FCS First-Round Playoff
The Matchup – Holy Cross (7-5, 5-1 Patriot League) at Monmouth (10-2, 6-0 Big South)
Kickoff – Noon ET at Kessler Stadium in West Long Branch, New Jersey
Coverage – ESPN3
Series – Monmouth leads 2-1 (last meeting: Monmouth won 48-36 in Worcester, Massachusetts, on Oct. 7, 2017)
Coaches – Holy Cross: Bob Chesney (12-11, two seasons; 79-36 overall); Monmouth: Kevin Callahan (162-123, 27 seasons)
3 Players to Watch – Holy Cross: QB Connor Degenhardt (2,361 passing yards, 19 total TDs), RB Domenic Cozier (1,056 rushing yards, 7 TDs), LB Jacob Dobbs (82 tackles, 6 sacks); Monmouth: QB Kenji Bahar (3,262 passing yards, 32 total TDs), RB Pete Guerriero (1,668 rushing yards, 16 total TDs), LB Da’Quan Grimes (89 tackles, 3 forced fumbles)
The Skinny – Holy Cross started 1-3 against a strong nonconference schedule before finishing the regular season with wins in six of its final eight games. Cozier surpassed 100 rushing yards in all five Patriot wins and received the league’s offensive player of the year award for the champs. In the last two seasons, the Crusaders have rallied to win six times after trailing by 10 or more points. FS Chris Riley has five interceptions and seven pass breakups. Big South champion Monmouth is 6-0 at home and outscored opponents 334-137 while winning its final eight games of the regular season. Bahar, who passed for 324 yards and three touchdowns in the 2017 win at Holy Cross, has rewritten the school record book, including career marks for passing yards (9,220) and TD passes (68). Guerriero, the leading rusher in the FCS, surpassed 200 yards in three of the final five games of the regular season. CB Anthony Budd has five interceptions and a fumble recovery.
Up Next – The winner will play at No. 2 seed James Madison (11-1) in the second round Dec. 7.
Prediction – Both teams are seeking their first-ever postseason win. Holy Cross was hardened out of league, but Monmouth’s offensive explosiveness is a difference maker. Monmouth, 27-21.