2019 Football Monmouth

Mason Matthews


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FLORENCE, Ala. — Riding the momentum of back-to-back wins, and coming off an open date, the University of North Alabama football team will try and continue its current streak on the road Saturday as the Lions face Monmouth at Kessler Stadium in West Long Branch, N.J.

Kickoff is set for noon Central and the game will be broadcast on WLX Radio (98.3 & 103.5) and carried on ESPN3.

Monmouth was ranked 12th in the nation in pre-season FCS polls and has won its last two contests as well to improve to 5-3 on the season. The Hawks are receiving votes in the latest AFCA poll. Their three losses have been to Middle Tennessee State, Holy Cross and Princeton. Monmouth is unbeaten at 4-0 in the Big South Conference standings and tied for the league lead with Kennesaw State.

“Monmouth is a very good football team and they have one of the top quarterbacks that we will face this season,” said UNA head football coach Chris Willis. “They are very sound, very well coached, and they fit in the mold of the ranked teams that we played to open the season.”

The Hawks are averaging 31 points per game and 370 yards of total offense.

Quarterback Tony Muskett has thrown for 1,788 yards and 16 toiuchdowns, with Lonnie Moore as his primary target. Moore has 52 catches for 556 yards and three scores.

Running back Juwon Farri has picked up 689 yards and scored eight touchdowns.

Willis said his team is refreshed after the bye weekend.

“We needed the rest, and I think it helped as much mentally as it did physically,” he said. “We reported back and practiced Sunday night and everyone was motivated and ready to go.”

UNA has a stretch run of three games remaining on its 2021 schedule, beginning with the two teams tied at the top of the league standings in Monmouth and Kennesaw State. The Lions will then close the season at Hampton.

The North Alabama offense has begun to click in recent weeks, scoring 31 or more points in each of its last four games with quarterback Rett Files directing the attack. That run includes a school FCS era best 45 points in the Lions’ last game against Charleston Southern.

For the season, Files has now thrown for 1,088 yards and 11 touchdowns in his four starts.

The Lions have limited turnovers in recent weeks and senior punter Joe Gurley continues to perform at a high level with a 44.4-yard average.

On the defensive side, UNA forced five turnovers against Charleston Southern with three interceptions and two fumble recoveries.

The only previous meeting between North Alabama and Monmouth was in New Jersey in 2019, with the Hawks winning 49-38.

Down 35-10 in the second half, UNA rallied for four touchdowns over the final two periods, but it wasn’t enough as the Lions fell to 19th ranked Hawks. UNA lost two turnovers in Monmouth territory and failed to convert on a fourth down try near midfield in the first half, but only trailed 14-7 at intermission. The Lions then lost a fumble deep in their own territory in the third quarter as the Hawks offense got rolling for four second half TDs.  UNA quarterback Christian Lopez completed 24 of 36 passes for 383 yards and three touchdowns, ran for another score and caught a TD pass. The Lions finished with 445 yards of total offense but lost three turnovers and turned the ball over on downs twice in their own territory.

North Alabama does not have a road win since November 16, 2019 in the season-finale at Gardner-Webb. The Lions won that game 34-30. The Lions lost all three of their 2020 road games against FBS opponents Liberty, Southern Mississippi and BYU. This season UNA has lost road games at Jacksonville State, Nicholls State and North Carolina A&T.


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