Saturday, September 10, 2016

DiStefano Carries Football Past FDU-Florham in Opener, 25-15

Photo Courtesy of Montclair State Athletics
Madison, NJ – Senior JOHN DISTEFANO accounted for 305 all-purpose yards and scored three touchdowns as Montclair State shut down FDU-Florham in the second half and rallied for a 25-15 win at Robert T. Shields Field on Friday evening.

Junior linebacker NICK CATALANO had seven tackles and two sacks, spearheading a tremendous defensive effort in the second half as the Red Hawks scored the final 15 points and winning their season-opener for the first time since 2011. Montclair State is now 46-35-5 in its season openers all time.

DiStefano set new career-highs for rushing yards and all-purpose yards. The senior carried 26 times for 184 yards, had a 70-yard TD reception and averaged 25.5 yards on two kickoff returns. His 305 all-purpose yards were the most by an MSU player since Ryan McCoach (vs. Western Connecticut) and Rahson Moore (vs. Cortland) put up 254 yards in 2006 and 1999, respectively. He fell five yards short of matching Leroy Horn's 1985 record of 310 against Jersey City State.

The third all-time meeting between MSU and FDU-Florham, and the first in 22 years, resembled that of the other two contests in 1993 & 1994 – dominating defense in the closing quarters and late scores providing the difference.

The Devils (0-1) led 15-10 at halftime but managed just 27 yards in the final 30 minutes as the Montclair State offense and defense each stepped up their games. The Red Hawks regained the lead for good on its second possession of the third quarter. DiStefano accounted for all of it with a 74-yard touchdown run putting MSU in front 16-15 with 12:02 left.

Later in the period, a Catalano sack put the Devils at their own 19 yardline. That play proved important as a bad snap on a punt went out of the end zone for a safety extending the MSU lead to 18-15 with 2:38 to go in the third.

Montclair would capitalize on the free kick getting great field possession at the FDU 49. RYAN ADZIMA hisJAEDON STEPHENS for 15 yards on third down moving the ball to the FDU 36. JULANEE PRINCEhauled in a 19 yard catch the FDU 11 on the final play of the third. A pass interference penalty on the Devils on third down gave the Red Hawks the ball at the FDU 2. DiStefano rumbled into the end zone on the next play for a 25-15 lead with 13:23 to play.

Defensive tackle CHRIS PALMA ended any chances of a comeback late in the fourth with a sack-fumble at the MSU 35 that was recovered by JOE FALATO with 3:52 left. Montclair then ran out the clock withANTHONY TRAVISANO accounting for 28 yards.

DiStefano jump-started Montclair State in the first taking a pass from Adzima and racing 70 yards for the first score of the game with 9:47 remaining. FRANK SCHNEEBERGER added to the lead three plays in to the second, connecting on a 33-yard field goal.

FDU-Florham answered with a 13-play, 75-yard drive on the ensuing possession which ended with Joey McCain hitting Marquis Wright on a nine-yard touchdown pass. Robert Madison ran in for the two-point conversion as FDU cut the lead to 10-8 with 9:07 to go before halftime.

The Devils then surprised MSU with an on-side kick that it recovered at its own 48. Three third-down conversions kept the drive alive and the Devils moved in front 15-10 as McCain connected with John Pellegrini for a 24-yard touchdown with 4:53 left.

Travisano finished with 50 yard rushing as MSU amassed 227 yards on the ground in the game and finished with 362 overall. Adzima, making his collegiate debut was 7-of-18 for 135 yards. Rahmein Herrin,VINCENT CORDASCO and Palma each had five tackles with Falato adding four, including two sacks.

FDU-Florham totaled 202 yards of offense but was a minus-21 rushing on the ground.

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