SMITHFIELD, R.I. – For the second-straight week the Bryant University football team's late rally fell short as Monmouth held on for a 21-18 victory on Saturday afternoon at Bulldog Stadium.
The Hawks (6-5) held a 21-3 lead at the half but the Bulldogs (4-7) dominated the second half to pull within three and had the ball at the Monmouth 1 but could not capitalize. MU has now won five of the six all-time meetings between the two schools.
Down by three with 12:26 to play in the fourth quarter, the Bryant defense was able to stop MU on a third-down run and force a punt. Taking over at their own 24, the Bulldogs preceded to march down the field. Senior quarterback Mike Westerhaus (Farmingville, N.Y.) started the drive with a completion to sophomore Chad Ward (Delray Beach, Fla.) but the Black and Gold eventually found themselves in a third-and-24 situation after a holding call. Westerhaus, however, found Ward again, this time for 48 yards down the sideline to put the ball at the MU 19. He then hit classmate Jordan Harris (Lincoln University, Pa.) for 15 yards to put the ball on the MU 4 but the Bulldogs were unable to punch it in. The Hawks stopped back-to-back run plays before Harris made a remarkable one-handed catch in the back of the endzone on third down. The catch was overturned, however, as Harris was called for offensive pass interference. Two plays later, the Bulldogs missed an opportunity to tie the game as a 30-yard field goal attempt sailed left.
Bryant opened the scoring on its first drive of the game, driving 41 yards in 13 plays before senior Tom Alberti (Marshfield, Mass.) knocked down a 38-yard field goal. Westerhaus connected with sophomore Jose Depadua (Hagerstown, Md.) three times on the drive.
The game totally changed on the next series. Bryant's defense forced the Hawks into a fourth-and-14 but they made contact with the punter on the ensuing kick to give them an automatic first down. On the very next play, Brandon Hill hit his tight end Mike McLafferty for 52 yards to put the ball at the Bryant 11 and then found him again in the corner of the endzone for a touchdown to make it 7-3.
Monmouth kept the momentum going as it forced the Bulldogs to punt and then blocked the punt. Tevrin Brandon blocked the punt right off the foot of junior Sam Sammons (Cypress, Texas), recovered it and returned it 18 yards to make it 14-3. The Hawks tacked on one more score before the half was over, driving 71 yards in 10 plays. Julian Hayes carried the ball four-straight times, finally breaking free for a 23-yard touchdown run to make it 21-3 with 3:48 left in the half.
Bryant's defense and offense came to play in the second half, however, and turned the game around. Senior Dale Codrington (Brooklyn, N.Y.) picked up a big sack to halt a Monmouth drive at the Bryant 25 and junior Jeff Covitz (Reading, Mass.) sacked hill on a third-and-two to get the Bulldogs the ball back with 4:54 left in the third quarter.
The Bulldogs' offense used that momentum to find the endzone. Westerhaus hit Harris for 18 yards to start the drive, a roughing the passer call put the ball inside the MU 15 and sophomore Ryan Black (Joppa, Md.) did the rest as he made three tacklers before diving the ball across the goal line to cut the deficit to 21-10.
Bryant's defense stopped the Hawks again before the quarter expired and set up another long drive. Taking over at their own 18, the Bulldogs preceded to drive 82 yards in just nine plays. Westerhaus connected with junior Tyriq DeShields (Camden, N.J.) for 12 yards on third-and-8 and then hit Harris for eight yards on a third-and-4 to keep the drive alive. Two plays later, junior Michael Perry (Dunmore, Pa.) broke free for 35 yards to put the ball at the MU 11 and Westerhaus connected with Harris in the corner of the endzone on the very next play to make it 21-16. The Bulldogs went for two and converted as Westerhaus hit Depadua in the back corner of the endzone to make it 21-18 with 12:31 left to play.
That was as close as the Bulldogs would get, however, as they were unable to convert on their next drive. The Black and Gold ran 77 plays to Monmouth's 57 and totaled 23 first downs on the afternoon. Bryant put up 365 yards of total offense and held the Hawks to 239 yards. Westerhaus set career highs for completions (27) and attempts (44) and threw for 264 yards. Ward finished with six catches for 96 yards, Harris caught six for 76 yards and Depadua caught four for 38 yards. Defensively, freshman Marquise Watson (Hillside, N.J.) finished with a career-high 11 tackles and Covitz added four tackles, two sacks and three tackles for a loss. With the three tackles for a loss, Covitz has tied the single-season program record of 19 set by Ben Wellington in 2002. Covitz's 10 sacks are the second most in a single season in program history.
Prior to the game, the Bulldogs honored their 26-member senior class. This class has accounted for 22 victories over the past four seasons.
Bryant wraps up the 2013 season next Saturday, Nov. 23 when it travels to New Britain, Conn., to take on Central Connecticut. Kickoff is scheduled for 12:00 p.m.