White Jr., Monmouth wins shootout against Wagner
Reggie White Jr. caught an 84-yard touchdown as Monmouth defeated Wagner, 54-47.
Monmouth was looking to get back on track as they returned home to take on longtime rival Wagner. Coach Kevin Callahan was looking for consistency in all three areas of the game. The hope was that this game would be the game that would get Hawks back in the conversation in the Big South and the FCS.
The 3,971 fans who attended Saturday’s game at Kessler Stadium saw an instant classic as the Hawks prevailed in a 54-47 shootout over Wagner. The normal stars showed up like Reggie White Jr. (whom I will get to later). However, there were some unsung heroes for Monmouth in their biggest win of the season to this point. Let’s look at the three takeaways from Monmouth’s win over Wagner.
White Jr. Breaks Record With Game-Winning TD
Reggie White Jr.’s game-winning 84-yard touchdown with 1:14 remaining gave the Hawks the win but also gave White Jr. a major record. The catch was his 213th, a new record for the program passing former tight end Neal Sterling’s. He is now tied with Sterling in touchdown receptions with 22, good for second in program history. Even after breaking the record, White Jr. was the consummate teammate.
“It was huge. Darnell Leslie told me that I was going to break the record on a TD. I was running down the field and he called it,” said White Jr. “As soon as I scored and pointed right to him. Righi [Pete Righi] and Juwon [Farri] had huge blocks. They opened it up for me and I just ran the rest of the way. Without them, that play wouldn’t have happened.”
White Jr. will continue to be Kenji Bahar’s top target and a player that teams will have to focus on going forward. Having a player on the outside that is so dangerous opens up running lanes for running backs….which leads me to another point.
Monmouth’s Running Game Is A Game Changer
I feel like I repeat myself every single week but Monmouth’s success this season is dependent on their running game. Against Princeton, Monmouth was bottled up. Against Wagner, the genie busted out of the bottle. Seven yards per carry and five touchdowns was the final tally for the Hawks’ running attack. The onslaught was led by Juwon Farri who finished with 104 yards, which included 99 yards and two touchdowns in the fourth quarter alone.
Pete Guerriero also finished with over 100 yards rushing and Bahar even ran for a touchdown as well in the game. On days where the offense is stagnant (two interceptions and three fumbles on Saturday), the running game is always something teams can lean on. As the calendar turns to fall and the weather begins to change, the running game will start to an essential part of teams (including Monmouth) game plans. Great job by Farri and Guerriero.
Hawks’ Defense Still Problematic
Saturday’s game was an instant classic due to Monmouth’s comeback in the fourth quarter. The comeback would not have been necessary if Monmouth’s defense did not allow Wagner to move up and down the field early. Credit must be given to the unit after holding All-American candidate Ryan Fulse to just 72 yards on the ground. Most of his yards came on a 38-yard run in the first quarter, so Monmouth’s front was dominant throughout. However, Wagner threw for 377 yards against a Monmouth secondary that is still finding their way.
With matchups upcoming against high octane offenses such as Kennesaw State and Campbell (2nd and 3rd in the Big South in total offense respectively), Monmouth needs to find answers in the backend of the defense. Through five games, this seems to be the one glaring weakness with this team.
What’s Next For The Hawks
After a week off, Monmouth returns to action on Oct. 13 against Bucknell at Kessler Stadium. Game time for that matchup is set for 1 p.m.
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