Montclair, N.J. (9/15/07) – Senior quarterback Michael Jump (Toms River, N.J.) threw three touchdown passes while the Montclair State defense, led by 20 tackles from junior linebacker Cornell Hunt (North Brunswick, N.J.), came up with the big play when it needed it as the Red Hawks knocked off No. 9-ranked Springfield College, 33-30 in MSU’s home opener at Sprague Field on Saturday afternoon.
Senior running back Ryan McCoach (Rockaway, N.J.) ran for 114 yards and scored once as Montclair State is off to a 2-0 start for the 27 th time in school history and the first since 2004. The Red Hawks also notched their first win against Springfield in four tries, avenging losses in 2000 (NCAA Playoffs), 2003, and last year (27-15) at Springfield .
Montclair withstood another outstanding performance from Springfield All-America quarterback Chris Sharpe (Derry , N.H.), who ran for 142 yards and scored all four Pride touchdowns. Sharpe now needs just 51 rushing yards to tie, and 52 to break the Springfield College career rushing record of 3,209 yards by Kevin Cahill (1997-2000).
With the loss, Springfield fell to 1-1 on the season.
Montclair never trailed in the game and the Red Hawks would take the lead for good with just a minute to go before halftime. On a 3rd-and-6 from its own 65 yardline, Jump threw a pass down the right sideline that receiver A.J. Letizia ( Dumont , N.J) pulled in after leaping in the air. Letizia then broke a tackle and raced the rest of the way, as the Red Hawks took a 23-16 lead into halftime.
MSU extended the lead to 26-16 on the first possession of the second half as McCoach, who became the ninth back in Montclair history to top 2,000 career yards, scampered 37 yards to the Springfield 21 before MSU settled for a 37-yard field goal from Marco Capozzoli ( Bloomfield , N.J.) with 13:24 left. But the Pride came right back moving down the field 53 yards in seven plays, as a face mask penalty on the Red Hawks kept the drive alive. Sharpe would cap off the drive with his third touchdown, a one-yard plunge with 10:25 left.
Montclair would answer right back with a 10-play, 69-yard drive of its own. Jump hit Omar Sevilla ( North Bergen , N.J) for a 20-yard gain, and a Jump to Letizia pass completion three plays later moved the ball to the Springfield 25. On 3rd-and-7, Jump connected with Brandon Fronjian (Palisades Park , N.J.) for 17 yards to the five. On 2nd-and-goal, Jump found tight end Jeremy Mercer (Leonardo, N.J.) for a four-yard touchdown as the Red Hawks restored the lead to 33-23 with 5:16 to go in the third.
Springfield would cut the lead to 33-30 as the Pride embarked on a mammoth 16-play, 65-yard drive that ate up the first 8:38 of the fourth quarter. Sophomore Baldwin Cunningham (Manchester , Conn.), making his collegiate debut, and Sharpe combined for most of the yardage, including a five-yard run by Cunningham on 4th-and-3 at the MSU 19 that kept the drive going. Four plays later, Sharpe went over again from a yard out as the Pride got within three with just 6:22 left.
The Red Hawks would punt on their next possession, giving the Pride the ball at its own 19. On 3rd-and-6, Sharpe appeared to run for a first down, but a holding penalty nullified the first down and on fourth down MSU linebacker Russ Comune (Pompton Plains, N.J.) snuffed out a rush attempt as the Pride elected to go for the first down.
Montclair would also go for it as it faced 4 th-and-1 at the Springfield 5 with 2:50 left. Junior inside linebacker Tom Caporale ( Closter , N.J.) made a saving tackle as he tripped up McCoach inches from the four yard line, allowing Springfield one last chance. On the Pride’s first play, senior halfback Tim Brouillard (Plymouth , Mass.) was stopped for a loss of two. Sharpe then ran for five yards setting up a 3rd-and-7. Sharpe tried to hit Jeremy Zelinski (Groton , Conn.) but came up short. On fourth down, Sharpe tried to find Erich Timmerman (Middletown, N.Y.), but cornerback Dominique Dixon (Wharton, N.J.) knocked away the attempt, and the Red Hawks ran out the clock from there.
Sophomore Emmanuel Ihim ( Clifton , N.J.) set up Montclair ’s first score as he blocked a punt to give MSU the ball at the Springfield 33. Capozzoli turned the play into three points as he connected from 39 yards out. MSU extended the lead to 9 as Jump hit Mercer on a diving catch on the first play of the second quarter. But on the point after attempt, the ball was muffed and senior cornerback Joe Harasymiak (Waldwick , N.J.) scooped up the ball an returned it all the way for a two-point play. MSU thus led 9-2.
Springfield tied the game following the ensuing kickoff, driving 50 yards. That march was capped off by a Sharpe one-yard score with 9:25 to go in the half. MSU regained the lead as it took advantage of a Springfield miscue. As the Pride prepared to punt, the snap from center was low and sophomore Jason Hurlock (East Lyme , Conn.) crouched down to get the ball. But in the process, he put his knee on the ground, ending the play and giving Montclair the ball at the Springfield 17. Jump connected with Letizia for 15 yards down to the 1, and McCoach scored as MSU led 16-9 with 4:20 left in the half.
But what would become repetitive in the game, Springfield again tied the game on its next possession. Sharpe engineered an eight-play, 60-yard drive with Sharpe finishing off the possession with a 10-yard run to knot the game at 16-16.
Jump finished 13-of-24 for 170 yards with Letizia pulling in four receptions for 102 yards. Derek DePascale ( Butler , N.J.) and John Valkos ( Rumson , N.J.) each had 10 tackles for the Red Hawks, who held Springfield ’s vaunted triple-option offense to 285 yards after the Pride posted 437 in its season opener against Union.
Sharpe carried 31 times while Andrew Jackson ( Pennsville , N.J.) had 11 carries for 40 as the Pride amassed 256 rushing yards to MSU’s 115. Sharpe was 2-of-8 for 26 yards in the air. Caporale led the Springfield defense with 11 tackles and two breakups while Jason Bakoulis ( Norwich , Conn.) had two sacks.
Both teams return to action next week (September 22). Montclair State goes on the road to face seventh-ranked Wesley at Wolverine Stadium in Dover , Del. Springfield is also back on the road as it opens up Empire 8 play at Alfred University at 12 noon.