Montclair, NJ (10/9/10) – Senior cornerback Gary Knoeppel (West Long Branch, NJ / Shore Regional) returned an interception 41 yards for a touchdown and the Montclair State defense allowed zero yards over the final two quarters as the No. 14/16 Red Hawks scored the final 20 points en route to a 30-14 victory over The College of New Jersey before a Homecoming crowd of 6,178 at Sprague Field on Saturday afternoon.
Senior linebacker Ed Kirschenbaum (Lake Como, NJ / Manasquan) totaled 15 tackles and 3.5 sacks as MSU remained undefeated at 5-0, 4-0 in the NJAC as the Red Hawks also collected their 13th consecutive league win. Montclair also improved to 49-27-2 in the oldest active collegiate football rivalry with their 10th win in the last 12 contests in the series.
Sophomore running back Joe Falco (Ocean, NJ / Ocean Township) rushed for a pair of touchdown for the Lions, who lost their second straight falling to 1-4 overall, 1-3 in the NJAC.
Montclair State took the opening kickoff 66 yards for the first score of the contest. With the ball at midfield, Tom Fischer(Livingston, NJ / Livingston) completed a 15-yard pass to Joe LaSala (Colonia, NJ / Colonia) with a 15-yard penalty tacked on that took the ball to the TCNJ 22. After a one-yard run, Fischer found Byron Lewin (Carteret, NJ / Carteret)wide open in the end zone for the touchdown as Montclair led 7-0 just over three minutes in.
Thing would get even better for the Red Hawks as on the Lions’ first play from scrimmage. Kevin Cloghessy (West Hempstead, NY / Hempstead) intercepted a Nicholas Tyson (Freehold, NJ / Freehold Boro) pass and raced 13 yards to the TCNJ 8. Montclair would settle for a 25-yard field goal by Jake DelVento (Island Heights, NJ / Toms River South)for a 10-0 advantage with 9:41 left in the opening period.
After being held to just 23 yards in the first quarter, TCNJ began to turn the tables. The Lions got the ball at their own 22 yard line with 1:54 left in the first and promptly went on an 11-play, 78-yard drive that ended with a 14-yard run by Falco. James Donoghue (Shamong, NJ / Seneca) hit Tyler Powell (Marlton, NJ / Cherokee) for a 15-yard pass on third down to keep the drive going. After moving the ball to the MSU 14, Falco took a handoff and seemed stuffed for a short gain however he spun out of the arms of several tacklers and raced down the left sideline for the touchdown trimming the MSU lead to 10-7.
On Montclair’s next possession, the Red Hawks drove to the Lions’ 35. On third down, Fischer completed a 14-yard pass but the ball was fumbled and scooped up by the Lions, who then chewed up all but the final six seconds of the half with a 15-play, 61-yard march. New Jersey converted one third-down in the drive and twice converted on 4th-and-1 that set up Falco’s five-yard score as the Lions went into the locker room up 14-10.
That would be all the Lions would muster the rest of the half as they ran 23 plays in the second half that netted zero yards and no first downs after getting 14 in the first 30 minutes.
Kirschenbaum played a key role in turning the momentum late in the third quarter. A punt pinned TCNJ at its own 14 yard line. Kirschenbaum stopped Tyson on a four-yard run and then threw Tyson for a three-yard loss on second down. On third down, Kirschenbaum sacked Donaghue for a 10-yard loss to the New Jersey five forcing a punt that Montclair took over at its own 41 yard line.
Fischer hit Lewin for 33 yards on the second play pushing the ball to the TCNJ 25. Another completion got the ball to the 19 before Fischer connected with LaSala in the end zone for the touchdown as Montclair State took a 17-10 lead on the first play of the fourth quarter.
On the next possession, Knoeppel stepped in front of a Donaghue pass at the TCNJ 41 and raced nearly untouched for his second return in as many weeks as Montclair had its second touchdown in a 57 second-span while taking at 24-14 lead with 13:58 to play.
The Red Hawks made it three straight scored the next time it touched the ball. Dan Keegan’s (Fairfield, NJ / West Essex) 35-yard return got MSU to midfield. A 15-yard run by Matt Jimenez (Waldwick, NJ / Waldwick) moved the ball to the TCNJ 31. Three plays later on a 3rd-and-9, Fischer hit Bobby Roesing (Secaucus, NJ / Secaucus) for 31-yards for to the TCNJ. Jimenez did the rest capping off the drive with a 20-yard run as MSU built its 30-14 lead with 9:14 left.
Fischer finished 18-of-27 for 216 yards in the game. Lewin had nine receptions for 96 yards while LaSala added four for 47 yards. Freshman A.J. Scoppa (New Milford, NJ / New Milford) led the running attack with 60 yards on 11 carries. Jimenez had 14 attempts for 40 yards. Defensively Chad Faulcon (Cranford, NJ / Cranford) and linebacker Lou Ritacco(Nutley, NJ / Nutley) had seven tackles apiece as MSU outgained the Lions 290-162.
Justin Doniloski (Rockaway, NJ / Morris Hills) ran 17 times for 66 yards for TCNJ while Falco had 10 touches for 46 yards. Donaghue was 8-of-14 for 65 yards with William Friedrich (Berlin, NJ / East Stroudsburg South) getting three receptions for 18 yards. Michael Lambert (Holmdel, NJ / Holmdel) had nine tackles and a sack with Gregory Burns (Hamilton, NJ / Hamilton West) adding eight tackles and two fumble recoveries.
Both teams are back in action next week in NJAC games. Montclair State hosts Buffalo State at Sprague Field beginning at 1:00 pm. TCNJ is back out on the road again, this time in Upstate New York to face Morrisville State at Noon.