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Ground Game Dominates, Defense Scores Twice as No. 9 Monroe Football Rumbles to Victory over Sacred

FAIRFIELD, Conn., November 6, 2021 – The No. 9-ranked Monroe College Mustangs football team put up a dominating performance on the ground and on defense on Saturday in a 56-13 victory over Sacred Heart University Club at Campus Field. The Mustangs improve to 8-0 on the season with the win, while the Pioneers fall to 7-1.

Monroe totaled 342 yards on the ground on Saturday, including the 15 yards lost on three kneel downs in the game. They rushed for six touchdowns as well, and threw the ball just three times in the win. Michael Akinleye led the team with 93 yards on seven carries and a touchdown. Ernest Blackshear rushed six times for 88 yards and a score. Khyon Gillespie needed just three carries to have a big day, rushing for 77 yards and touchdowns of 29 and 45 yards. Kymanni Dennis contributed nine carries for 59 yards and a score. Starting quarterback Roman Purcell also got in on the action with three rushes for 13 yards and a score.

The defense also put in an incredible performance in the win, contributing two of Monroe's eight touchdowns and a season-high five takeaways. Linebacker Sverri Finsson provided two interceptions, while Xavier Marquez had a pick-six for the first score of the day. Manny Azolin scored after a long return on one of Finsson's touchdowns. Donnell Adams also had an interception for the Mustangs. Monroe also recovered a fumble after punching the ball out on a kickoff return.

After both teams punted on the first two drives of the day, the Mustangs got on the board on Sacred Heart's second drive after Marquez returned an interception 29 yards to the house to put the Mustangs up, 7-0, just over four minutes into the game.

Monroe forced another punt on the next drive and then set the tone on the first play of the Mustangs' next possession. Blackshear rumbled down the Mustangs' sideline for a 59-yard run to set up 1st-and-goal for Monroe. Three plays later, Purcell kept it himself and walked into the end zone untouched to double the lead at 14-0.

Three plays into the Pioneers' next chance, Finsson grabbed a tipped ball out of the air for his first interception of the season. Set up at Sacred Heart's 45, Blackshear opened the drive with a five-yard run, and then Purcell made the only pass completion of the day, a 15-yard reception by Wayne Davenport, to push the ball down the field. Purcell then rushed for 10 yards, setting up Blackshear to hit paydirt from 15 yards out to make it a 21-0 game with 3:35 still remaining in the first quarter.

The Mustangs managed to get it back one more time in the first quarter, and were able to once again score before the quarter was over. After a three-yard run to start the drive, Gillespie found space for a 29-yard rushing touchdown to make it 28-0.

The Pioneers had their first long drive of the day going into the second quarter. After driving down to Monroe's 29, Thomas Hurley Jr. was picked off the Finsson at the 25-yard line. As Finsson was returning the ball, he kept the return going by lateraling to Azolin at the 37-yard line, where he had the blocking to make his way all the way down the field and into the end zone for the return touchdown, leaving the Mustangs up, 35-0, early in the second quarter.

The Pioneers were able to move the ball once again on the next drive, taking advantage of a pair of pass interference penalties by the Mustangs to reach the goal line. Adian Sacco punched it in for a four-yard score to make it a 42-7 game with 3:39 left before halftime.

The Mustangs got the ball first in the second half, but if you blinked, you may have missed it. After Blackshear returned the kickoff to Sacred Heart's 47, Gillespie took it the rest of the way on the first play of the series, juking and jiving for a 47-yard score to immediately push the lead to 49-7.

The Mustangs came away with another takeaway on the next drive, with Adams picking off Sacco at Monroe's eight-yard line. The Mustangs went into clock-killing mode from there, as they and the Pioneers traded punts on the next two possessions.

Early in the fourth, the Mustangs completed an eight-play, 62-yard drive with a three-yard touchdown run by Dennis, making it a 56-7 game with Monroe's final score of the day. The Pioneers managed to score one more time on their final drive of the day, though the Mustangs blocked the extra point to hit the eventual final score of 56-13.

Antoine Joseph led the Mustangs with 10 tackles on the day, adding a pass breakup and a tackle for loss. Jonathan Kamto made nine tackles, including two tackles for loss, in the win. Jonathan Pierre had Monroe's only sack as part of his six tackles on the afternoon. Jonah Kurker broke up two passes in the win.

In comparison to Monroe's 342 rushing yards, the Mustangs held the Pioneers to 106 yards on the ground on 48 attempts (2.2 yards per carry). The Mustangs held a 357-176 advantage in total yards of offense despite running just 39 plays on offense compared to 69 for the Pioneers.

The undefeated Mustangs will look to keep it that way next Saturday, Nov. 13, when they host Hocking College at Joseph F. Fosina Field in New Rochelle. Kickoff is scheduled for 12 p.m.


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