With blue skies and a slight breeze from north to south, the Montclair State University football team couldn’t have asked for a better day to fight for their first season win against visiting school Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI). The Engineers won the coin toss and nothing else, as the Red Hawks flew to a 31-10 victory.
Senior defensive back Mike Ramos played fast and was felt all over the field. He spoke about the importance of this first win.
“It’s huge, starting 0-3. We needed to get one win coming into conferences,” Ramos said. “Now we have conference play for the rest of the season so this was a huge win to get this under our belt, get us some confidence to get going for the rest of the season.”
Ramos accounted for nine tackles and a fumble recovery for 17 yards. He led a suffocating defensive unit that held the Engineers’ offense to just 264 total yards: 67 on the ground and 197 through the air.
The Red Hawks came into this contest starving for a victory, losing their first three games. The offense stumbled coming out of the gate, scoring their first touchdown week three in a 24-21 loss to Salve Regina University.
The offense left their mark in this one, feeding sophomore running back Makai Mickens to 20 carries for a career-best of 120 yards, 99 of which came in the first half. His most impressive run of the day came off of a career-long 46-yard run. Mickens had another career-high, scoring two touchdowns in his outing on Saturday.
“My success comes from the big guys up front,” Mickens said. “I was just running through the holes that they would open up for me. I can’t forget about my receivers and tight ends as well, they were just as important as the lineman. When they’re blocking their guys 10 yards plus down the field it makes my job much easier.”
The Red Hawks got out of the gate fast. Senior quarterback Ja’Quill Burch connected with wide receiver Reilly Nelson for a 41-yard passing touchdown on just the second play from scrimmage. In one-on-one coverage, Nelson got up and grabbed the 50/50 ball to secure the first points on the board, a touchdown that set the tone for the rest of the game.
Despite some questionable play-calling ending in two subsequent punts with a three and out, the offense found their rhythm putting up 386 yards, averaging 6.5 yards per play.
Playing with complete control, Burch had a lot of time to operate behind a stout offensive line. Extending plays and making good decisions, Burch protected the football, completing the game without an interception. Burch also became the fifth Montclair State quarterback to surpass 5,000 career-passing yards.
The senior quarterback filled the role the Red Hawks needed from him: a game manager who made several big throws in key moments. There was never a worry when Burch had the ball.
The Montclair State football team wore what could be considered a red “color rush” uniform. This decision was made on Instagram earlier in the week, where they let students and fans vote on what uniform combination they should wear in the game against WPI. The red pants worn on game day beat out their white and grey counterparts.
The Red Hawks can’t spend any time celebrating their first win. Next week starts the first of a six-week stretch of New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) opponents as they play their first conference game when Salisbury University comes to Sprague Field.