Football Tops Rowan, 30-14

Montclair,NJ (11/8/08) – Junior running back Jeff Bliss (New Milford, NJ / NewMilford) ran for a pair of touchdowns while juniorkicker Marco Capozzoli (Bloomfield, NJ / St. Joseph’s (Montvale)) connected onthreefield goals as 21st-ranked Montclair State won a key contes twith potential NCAA Playoff implications, 30-14 over Rowan in aNJAC matchup at Sprague Field on Saturday afternoon.

The Red Hawk defense forced five turnovers, including three interceptions, as Montclair won its fourth straight improving to 8-1 on the year, 7-1 in the NJAC. Montclair,which entered the week fourth in the latest East Region rankings, alsorecorded its third consecutive victory against Rowan – its longest streak since a seven-game run in the 1980s. MSU leads the all-time series, 27-21.

Junior quarterback Frank Wilczynski (Pine Hill, NJ /Overbrook) accounted for268 yards of total offense and a touchdown pass as the Profs, rankedfifth in the NCAA rankings this week, had their six-game winning streak snapped  in falling to 7-2, 6-2 in the NJAC.

A battle of two of the NJAC’s top defensive units, it was Montclair’s tha tcame up big in the first half as MSU raced out to a 20-0 halftime lead. Montclair forced a three-and-out by the Profs on the opening possession and turned that stand into three points as Capozzoli connected on a season-best 42-yard field goal with 10:18 to play. On Rowan’s next touch of the ball, linebacker Dan Krainski (Sayreville, NJ /Sayreville) forced a fumble by Wilczynski and Cornell Hunt (North Brunswick, NJ / North Brunswick) recovered the ball giving MSU the ball at the Rowan 42. A 20-yard gaingot Montclair to the 21, but Rowan’s defense held firm and Capozzoli came on to hit from 32 yards and a 6-0 Montclair advantage with 7:08 to play.

In the second quarter, after Rowan failed to convert a fourth-down at the MSU 30, Montclair took possession and punted the ball away. But Rowan committed a roughing penalty to keep the drive alive and pass interference penalty on third down extended it even further pushed the ball to the Rowan 37.Five plays later,Bliss rambled in from seven yards out to cap a10-play, 70-yard drive giving Montclair State a 13-0 lead with 7:17 to go.

Rowan’s struggling first half continued late in the period. Back for punt, the snap was mishandled by Andrew Smith (Howell,NJ / Freehold Township).Smith picked up the ball and tried to get an attempt off only to have it blocked by MSU’s Taylor Bonner (Old Bridge, NJ / Old Bridge). The Red Hawks took over on the Rowan 25 and on the first play Tom Fischer (Livingston,NJ / Livingston) found Jeremy Mercer (Leonardo, NJ/ Middletown South) wide open for a 25-yard score as MSU led 20-0 at halftime.

TheProfs were held to just 99 yards in the opening half, but it was their defense that began to turn things around in the second half. Drew Yezzi (Franklinville, NJ/ Delsea Regional) intercepted a pass that jump-started the Rowan offense as it marched 69 yards in nine plays to get on the scoreboard. Wilczynski finished the drive as he hit Travis Warker (Mays Landing, NJ/ Oakcrest) on a 15-yard strike to cut the lead to 20-7 with 7:47left.

On its next possession, the Profs trimmed the lead closer asWilczynski hitsuperback Davon Edwards (Whitesboro, NJ / Middle Township) for 25 yardsand Ryan Leafey (Westville, NJ / Deptford) ran for 22, including the final eight for the touchdown as Rowan pulled within 20-14 with 3:16 to play in the quarter.

The momentum carried into the fourth as the Profs mounted another drive down to the MSU 30. But on a third-and-11, Wilczynski tried to hit Marcus Lee (Vineland, NJ/ Vineland) in the end zone, however safety Jesse Shenker (Freehold, NJ / Freehold Township) intercepted the pass to thwart the drive.

The interception stopped Rowan’s momentum and the Red Hawks would turn that into their own favor with an 11-play, 74-yard drive. Fischer hit Omar Sevilla (North Bergen, NJ / North Bergen) for 20 yards and then found Jeff Papcun (Hazlet, NJ/ Raritan) on a 38-yard scramble to move the ball to the Rowan 22. The Red Hawks would get down to the six before Capozzoli came on to hit a 23-yard field goal and a 23-14 lead with 8:04 left in the contest.

Rowan would get its opportunities, but could not come up with any points. A Malcolm Dock (Phillipsburg, NJ / Phillipsburg) interception gave Rowan the ball its own 48 with 6:10 to play. But Wilczynski fell two yards short on a 4th-and-12 run and the Profs gave up the ball on downs.

Two possessions later, Rowan was pinned to its own two yardline as punterTroy Cyburt (Hillsborough, NJ / Hillsborough) beat the all-out rush bythe Profs an sent his attempt high into the air that was downed by long snapper Ron Litz (South River, NJ / South River). On the first play, Wilczynski scrambled six yards to the Rowan 8, but lost the football on the sideline. Hunt alertly prevented the ball from going ou tof bounds and Chris Merkle (Nutley, NJ / Nutley) recovered it to all but seal the game. Bliss, who finished with a tough 53 yards on 27 carries,scampered on a five-yard run with 41 seconds left to cap the scoring.

Fischer was 15-of-28 for 215 yards and two interceptions for MSU, which was outgained in the game, 340-286. Sevilla had five receptions for 69 yards with Papcun and Dan Keegan (Fairfield, NJ / West Essex) each pulling in three. Hunt finished with 10 tackles while Merkle had nine (six unassisted) along with an interception, sack and pass breakup. Shenker had six tackles.

Wilczynski finished with 78 yards on 15 carries on the ground for Rowan while going14-of-36 for 190 yards. Edwards collected six catches for 108 yards.Defensively, Yezzi led with a game-high 12 tackles while Jimmy DiPaolo (North Plainfield, NJ / North Plainfield)added 10. Lafayette Crawford (Blackwood, NJ / Highland Regional) added eight tackles.  

Both teams close out their regular seasons next Saturday with road NJAC contests. Montclair State is at Alumni Stadium in Union for a 1:00 pm matchup with Kean. Meanwhile, the Profs head to Lions Stadium in Ewing to face The College of New Jersey in a 12:00 pm start.