The Big South is a misnomer. It’s footprint extends well past the confines of the southeastern United States. In fact, the celebratory foot-tapping is being heard all the way into New Jersey and the campus of Monmouth University.
That’s because Monmouth, in just its sixth year as a member of the Big South, came away with the conference title by virtue of its impressive win over Campbell, a win that ended any hopes the Camels had of earning at least a share of the conference crown.
More importantly for the Hawks, their win assures them of the automatic bid into the FCS playoffs. The postseason begins Nov. 30 at campus sites around the country and will culminate with the FCS national championship Jan. 11 in Frisco, Texas. That game will be televised on ABC.
Kennesaw State, the defending Big South champion, remained alive for a share of the title with a lopsided victory over Hampton.
Charleston Southern and North Alabama also picked up wins involving other BSC teams last weekend.
Marquee: Monmouth Punches Ticket
Monmouth’s brief tenure in the Big South Conference has been a roller-coaster. A bad year, a good year, followed by a down year and then a good year.
It can’t get any better than this year.
Pete Guerriero ran for 237 yards and three touchdowns to power Monmouth to a 47-10 win over Campbell on Saturday.
Trailing 7-0 after the first quarter, Monmouth began to take control of the game midway through the second period. Matt Mosquera booted a 28-yard field goal to put the Hawks on the board 7-3 with 7:45 left in the half.
That’s when Guerriero began to make his presence felt. Less than one minute later he rambled 57 yards for his first touchdown to put the Hawks in front to stay with 6:48 before halftime with a 10-7 advantage. QB Kenji Bahar connected a short time later with Lonnie Moore for a 36-yard TD to give the Hawks a 17-7 lead.
Colin Gray’s 37-yard field goal toward the end of the half provided the Camels with what proved their final points of the game as Monmouth was in front 17-10 at the intermission.
The second simply belonged to Guerriero, a Walter Payton Trophy candidate.
He scored on runs of two and 75 yards and added a 50-yard scoring pass to finish with 24 points on the day with his four touchdowns. Bahar added an eight-yard scoring run of his own midway through the final quarter to cap the day for the Hawks.
Guerriero tallied 303 yards of total offense. He carried 30 times on the way to his 237 rushing yards and added three catches for 66 additional yards on the afternoon. Moore finished with three catches for a team-high 73 yards in the game.
Behar completed 11 of 20 passes for 205 and the two scoring passes while operating the Monmouth offense that racked up 538 yards of total offense on the day.
Campbell, which was limited to just 277 yards of offense, was led by Hajj-Malik Williams, who completed 16 of 27 passes for 169 yards. He was intercepted once in the contest. He also paced the Camels with 62 yards on the ground after carrying the ball 17 times. Jalen Kelsey led Campbell with eight catches for 91 yards.
Owls Roll Past Pirates
Traversing the ball down the field methodically and efficiently is a prerequisite in the pursuit of a victory on the football field.
Kennesaw State made sure Hampton learned that lesson the hard way on Saturday as the Owls stuffed the Pirate offense on the way to a 50-7 win over the Pirates.
The win improved KSU to 4-1 in the Big South Conference and 9-2 on the season. The Owls still have a chance to earn a tie for the conference championship with a win this weekend coupled with a Monmouth loss.
KSU QB Tommy Bryant ran for 100 yards and threw a 67-yard scoring pass to spearhead the lopsided win over the Pirates. Bryant, who was one of six different players to find the end zone on the day for the Owls, rushed 12 times in the game to help in reaching the 100-yard plateau. Bronson Rechsteiner added 74 yards on 10 carries on the day. A total of 10 different players rushed the ball on the day as KSU’s vaunted running attack amassed 361 yards on the ground on 56 carries. Bryant attempted just five passes in the game and picked up 133 yards via that route. His other completion covered 66 yards to Shaquil Terry.
