams centered the ball in the middle of the field to prevent White from kicking at an angle. The 37 yard attempt was good, and history was made.
“To be honest I was a little nervous, but I had confidence from my teammates, my holder, my snapper, my kicking coach and the coaching staff as a whole,” White said. “They knew I could do it. With these guys having my back I felt very confident. That was my first game-winning field goal.”
The Hawks took that momentum into the following Saturday, when Monmouth welcomed the number one team in the country for the first time. They battled with the number one ranked, Coastal Carolina Chanticleers for 60 minutes, but fell in the end 23-20 on a game winning field goal as time expired.
The MU defense made a statement on the first drive of the game, forcing a three-and-out. But Coastal pinned the Hawks offense down at their own one yard line. Monmouth was forced to punt and the Chanticleers struck first as junior kicker Ryan Granger made a 30 yard field goal to give CCU a 3-0 lead.
Monmouth answered right back as Chaney scored his first of three touchdowns on the day, this one from 3 yards out to cap off an 11 play, 90 yard drive that put the Hawks in front 7-3.
A Coastal three-and-out drew the first quarter to a close. Monmouth was working on a strong drive, getting the ball down to the CCU 27 yard line. But Williams threw an interception on third and seven which the Chanticleers turned into a touchdown on their subsequent drive, taking a 10-7 lead.
The Hawks offense once again had an answer for Coastal as they went on a quick five play, 66 yard drive which ended with a 17 yard touchdown pass from Williams to Chaney. Monmouth regained the lead, but White missed the extra point, and the score was 13-10. CCU found the end zone on their next possession and took a 17-13 advantage into halftime.
Both defenses played well in the second half. Coastal added three in the third quarter as Granger converted a 32 yard field goal but the Hawks answered right back as Chaney found the end zone for the third time. A 21 yard run on first down tied the game at 20 heading into the fourth quarter. The game remained knotted until Granger kicked a game-winning 30 yard field goal as time expired. The Chanticleers pulled out a 23-20 victory and remained an undefeated 7-0 on the season.
“I really liked the effort (of the players) and the way that they played,” Callahan said. “We need to put that same work ethic, focus and concentration to work every time that we go out going forward.”
Chaney ran for a career high 196 yards and two touchdowns. He also caught three passes for 32 yards and a touchdown. Williams finished 18-30 for 207 yards, a touchdown and an interception. The redshirt freshman also ran for 66 yards on nine carries. Darren Ambush caught nine passes for 107 yards while sophomore defensive back Mike Basile recorded 13 tackles, extending his Big South lead to 91 stops on the season.
“I think we have proven over the past two weeks that we can play against anybody,” senior defensive back Joe Johnson said.
The Hawks fall to 3-5 on the season and are now 1-2 in Big South Conference play.
They travel to Atlanta where they will take on Kennesaw State (5-2, 1-1) on Saturday. Kickoff from Fifth Third Bank Stadium will be at 1 p.m.