The Graphic Edge Bowl: No. 12 Monroe Football Falls in First-Ever Bowl Game to No. 16 Iowa Central
CEDAR FALLS, Iowa, December 2, 2018 – Playing in the first bowl game in the program's seven-year history, the No. 12-ranked Monroe College football team dropped a 34-20 decision to No. 16 Iowa Central Community College at The Graphic Edge Bowl at the UNI-Dome. A historic season for the Mustangs ends with a 7-2 record after their first postseason experience, while Iowa Central finishes the year with an 8-4 overall mark. The Mustang defense stepped up early, forcing a three-and-out on the Tritons' first drive after the kickoff. The Mustangs took over on their own 28-yard line, but were unable to get anything going on first and second down. On Monroe's third play, Jalen Brown's pass was intercepted by Jackson Martens, who returned it 28 yards to the end zone for a touchdown, putting the Tritons up, 7-0, at the 13-minute mark of the first quarter. After the Tritons took over again at their 40-yard line, Blake Dever hit Ezra Naylor for 15 yards for a quick first down. Later on 3rd-and-3, Dever completed an 11-yard pass to Rashad Witty to keep the chains moving. The Tritons kept to the ground after that, getting a first down to the two-yard line with a five-yard run by Draven Peeples. Peeples later punched it in on second down from one yard out to give the Tritons a 14-0 lead with 7:01 on the clock in the first. The Mustangs caught a break on the kickoff, which bounced out of bounds to put the Mustangs on the 35-yard line to start the next drive. Jarious Jones took an off-tackle carry to the left sideline, rumbling for 19 yards and a first down. The Mustangs kept the ball moving with Jones and got another first down two plays later. Brown was then sacked for a loss of 14 to put the Mustangs in a tough spot. An offsides penalty led to 3rd-and-20, but Brown hit Jevin Frett in stride for a 26-yard completion and another first down. The Mustangs once again found themselves in trouble, looking at 3rd-and-17 from the Iowa Central 27-yard line. A roughing the passer penalty on the next play gave the Mustangs a break, moving them up to the 12 and giving them a fresh set of downs. Brown kept it for a six-yard run on first, then Jones rushed up the middle for three more yards to set up third-and-inches. Jones got stuffed on the next play, but head coach Terry Karg chose to go for it on fourth. Jones was nearly stopped at the line of scrimmage, but he kept his legs churning and got a boost from the offensive line, pushing him all the way over the goal line for a Mustang touchdown. A short snap on the extra point led to a failed attempt, but the Mustangs got back within a score at 14-6. The Tritons took advantage of a big kick return to start their next drive in Monroe territory. The Mustangs got a stop on third down at the 20-yard line, but Justin Blake hit J.M. Young in the back of the end zone for the score, making it a 21-6 game with 13:18 left in the second quarter. The Tritons drove the ball into the red zone after a 33-yard reception by Witty. On 1st-and-10 from the 13, Rashon McNeil jumped in front of a pass from Dever, intercepting the ball at the four-yard line and returning it to the 14 to give the Mustangs a big stop and a new drive. Brown went deep on the next play, hitting Jevin Frett up the seam for a 56-yard completion, but the play was wiped away by an ineligible man down field call. Monroe was able to pick up a first down, but the Mustangs were ultimately stopped on their own 17-yard line and forced to punt. The Mustangs eventually went into the half with a 21-6 deficit. Both teams struggled to move the ball throughout the third quarter. The Mustangs and Tritons played the field-position game for much of the period, including a punt by Diogo Alves that traveled 54 yards to pin the Tritons on their own 11-yard line. That was one of seven straight punts by both teams in the third, which ended with the Tritons still up, 21-6. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Dever pump-faked and then hit Carlton Todd down the right sideline for a 65-yard touchdown pass, putting the Tritons up, 28-6, with 14:50 on the clock. The Mustangs responded with a quick, impressive drive. On second down, Brown hit Nyjaliek Williams for a 42-yard gain. Two plays later, Brown threw it deep down the sideline to a well-covered Tyler Hodge, who made an impressive catch in the end zone for a 43-yard touchdown. Alves made the ensuing extra point to make it a 28-13 game with 13:17 left in the fourth. Blake rushed for 37 yards on first down to open the next drive, getting the Tritons to Monroe's 14-yard line. A pair of runs by Peeples gave the Tritons a first down on the goal line. Blake dove into the end zone from there to take a 34-13 lead. Joshua Boyd blocked the ensuing extra point for Monroe. Late in the fourth, the Mustangs faced 3rd-and-19 from their own 17 yard line. Brown dumped it off to Tyler Bailey, who kept pushing the ball forward and found a few blocks before finding a hole down the sideline, taking it all the way to the house for an 83-yard touchdown reception. Alves' point after made it a 34-20 game with 2:53 to play. The Mustangs were unable to recover an onside kick attempt. With a couple first downs, the Tritons were able to run out the clock and claim the two-score victory. Brown completed 16-of-33 passes for 288 yards, two touchdowns and a pick in Sunday's bowl game. Dever went 11-of-15 for 178, a score and an interception for Iowa Central, while Blake completed 9-of-13 attempts for 114 yards and a touchdown. Jones led the Mustangs with 20 yards and a touchdown on the ground on Sunday. Blake was the game's leading rusher, leading the Tritons with 87 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Peeples added 73 yards on 17 carries and another score. Bailey made four receptions for 118 yards and a touchdown, including his 83-yard catch and run in the fourth quarter. Hodge caught three passes for 50 yards and a touchdown. For the Tritons, Naylor made four catches for 81 yards, while Todd made three receptions for 80 yards and a score. Young also scored on four catches for 55 yards. Grant Melton, McNeil and Jason Simon each registered six tackles for the Mustangs. McNeil added a tackle for loss, as well as an interception in the red zone. Melton broke up two passes. Jahron Gayle had a sack and three tackles, while Boyd made four takedowns and blocked an extra point. Iowa Central was led defensively by Torre Boland, who made eight tackles, including 1.5 sacks. Martens had half a sack and the Tritons' pick-six in the first quarter. Alves averaged 41.8 yards on nine punts for Monroe, including a long of 54 yards and four that landed inside the 20-yard line. He also averaged 55 yards on three kickoffs. The Mustangs' historic season comes to an end. Not only did Monroe make its first-ever bowl game in 2018, they also reached the highest national ranking in program history at No. 12 on two different occasions this season. Monroe had 17 players make the All-Northeast Football Conference Team, while Brown was selected as the NEFC Offensive Player of the Year.