Montclair State overcomes FDU-Florham, 25-15, as DiStefano totals 350 yards
Madison, NJ – D-3 teams Montclair State and FDU-Florham played this past Friday night for the first time in 22 years, and the visiting MSU Red Hawks overcame a surprising first half FDU lead with RB John DiStefano totaling 350 yards of offense and scoring three TDs to give Montclair State a 25-15 win in the season opener for both teams. With the win, the Red Hawks still carry the best all-time record in Collegefootballfan.com history in all divisions remaining undefeated with a 13-0-1 record. For Montclair HC Rick Giancola, it was the 231st win of his career as HC of the Red Hawks as he enters his 34th season.
The Montclair State Red Hawks took an early 7-0 lead on a short pass hauled in by RB John DiStefano who raced downfield fighting off Red Devil tacklers for a 70-yard touchdown in the first. Frank Schneeberger tacked on three more points to the MSU lead with a 32-yard FG conversion early in the second period. However, The FDU Red Devils put up more of a fight than we figured starting with a nine-yard out pass from QB Joe McCain to RB Marquis Wright out of the backfield. On the conversion, back-up QB Robert Madison stood up pivoted around and raced for the right pylon in the end zone for a two-point conversion. More trickery followed on the ensuing kickoff as PK Nick Maciejewski tapped the ball forward ten yards before recovering it on the 47 to retain possession for the Red Devils. The result of the chicanery was a scoring drive capped by a 24-yard touchdown pass from to 6-6 frosh WR John Pellegrini to give FDU Florham the lead at the half, 15-10.
Montclair fumbled the ball away on its first possession of the second half, but after taking a punt and starting from the 26, DiStefano struck like lightning again. On the first play, he swerved and juked as the Devils missed him with several poor arm tackles to take it all the way for a 74-yard TD run. A two-point try failed, but MSU retook the lead, 16-15. On the evening, the senior from Red Bank Catholic set his MSU career-highs carrying 26 times for 184 yards, had a 70-yard TD reception, and averaged 25.5 yards on two kickoff returns. Late in the third, a snap from center for FDU sailed over the punter’s head and through the end zone for a safety to add to the Montclair lead heading into the final period, 18-15.
The resulting punt put Montclair at the FDU 49. The Red Hawks scored quickly as the rain intensified from a light mist to a steady downpour as DiStefano ran it in from two with 13:23 left in the game to make the final score, 25-15, in favor of Montclair (1-0). Red Hawk defensive tackle Chris DePalma caused a Devil fumble at the MSU 35 that was recovered by DE Joe Falato with 3:52 left. Montclair ran out the clock to seal the victory. The Red Hawk defense held FDU to -21 yards rushing.
The first half was competitive as both teams seemed to shake out the cobwebs to enter the season, but as the game wore on, play got sloppy with blatant penalties (MSU – 122 yards; FDU – 82 yards) , numerous injury time-outs, poor pass protection primarily by FDU, as well as the aforementioned poor tackling. I wondered if that is a result of limited tackling in practice. I also wonder if pass blocking suffers from limited hitting in practices as well. A game with no media time-outs whatsoever, lasted about 3 hours and 25 minutes.
FDU (0-1) plays another Friday night game at Robert T. Shields Field in Madison next weed hosting Widener University in its first Middle Atlantic Conference Freedom game. All remaining games will be against MAC conference rivals. Montclair starts its New Jersey Athletic Conference schedule with a trip to play Salisbury in Maryland next Saturday. Collegefootballfan.com headed to Annapolis, Maryland for the second week in row to see Navy (1-0) open its American Athletic Conference schedule against the UConn Huskies (1-0).