Monmouth looked every bit like a contender for the Big South Conference football title on Saturday night, pulling away from Charleston Southern in the second half for a 35-13 win at Buccaneer Field.
The Hawks improved to 6-2 overall and 3-0 in the Big South heading into next week’s showdown with two-time defending league champion Kennesaw State.
CSU (2-6, 0-2) plays at Gardner-Webb next week.
Monmouth running back Pete Guerriero ran for 221 yards on 22 carries, with 161 coming in the second half. Quarterback Kenji Behar threw for 194 yards and three touchdowns as the Hawks rolled up 539 total yards.
For the Buccaneers, after showing marked improvement across the board in recent games, Saturday night was a step backward. The offense again struggled to convert drives into touchdowns, managing just two field goals from Alex Usry for the first three quarters.
“You have to call it what it is, it’s disappointing,” CSU coach Autry Denson said. “The one thing we’ve been doing is we come out and fight and play with a lot of heart. We’ve sort of been living on borrowed time. We know we have to find ways to get the ball in the end zone.”
CSU had run the football well in last week’s win over North Alabama but was limited to only 77 yards through three quarters. Quarterback Jack Chambers led the Bucs in rushing with 92 yards and scored CSU’s lone touchdown. Nearly 60 of his yards came in the fourth quarter. Chambers also completed 24 of 39 passes for 231 yards.
“In today’s game, it’s hard to nickel and dime your way to six points,” Denson said. “You need explosive plays. You make those plays, it’s a different game.”
Monmouth needed only five plays on its first possession of the game to put points on the board. Bahar connected with Terrance Greene on a 36-yard pass with 12:20 left in the first quarter.
As has been the case all too often for the Buccaneers this season, Usry provided the only points of the first half for CSU, booting field goals of 33 and 27 yards. The second kick came after CSU failed to score after having first-and-goal from the 10-yard line. Usry has made 10 consecutive attempts and has 12 field goals this season.
With 5:23 left in the second quarter, Bahar found Shawn Clark on a 12-yard touchdown toss, giving Monmouth a 14-6 halftime advantage. Bahar finished the half with 131 passing yards.
The Hawks put the game away with a dominating third-quarter performance, rolling up 206 yards and scoring two touchdowns. Devell Jones made it 21-6 with a 4-yard run, capping an 88-yard drive. Behar threw his third touchdown pass of the game, an 8-yarder to Clark, for a 28-6 advantage after three quarters.
Guerriero had 104 of his rushing yards on six carries in the third quarter. Down 35-6 in the fourth, Chambers scored on a 24-yard run with 4:01 remaining in the game, providing the final margin.
“They are a good team, and they take advantage of their opportunities and make plays when they are there,” Denson said of Monmouth.
Linebacker J.D. Sosebee led CSU’s defense with 14 total tackles. Shaundre Mims had three sacks and Darin Smalls had his third interception of the season.
On another special teams note, CSU senior punter Kyle Reighard booted a 53-yard punt in the second quarter. It was Reighard’s 30th career punt of at least 50 yards, a Big South Conference record.
“Got to take your hat off,” Denson said. “That was a really good Monmouth team. That was a pretty good butt-whipping they put on us tonight. What I do know, those guys in there (locker room), how we respond to this is going to be everything, and we will come back from this. Back to the drawing board.”