Chattanooga, TN (Sports Network) -
Monmouth, which went 10-1 and claimed a second straight Northeast Conference title, accepted The Sports Network Cup, emblematic of the top FCS Mid-Major program. The Hawks, who garnered 19 of 24 first-place votes and 235 total points in the final balloting conducted among FCS Mid-Major sports information directors and selected media members, become the first NEC representative to win the Sports Network Cup since Sacred Heart won the hardware in its inaugural season of existence (2001).
The Hawks finished the season with a seven-game winning streak and possessed a flair for the dramatic all year. After defeating St. Peter?s (44-3) and La Salle (34-15) to start the season, the Hawks completed their first of three last-second victories. Wide receiver Tim Hiltwine came down with a 32-yard reception on a tipped ball on the final play of the game in a 29-27 win against Robert Morris. A loss to Stony Brook followed, but Monmouth responded with tough wins against Wagner (14-7), Albany (25-24, on a last-second field goal) and Georgetown (27-10). Ranked No. 3 in the country, Monmouth hosted No. 2 Central Connecticut State in a showdown on October 30. With the score tied, 6-6, placekicker Steve Andriola nailed a 29-yard field goal as time expired for a third victory on the final play. The Hawks moved to No. 1 in The Sports Network Mid-Major Top 10 with the win, and held the position with home victories against Sacred Heart (28-10) and St. Francis (PA) (49-39). The win against St. Francis also wrapped up the NEC championship for head coach Kevin Callahan?s team.
Monmouth used a great balance between run and pass to average 27.2 points per game on offense. Quarterback Brian Boland (1,643 yards, 12 TDs) led the charge, with wide receiver Miles Austin (47 receptions, 859 yards, 9 TDs) the beneficiary of many of the yards and touchdowns. Joe Migliore (738 yards, 9 TDs) led the rushing attack, and Andriola (12/19 FG) made the big kick on numerous occasions.
The solid defensive unit held opponents to 16.5 points per game and forced 22 turnovers. Without a true superstar on the squad, the Hawk defense was led by seven players that finished with more than 40 tackles. Defensive back Matt Hill (86 tackles, 4 INTs) led the team in tackles and interceptions, with Mike Castellano (71 tackles, 13.5 TFL, 4.5 sacks), Nick Castellano (81 tackles) and Dan Blazosky (56 tackles) also turning in huge seasons.
Drake, which defeated Morehead State, 20-17, on November 20 to win the Pioneer League championship, finished second in the final poll with five first-place votes and 220 total points. The Sports Network FCS Mid-Major Top 10 poll includes the 18 programs of the MAAC, NEC and Pioneer Football League, which play at a non-scholarship or limited scholarship level. An updated poll is announced each Monday during the regular season.