BY JEREMY SCHILLING
Monmouth had done everything right in the first half. They got out to a fast start – head coach Kevin Callahan’s number one key all year. They blocked a field goal. They played stout defense. They were up 17-0 at the break.
But Robert Morris charged back in the second half, scoring two quick touchdowns to make it 17-14. But then Monmouth came back, and Robert Morris answered. Monmouth seemed to play a lot of those games this year. Tough – sometimes unexpectedly tough – but games they should still win.
It would come down to the final drive. Monmouth with a 26-21 lead, with the ball at the Monmouth four-yard line, 28 seconds left, with first and goal for the Robert Morris offense. First and goal: incomplete pass. Second and goal: rush for one-yard. Third and goal: a spike to stop the clock. Fourth and goal, 12 seconds left: Robert Morris touchdown.
But wait, there was a holding call on the Colonials. Monmouth had life. So now it is fourth and goal from the 13 yard line. Final play of the game: an incomplete pass and a penalty on the quarterback for throwing across the line of scrimmage to boot. The Robert Morris fans wanted defensive holding, but it wasn’t to be.
And that’s how Monmouth (5-5, 4-3) somehow held on to beat Robert Morris (4-7, 3-5) 26-21 on the road in Moon Township, Pa. and finish their year at .500. Callahan was a happy camper
"I've very happy for our seniors to finish the season off with a win," said Callahan. "I'm happy for all of players on the team, I'm proud of the way they battled in that game. They continued to play hard all the way to the end. It’s an excellent way for our seniors to end their careers."
Monmouth absolutely owned the first half. They opened up the game with a 71-yard drive on which 51 came off one Julian Hayes run. Hayes finished it off with a two-yard score to make it 7-0 Hawks.
After a Colonials punt the Hawks offense got right back to work again, this time putting up three points on an Eric Spillane 21-yard field goal to make it 10-0 Monmouth.
And following the second Robert Morris punt of this sequence, Frazier hit Tristan Roberts for an 11-yard touchdown to make it 17-0 Monmouth before you even blinked.
The teams exchanged punts before Robert Morris thought they were close to scoring on when Greg Langer and the kicking team got lined up for a 34-yard field goal early in the second quarter. But it was blocked and midway through the second quarter it was still 17-0 Monmouth. The teams exchanged more punts and 17-0 wound up being the halftime score.
The second half was a completely different story.
The Colonials came out of the halftime break like a team on a mission, driving right down the field in five plays and getting a touchdown via a Deontae Howard 20-yard run. That was following a 34-yard run by Evan Taylor which gave Robert Morris great field position to go in for the score. With just under 13 minutes left in the period, it was 17-7 Monmouth.
Following a Monmouth punt, Robert Morris kept the momentum going, getting a 39-yard throw-and-catch from quarterback Jeff Sinclair to wideout Duane Mitchell to make it 17-14 Monmouth.
To the Hawks' credit, they drove right back down the field, ending their drive with a season-long 43-yard field goal from Spillane to up the lead to six.
The next big moment came on the first possession of the fourth quarter when Spillane missed a 38-yard field goal. Coupled with a later missed opportunity, that could have spelled doom for the Hawks if the game had ended otherwise.
That later opportunity came on Monmouth’s next possession when they scored following a Sinclair fumble which was forced by Eric Macik and recovered by Joe Johnson. With the ball at the Colonials 34-yard line, it took the Hawks offense only two plays to get into the end zone, as Hayes ran it in from 22-yards out for his second score of the game. The two-point conversion failed, however, and the lead became 26-14 with a little over 11 minutes left in the contest.
Hayes finished with 143 yards on 22 touches and the two touchdowns.
The missed two-point conversion and missed field goal began to loom larger after Robert Morris scored on their next possession, when Mitchell scored his second touchdown of the day. This one was a 44-yard pass from Sinclair to make it 26-21 with eight minutes left in the ball game.
Mitchell finished with 116 yards on five catches and two touchdowns. Sinclair’s final passing line was 21-of-34 for 268 yards and two touchdowns. Taylor finished as Robert Morris’ leading rusher with 78 yards on the ground.
Monmouth got the ball to midfield on their next drive but Hayes couldn’t get a first down on third and two and Monmouth was forced to punt.
Robert Morris was able to move the ball well on that final drive, but when push came to shove, the Monmouth defense held up and ended the 2012 campaign on a winning note.
Frazier, in his final game as a Hawk, finished with 22-of-27 passing for 258 yards and one touchdown. Neal Sterling lead the Hawks in receiving with four catches for 88 yards.
Frazier’s departure is the tip of the iceberg for a Monmouth team that will lose numerous playmakers on both sides of the football. That will be Monmouth’s main task for the offseason. They must rebuild and replace while keeping the momentum of a team that at times this year looked stellar, and yet at other times, lacked any juice at all.