Slow Offensive Start Dooms Red Hawks In Home Opener Against Salve Regina

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Published September 23, 2021
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The Montclarion
Senior defensive back Mike Ramos wraps up a Salve Regina ball carrier. Photo courtesy of David Venezia

The Montclair State University football team fell to 0-3 last Saturday after coming up short against Salve Regina University, 24-21, as a poor offensive start doomed the Red Hawks for the rest of the game.

Salve Regina quarterback Jack Maguire and running back Joey Mauriello were key contributors in their victory, with Maguire throwing for 213 yards and two touchdowns while Mauriello ran for 112 yards and a score.

Red Hawk running back Makai Mickens had a career day, totaling 152 all-purpose yards and scored twice for Montclair State. Mickens had 18 rushes for 79 yards and 10 catches for 80 yards along with two touchdowns (one receiving, one rushing).

Senior safety Mike Ramos was named the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Defensive Player of the Week for his fantastic performance in this game. Ramos tallied a career-best 13 tackles, nine of them being solo. He also had an interception and a forced fumble which was recovered by the Red Hawks.

Senior graduate student Zahir Wilder breaks up a pass. Photo courtesy of David Venezia

Senior graduate student Zahir Wilder breaks up a pass.
Photo courtesy of David Venezia

At one point, the Red Hawks were down by as many as 17. Their slow offensive start played a major factor in the result as all of their drives in the first half ended in a punt.

This was definitely a game the Red Hawks would like back, but head coach Rick Giancola says they will use this loss as a lesson to improve for their next opponent.

“It’s a tough loss to swallow,” Giancola said. “That happens in this game but if we can manage to understand as we look at the game tapes what we need to work on and how we need to go about it then we can turn the corner.”

The Seahawks got off to a nice start largely due to their suffocating defense. They got on the board late in the first quarter as Maguire connected with wide receiver Hayden Hulme for a 35-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead. Just before halftime, Chris Maida extended the Seahawks lead to 10 with a 27-yard field goal.

It was not until Salve Regina built a 17 point lead before the Red Hawks got into the end zone. Montclair State quarterback Ja’Quill Burch capped off the drive with a rushing touchdown cutting the lead to 17-7.

Salve Regina responded on the next drive with a 14-play, 55-yard drive finished by a three-yard run by Mauriello as the Seahawks went up 24-7 with 40 seconds remaining in the third quarter. That would be their last score of the game.

Sophomore running back Makai Mickens tries to run past Salve Regina defenders. Photo courtesy of David Venezia

Sophomore running back Makai Mickens tries to run past Salve Regina defenders.
Photo courtesy of David Venezia

Following the score, the Seahawks delivered a short kick and allowed the Red Hawks to start around midfield. Mickens finished the drive by breaking several tackles and ultimately finding the goal line for a 20-yard touchdown. The score would be 24-13 at the end of the third quarter.

Halfway through the fourth quarter, safety Mike Ramos forced the ball loose which allowed senior defensive back Brennan Ray to get the fumble recovery and gave the Red Hawks the ball on its own 47.

It would be Mickens that would score once again. After making a short catch, Mickens made defenders miss and pulled away for a 29-yard score. Burch then ran in the two-point conversion and cut the lead to only three.

The Red Hawks would eventually get one last chance to win the game with two minutes and 46 seconds remaining. After marching into Seahawks territory, the Red Hawks were unable to convert on a fourth and 12 from the 46 yard line which would end the game.

Three games into the season and it is safe to say the Red Hawks’ offense has been massively underperforming, but the second half of this game proved to be a bright spot.

Heading into week three, they had zero offensive touchdowns. In the second half against Salve Regina, the Red Hawks offense scored three touchdowns and seemed to finally start clicking. Burch finished with 166 yards through the air with a passing and rushing touchdown.

Fifth-year senior quarterback and captain Ja'Quill Burch evades a Salve Regina defender and looks downfield to pass. Photo courtesy of David Venezia

Fifth-year senior quarterback and captain Ja’Quill Burch evades a Salve Regina defender and looks downfield to pass.
Photo courtesy of David Venezia

“I think we finally found our rhythm a little bit and we were playing with more confidence,” Burch said after the game. “We have been in bigger holes than that, so we decided to keep pounding and carry it over to next week.”

With the win, the Seahawks moved to 3-0 on the season and will host Rowan University this Saturday at noon. The Red Hawks are back in action at home this Saturday as they take on Worcester Polytechnic Institute at 2 p.m.

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