It’s been a rollercoaster ride this season for the Rowan football team.
They currently stand at 5-4 and are gearing up to host New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) rival Kean University this Friday night in the season finale. Rowan sits in sixth place in the conference with a 4-4 record.
It’s safe to say that wins have been hard to come by as of late for the Profs.
After upsetting Wesley College two weeks ago on Homecoming, Rowan has lost two straight. This past Saturday at conference foe Montclair State, Rowan failed to score a single point through the first 52:37 of the game.
While the Red Hawks had questionable play calling towards the end of the game, passing it instead of running the ball and eating up clock with a four-touchdown lead, Rowan was trying to mount a comeback.
However, their efforts fell short, falling 28-14 to the Red Hawks. On their first 11 drives of the game, Rowan went scoreless.
While the defense suffered against the Salisbury University triple-option offense last week, the Red Hawks’ offense was more well-balanced. Out of their 73 total plays, 41 were pass plays and 32 were rushing plays. Rowan was able to get some pressure on Montclair quarterback Ja’Quill Burch, but not enough to alter their attack.
Meanwhile, Rowan’s spread offense had no magic of its own, as starting quarterback Nicholas Couzzi was erratic with his throws, couldn’t effectively read the defense and was replaced briefly by Riley Giles. On defense, Montclair utilized a lot of single-high safety (cover 1) schemes, as did Rowan a bit, to throw off both Rowan quarterbacks’ timing. Despite that, Profs receiver Elijah Rehm had no trouble getting open, notching another fantastic game.
Rehm was targeted nearly 10 times by both quarterbacks combined, had 104 receiving yards, 158 all-purpose yards and a touchdown on the day on five catches and two punt returns. Midway through the fourth quarter, Giles found Rehm on an out route, as he went on the split-end for a 73-yard score to make it 28-6. He also converted the team’s lone two-point-conversion attempt after junior corner Nate Lanier’s 42-yard interception, which went the other way for six just 25 seconds later.
Rowan halfback John Mannion was unable to find any big gaps or any type of success on the day, as he only had 43 rushing yards and finished the day with 3.1 yards per-carry.
Rowan’s defense was no answer all day for the Red Hawks. They employed a lot of single-back sets and Burch was accurate enough to bypass the lack of Rowan’s aggressiveness or overeager approach. On defense, Rowan’s zone defense wasn’t enough, as Montclair turned short passes into significant gains.
Rowan blitzed and was able to get good pressure off the line yet were unable to ever take down Burch. Burch’s evasiveness was one of the biggest keys in the win for Montclair. On the day, he had four touchdown passes, despite two poorly-thrown interceptions. Three out of his four touchdowns were by 13 yards or less (1 yard, 3 yards and 13 yards). On the final one, making it 28-0 Montclair at one point, Burch found receiver Carsen Johnson on a three-yard slant.
Rowan was especially defeated and clearly a step behind in red zone territory and on defensive quarterback pressure. Couzzi wasn’t as fast as Burch, so he was unable to avoid the constant A-gap and B-gap pass protection breakdowns. Rowan’s offensive line found themselves unable to stop the likes of Brandon Burdge and Dominic Ferrara.
Joe DiBari had the only other turnover forced alongside Lanier; an interception with 2:25 remaining in the first half.
With the win, Montclair is now 7-2 on the year, including 6-2 within the NJAC, good enough for third place.
This Friday, Rowan will host the Kean University Cougars, for a 7 p.m. kickoff on Military Appreciation Night. Kean is just 1-8, including 1-7 versus NJAC opponents. Nicholas Couzzi will be the starting quarterback for Rowan.
It will be the last game for all three Rowan co-captains Anthony Diorio, Kevin Stokes and Travelle Curry.
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