Football Falls Short of NJAC Title

Football Falls Short of NJAC Title at Montclair State, 14-6

MONTCLAIR, N.J. (11/14/09) - The 2009 Kean University football team fell one win shy of the New Jersey Athletic Conference title and a perfect record in conference, falling to host Montclair State University, 14-6, in front of 5,665 rain-soaked fans at Sprague Field on Saturday afternoon. 

The Cougars (8-2, 8-1 NJAC), seeking just their third NJAC title and first-ever berth in the NCAA Division III tournament, had a pair of drives in the final minutes with a chance to take the lead or tie the game, however the Montclair State defense ended the Cougar threat.

Montclair State (9-1, 9-0 NJAC) captured the 2009 NJAC title with a perfect 9-0 mark and earned the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. 

The first half was a battle of field position with the first 15 possessions of the game resulting in a punt, as the Cougars forced Montclair State into a three-and-out on its first seven drives of the game and Kean only managed six first downs in the opening half.

After a Red Hawk punt pinned the Cougars at their own one-yard line in the second quarter, the Montclair State defense allowed no gain on the first three plays, forcing Kean to punt from deep in the endzone.  Montclair State senior Scott Kubrak (Caldwell, N.J.) returned the ensuing punt 17-yards to the Kean 23-yard line, giving the Red Hawks their best starting field position of the game.

The Red Hawks only managed one yard on the first two plays of the drive, before sophomore quarterback Tom Fischer (Livingston, N.J.) completed a 13-yard pass to sophomore Byron Lewin (Carteret, N.J.) on third-and-nine to give Montclair State its first first down of the game and a first-and-goal inside the Kean 10-yard line. 

Montclair State moved the ball down to the three-yard line following a three-yard run by senior running back Jeff Bliss (New Milford, N.J.) and a three-yard completion to Lewin, before Fischer kept the ball for the final three-yards for the touchdown with just 1:01 remaining in the half, and the Red Hawks took the 7-0 lead at the break following the extra point by senior kicker Marco Capozzoli (Bloomfield, N.J.).

The Cougar defense forced Montclair State to punt after a three-and-out on its first possession of the second half, where Kean took over at its own 36-yard line.  Kean followed with the longest drive of the game, a 13-play, 47-yard drive that was aided by a 20-yard gain on a fake punt by Kean punter Billy Daniels (Ridgefield, N.J.) on third-and 14.  Three plays later, Daniels kicked the 34-yard field goal to pull the Cougars to within 7-3 with 6:24 remaining in the third quarter.

Kean trimmed the deficit to 7-6 on its first drive of the fourth quarter following a 36-yard field goal by Daniels with 6:40 remaining in the game, capping an eight-play, 46-yard drive.  On that drive, senior running back Jared Chunn (Tinton Falls, N.J.) took the shovel pass from sophomore quarterback Thomas D'Ambrisi (Eatontown, N.J.) 44 yards for the longest play of the game to help set up the field goal.

A Montclair State punt gave the Cougars the ball back at their own six-yard line with 2:22 remaining in the game, however four straight incomplete passes, including a fourth-down pass that tipped off the hands of senior Derric Harris (Freehold, N.J.) and was nearly caught for a first down by sophomore T.J. Denehy (Monroe Township, N.J.), turned the ball back over to the Red Hawks. 

Montclair State needed just two plays on the subsequent drive, as Bliss took the ball all six yards, scoring on the three-yard touchdown run and the Capozzoli extra point gave the Red Hawks the eight-point advantage with 1:35 remaining. 

On Kean's final drive, the Cougars took advantage of a MSU roughing the passer penalty on fourth-down for an extra set of downs, however the Montclair State defense sacked D'Ambrisi on first down and broke-up two of the final three incomplete passes to clinch the NJAC title.

Chunn finished with 57 yards rushing on 21 carries and the one reception for 44 yards. 

Defensively, the Cougars limited Montclair State to just 132 yards of total offense, as senior Kyle Maher (Red Bank, N.J.) had a team-high seven tackles.  Sophomore Ray Wegrzynek (Linden, N.J.) finished with five tackles, including two and a half tackles for a loss of eight yards, while senior Matt Donaghue (Old Bridge, N.J.) had a pair of sacks for a seven yard loss. 

Kean awaits the team's third postseason appearance in the last four years with the announcements of the NCAA field and the ECAC Bowl Championships.