KSU opened the game with three touchdowns in the first quarter on runs by Terry (15 yards), Byrant (one yard) and Rechsteiner from 40 yards outs as the Owl built a comfortable 21-0 lead on the Pirates.
Bryant’s scoring pass went to Caleb O’Neal early in the second quarter extended the lead to 28-20. 32-yard field goal from Nathan Robertson pushed the lead to 31-0 at the intermission.
Kyle Glover scored on two short touchdown runs and teammate Kyle Ficklin added one of his own in the second half to close the scoring for the Owls.
Hampton’s only points came in the third quarter on a pass from Deondre Francois to James Stanly the covered 14 yards.
The Pirates were held to just 126 yards of total offense by a stingy KSU defense. Francois ended the contest with 12 completions after going to the air 26 times. He managed just 65 passing yards. Shai McKenzie rushed 15 times for 80 yards to lead Hampton on the ground. As a team the Pirates ran the ball 25 times for just 61 yards. Jadakis Bond caught four passes for 40 yards in the loss.
North Alabama Rallies From Huge Deficit
If a season of transition for North Alabama has shown anything, it’s that the Lions can compete in the Big South Conference.
Christian Lopez had a big day passing the football and threw for four touchdowns, including one with just under two minutes remaining in the game to help lift UNA to a 34-30 win over Gardner-Webb on Saturday. The Lions trailed 20-0 in the first half and outscored the Bulldogs 34-10 after that.
UNA, which is transitioning from NCAA-D-II this season, improved to 4-7 overall. The Lions’ results against Big South teams do not count in the league standings this season. Gardner-Webb, which just a few weeks ago had playoff aspirations, dropped to 1-4 in conference play. The Bulldogs have a 3-8 season record.
Lopez, who was later selected as the co-offensive player of the week in the Big South Conference for Saturday’s performance, found Dexter Boykin for a 16-yard touchdown passes with 1:57 left in the game to cap the massive comeback. It was the second TD reception for Boykin in the game.
Lopez had found Jakobi Byrd on a 14-yard pass play early in the final quarter as the Lions capped the comeback and grabbing its first lead of the game. Byrd’s touchdown came with 14:13 left in the contest and gave UNA a 27-23 lead.
The Bulldogs took the lead back midway through the period when QB Kalen Whitlow, who also finished with four TD passes in the game, hooked up with Jameson Turner for a short five-yard pass to make the score 30-27 with 6:02 to go in the game.
Gardner-Webb grabbed the early lead when Whitlow tossed a short one-yard pass to Izaiah Gathings with 6:37 left to go in the first quarter.
The Bulldogs added two more touchdowns in the second quarter. Whitlow and Gathings teamed for a second time, this one from three yards out at the 13:05 mark of the second quarter. Whitlow later passed 28 yards to Devron Harper to extend the G-W advantage to 20-0 with 2:57 left before intermission.
That’s when Lopez and the UNA offense came to life. The Lions scored twice in a span of 70 seconds to pull to within 20-14 at the break.
Boykin got things started by scoring on a 13-yard pass with 1:22 left. Lopez and Boykin connected three times for 42 yards on the drive that covered 59 yards in eight plays. Teammate Jaxton Carson ran in from eight yards out with just 12 seconds to go to end the half.
The Bulldogs tacked on a 36-yard field goal by Kurt Everett to cushion their lead to 23-14 early in the second half. UNA would score 20 of the next 27 points to come away with the win.
And it started with some fireworks.
Lopez threw his second touchdown of the afternoon and Andre Little outran the G-W defense to cap a three-play, 75-yard drive with the strike that covered 61 yards. That pulled UNA to within 23-21 with 11:54 to go in the third quarter. Neither team would score again until the fourth quarter as the Lions put the finishing touches on the game.
Lopez finished with 28 completions in 44 attempts to account for his passing output. Little and Boykin were each on the receiving end of nine of those completions. Little finished with 183 yards on the day, while Boykin accounted for 125 aerial yards. Byrd ended the day with 66 yards on six catches for the Lions.
