Senior running back John DiStefano rushed for a last-minute touchdown and sealed a 21-14 victory over Rowan University on Sept. 21. Saturday’s victory was the first time Montclair State’s football team won their home opener since the 2013 season.
The Red Hawks and the Profs took turns halting the each other’s offense early on in the first quarter. Freshman quarterback Ryan Adzima threw an interception right in front of Rowan’s goal line but, less than a minute later, Montclair State forced a fumble and recovered it at Rowan’s two-yard line. DiStefano punched in a touchdown on the ensuing drive and finished the first quarter with 53 rushing yards.
Rowan responded with a 14 play, 78 yard that ended with a passing touchdown by quarterback Dante Pinckney to tie the game at 7-7. The Profs dissected Montclair State’s defense through a series of screen passes that netted Rowan two first downs in the second quarter.
The Red Hawks’ defense prevented Rowan from scoring another touchdown in the first half, however, Montclair State’s offense stalled and managed to gain only 3.2 yards per play in the second quarter. The game remained tied at 7-7 going into the second half.
Adzima’s poor performance continued when he threw his second interception of the game during the Red Hawks’ first drive of the second half. Montclair State’s defense recovered their second fumble of the game later on in the third quarter, but the offense failed to capitalize on the ensuing drive. After two quick three-and-outs, the Red Hawks and Profs were still tied 7-7 at the beginning of the fourth quarter.
Rowan blocked a Montclair State punt and recovered it for a touchdown, putting the Profs ahead 14-7 with 13:32 left in the fourth quarter. The Red Hawks responded right away with a 73 yard touchdown pass, but they missed the extra point and trailed 14-13.
Montclair State put together a game-winning drive in the waning moments of the fourth quarter, capped off by a nine yard rushing touchdown from DiStefano. The Red Hawks led 21-14 after successfully completing the two-point conversion, and the defense sealed the victory with an interception with 31 seconds remaining.
Montclair State’s defense kept the Red Hawks in the game while the offense struggled to get going. The Red Hawks’ defense finished Saturday’s game with two interceptions and three fumble recoveries, and they forced the Profs into a crucial three-and-out with less than two minutes left in the game.
DiStefano Keeps Pounding
Despite rushing for only 2.3 yards per carry in the second and third quarters, DiStefano found himself again in the fourth quarter. DiStefano scored a game-winning nine yard touchdown, scored on the two-point conversion and finished the game with 124 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 35 carries.
Adzima’s Shaky Performance
Adzima threw two interceptions and completed only 47.6 percent of his passes. He could have easily thrown for three our four interceptions, however, Adzima redeemed himself late in the fourth quarter with a string of crucial plays. Adzima completed a 17 yard pass, 25 yard pass and scrambled for an 11 yard run to set up DiStefano’s game-winning touchdown.
Montclair State’s Missed Opportunities
The Red Hawks’ offense converted only 23 percent of their third downs into first downs. Additionally, Montclair State’s defense caused four turnovers in the second half, but the offense had two quick three-and-outs after regaining possession. The Red Hawks’ missed opportunities ultimately didn’t hurt them in this game, but they might not be so lucky next time.
Montclair State will be back in NJAC action at Sprague Field on Oct. 1 against William Paterson University.