UNION – Montclair State University scored a pair of first quarter touchdowns en-route to defeating host Kean University, 21-7, in New Jersey Athletic Conference action on Friday evening.
In a rematch of last season’s regular season finale won by the Red Hawks to claim the NJAC title, Montclair State (4-0, 3-0 NJAC) remained undefeated as senior running back Chris D’Andrea tallied 90 yards on 19 carries and quarterback Tom Fischer had a pair of touchdown passes.
For the Cougars (2-2, 2-2 NJAC), senior running back Jay Gwaltney finished with 102 yards rushing.
After the two teams exchanged punts on each of their first possession to start the game, Montclair State senior running back Matt Jimenez opened the next Red Hawk drive with back-to-back 12-yard carries to move the ball into Kean territory.
Jimenez later pushed the Red Hawks into the red zone, and Fischer later completed a 19-yard pass to rookie wide receiver Bobby Roesing on the touchdown reception, as Montclair State took the 7-0 lead midway through the opening quarter following the extra point.
On the next Cougar drive, the Red Hawks forced the three-and-out and junior Chad Faulcon blocked the ensuing punt, giving Montclair State the ball back at the Kean 34-yard line. Four plays later after the Cougar defense held Montclair State, the Red Hawks looked to extend the lead to 10 points, however the 45-yard field goal attempt sailed wide right and the Cougars took over at their own 28-yard line.
The Cougars were unable to get the offense going, as on the second play of the Kean drive, Red Hawk junior cornerback Gary Knoeppel intercepted the Thomas D’Ambrisi pass at the Kean 35-yard line and returned the ball to the endzone to extend the lead to 14-0 with 2:48 remaining in the first quarter after the extra point.
Kean was able to take advantage of the Red Hawk kickoff going out-of-bounds, starting the drive on their own 40-yard line. A Red Hawk penalty moved the Cougars into Montclair State territory and Gwaltney rushed the ball three times for 15 yards, before D’Ambrisi threaded the pass through the Red Hawk defense to junior Louis Haynes for the seven-yard touchdown reception early in the second quarter.
On the third play of the ensuing Montclair State drive, junior safety Jamahl Williams (pictured left) intercepted his fifth pass of the season and returned the ball 18 yards to the Kean 36-yard line. The Cougars were able to drive the ball down field and had first-and-goal at the Montclair State three-yard line, as D’Ambrisi completed three passes for 35 yards and Gwaltney added 23 yards rushing. However, the Red Hawks kept the Cougars off the scoreboard when the pass on fourth-down fell incomplete in the endzone.
A Cougar turnover on the opening drive of the second half gave the Red Hawks the ball in Kean territory, but the Cougar defense would keep it a one touchdown deficit by forcing Montclair State to kick the 43-yard field goal that missed wide left.
Kean was forced to punt on their next possession and Montclair State junior Dan Keegan set up the final Red Hawk touchdown with a 37-yard return to the Kean 26-yard line. Two plays later, Fischer completed the 24-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Byron Lewin for the two touchdown lead midway through the third quarter.
The Cougars were able to get back inside the red zone on their next drive, however a fumble gave the ball back to the Red Hawks with less than four minutes remaining in the third quarter.
In the final quarter, Kean sophomore Brett Yajcaji intercepted the Fischer pass at midfield and returned the ball to the 35-yard line. However, the Cougars were unable to move the chains and turned the ball back over to the Red Hawks on downs with just over two minutes remaining.
In the victory, Jimenez finished with 11 carries for 46 yards and Lewin made two receptions for 40 yards. Fischer completed 6-of-14 passes for 87 yards and two touchdowns.
For the Cougars, Haynes had a career-best 10 receptions for 102 yards and one touchdown, while D’Ambrisi completed 16-of-30 passes for 136 yards after missing last week’s game against Buffalo State College with an injury.
Defensively, junior cornerback Kevin Cloghessy made a team-high seven tackles and had one fumble recovery, while senior outside linebacker Ed Kirschenbaum finished with six tackles, one pass break-up and one quarterback hurry.
Kean linebackers Bekim Bujari and Jerelle Peay made eight and seven tackles, respectively, while senior Victor D’Arrigo and junior Ray Wegrzynek each made five solo tackles.
The Cougars return to action on Saturday, October 9, when they face Rowan University in Glassboro, N.J. Kick-off is set for 1 p.m.
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