Whitlow completed 29 of 45 passes for 288 yards and Jayln Cagle paced the Bulldogs’ rushing attack with 77 yards on 19 carries.
Buccaneers Strike Fast in 27-7 Win
Charleston Southern wasted little time in making sure the struggles continued for Presbyterian College.
Jack Chambers and Darius Douglas each threw a touchdown pass in the first quarter as the Buccaneers jumped to a 14-0 lead and never looked on the way to a 27-7 win over the Blue Hose on Saturday in Clinton.
The win improved CSU to 3-2 in the BSC this season with one conference game remaining on the schedule. The Blue Hose, meanwhile, finished the conference slate with a 1-5 record in the final season as a football member in the Big South. Presbyterian will join the non-scholarship Pioneer League in 2020.
The visiting Buccaneers recovered a PC fumble in the early portion of the game and got on the board when Chambers passed seven yards to Jaquan Williams for the first score of the game. Alex Usry’s PAY kick gave CSU a 7-0 lead with 8:33 remaining in the period.
The Buccaneers immediately took advantage of a second PC turnover on the ensuing kickoff when Zach Hayden recovered for CSU at the PC 28. The Buccaneers drove inside Blue Hose territory and facing a third-and-21, Douglas found Kameron Brown at the goal line for a 28-yard scoring pass. Usry’s PAT put the Buccaneers in front 14-0 at the 5:27 mark.
That was also CSU would need against Presbyterian. But for good measure the Buccaneers added a two-yard run early in the second period from Jamari Dunbar and held a 21-0 lead at halftime. That drive was set up thanks to an interception, one of four turnovers forced by the Bucs’ defense on the day.
Usry scored the only points of the second half for the Buccaneers. He nailed a 51-yard field goal in the third quarter. It was the third kick of at least 50 yards this season for Usry. He also added a 42-yard boot in the final period giving him a school-record 17 field goals this season.
PC’s only points came late in the game, really late. Jaiden Turner scored from two yards out with just 51 seconds remaining as the Blue Hose avoided the shutout. Parker Maddrey’s PAT kick made the final score 27-7.
Chambers accounted for 140 yards of offense in the game for the Buccaneers. He completed 11 of his 20 passes for 92 yards and the one scoring pass. He was intercepted twice on the day. Chambers also ran six times for 48 yards.
Kendrick Bell paced the Bucs on the ground by rushing for 123 yards on 20 carries. Dunbar finished the game with 24 yards on seven carries. Brown was the top pass catcher on the day with 63 yards on three receptions, while Williams caught a pair of passes for 11 yards on the afternoon.
Presbyterian, had almost 200 yards of offense in the second half. After being limited to just 97 offensive yards in the first 30 minutes, the Blue Hose finished the game with 292 yards.
A pair of quarterbacks helped the Blue Hose combine for more than 250 passing yards on the afternoon. Brandon Thompson completed nine of 18 passes for 144 yards, while Tyler Huff finished the game with 111 yards through the air after completing 11 of his 20 passes on the day. Huff, who was intercepted twice in the contest, also ran for 36 yards on 14 rushes. The Blue Hose finished with just 37 total yards on the ground in the game. Keith Pearson led the PC receivers with nine catches for 129 yards.
A native of Bismarck, N.D., Ray is a graduate of North Dakota State University where he began studying athletic training and served as a student trainer for several Bison teams including swimming, wrestling and baseball and was a trainer at the 1979 NCAA national track and field championship meet at the University of Illinois. Ray later worked in the sports information office at NDSU. Following his graduation from NDSU he spent five years in the sports information office at Missouri Western State University and one year in the sports information at Georgia Tech. He has nearly 40 years of writing experience as a sports editor at several newspapers and has received numerous awards for his writing over the years. A noted sports historian, Ray is currently an assistant editor at Amateur Wrestling News.