On a sweltering but blue-skied Sept. 5 afternoon, the Montclair State Red Hawks once again fell short against the Delaware Valley Aggies in a shootout that ultimately lasted well into the fourth quarter.
Last year, the Red Hawks opened their season to Delaware Valley where they lost 30-20. In their 2015 rematch, special teams woes that were apparent in the previous season lingered into the new year.
A penalty on the game’s opening kickoff forced Montclair State to start their drive deep into their own territory. Delaware Valley forced a three-and-out and was able to recover at the MSU 30-yard line.
The Aggies would later score in that possession from a Danny Farley 3-yard quarterback draw, but the extra point attempt was blocked by running back John Distefano, leaving the score at 6-0. Montclair’s offense appeared offbeat from the beginning, but eventually rallied.
Despite a healthy Denzel Nieves, who is a breakout candidate for the 2015 season, the sophomore tailback had initial trouble on multiple occasions getting the ball rolling. This was of no complete fault of his own, given that the offensive line had enough trouble keeping quarterback Ryan Davies comfortable inside the pocket.
Although the Aggies’ defense accounted for only one sack and 6 tackles-for-loss for a total of 17 yards, pressure was consistent.
Thankfully, Davies persevered through many defensive pressures and completed 22 of 35 passes for a total of 258 yards coupled with a pair of touchdowns as well as an interception.
Nieves finished the game rushing for 107-yards and one touchdown. Following the initial score from Delaware Valley, Davies pieced together a 90-yard drive featuring a 55-yard bomb to Aaron Williams and finished with two rushes from Nieves for a total of 13 yards and a touchdown.
The Red Hawks held the score at 7-6 and it was the only time Montclair State remained in the lead. In a later drive, Delaware Valley linebacker Rashaad Lighty caught fire with a Davies sack that forced a fumble, recovered by 60-minute man Marc Isaac, and returned for a 50-yard touchdown, placing the score to 13-7 Delaware Valley at halftime.
In the beginning of the second half, Montclair State stopped a key fourth-and-one from the Aggies and despite marching down the field to the one-yard line, the Red Hawks had to settle for a field goal made by Frank Schneeberger, cutting the deficit to 13-10 Delaware Valley with 5:57 in the third. Delaware Valley returned the favor by piecing together a 72-yard drive for a score which Montclair countered with a 71-yard drive and a touchdown putting the score at 20-17 DVU with 14:53 left to go in the fourth quarter.
The ping-pong battle of scores continued as Delaware Valley’s Tyler Bing bolted for a 44-yard touchdown with 12 minutes remaining. It was shortly followed by a connection made through Davies to fullback Anthony Dorsi for a 2-yard touchdown, placing the score at 27-24 with 4:14 left on the clock. The score ended that way, though Davies did come close to setting up shop at midfield, but not before having a fourth-down pass batted away.
The Red Hawks’ next game will be home against Salisbury University at 1 p.m. on Sept. 19.