Billy Fitzpatrick ’20
The Holy Cross football team (1-2) kicked off its 2019 season with a win book-ended by two defeats in the opening weeks of the season. After falling to Navy on the road in the season opener, the Crusaders responded with a tight win over New Hampshire in the home opener. However, head coach Bob Chesney’s team could not sustain the momentum after a bye week, with Holy Cross falling to Yale on the road last weekend.
Holy Cross made the journey down to Annapolis, Md., to take on FBS foe Navy to open the season on August 31. The Midshipmen (2-0 overall, 1-0 AAC) put on an expectedly dominant display, topping HC 45-7. Navy relied on its patented running game to tire out the Crusader defense and control tempo, with lead tailback Nelson Smith compiling 96 yards and three touchdowns on 15 carries for Navy.
The hosts jumped out to a 17-0 lead by the second corner, but Holy Cross senior running back Miles Alexander scored on a 16-yard touchdown run to cut into the deficit. However, Navy snuck in another score seconds before halftime to take a 24-7 advantage into the locker room. In the second half, the Navy rushing attack proved too much for the overmatched visitors, rushing for a whopping 428 yards and controlling the ball for 36:05 of game time.
Holy Cross first-year linebacker Jacob Dobbs was named the Patriot League Rookie of the Week for his performance against Navy, in which he racked up a game-high 13 tackles in his collegiate debut.
The Crusaders returned home and managed to turn the tide against New Hampshire in Week 2 of the season, squeaking out a dramatic 13-10 comeback victory in the home opener. The first half saw both teams struggle to find a rhythm offensively, with a 28-yard Derek Ng field goal for the Crusaders the only thing separating the sides at the break. UNH tied the game with a field goal going into the fourth quarter, but Ng converted a 20-yard try early in the final frame to regain the lead for HC.
New Hampshire took its first lead when sophomore running back Carlos Washington scored the game’s first touchdown on a 19-yard run with 6:52 remaining. The Crusaders then took over down by four with the ball on their own 22-yard-line. Junior quarterback Connor Degenhardt marched Holy Cross down the field, getting as far as the UNH nine-yard line. Needing a touchdown to take the lead, HC went for it on 4th-and-eight, but the UNH defense stopped sophomore receiver Jack Jewell on the two-yard-line, just short of a first down.
On the following play, with New Hampshire needing to eat up the final two minutes of game time, sophomore linebacker Liam Doran forced a fumble from UNH’s Washington. With both teams scrambling to grab hold of the loose ball, sophomore defensive back Joe Lang scooped it up in the back of the end zone to give the Crusaders a 13-10 edge. Senior defensive back Chris Riley picked off a UNH pass on the ensuing possession, and the HC defense thwarted a desperate Hail Mary attempt on the final play of the game to seal the comeback win.
Doran earned Patriot League Defensive Player of the Week for his pivotal forced fumble (to go along with five tackles and one tackle for loss), while Ng was named Patriot League Special Teams Player of the Week.
After a bye week, the Crusaders traveled to New Haven, Conn., to take on Ivy League opponent Yale last weekend. The Bulldogs (1-0) topped Holy Cross 23-10 behind a strong performance from senior quarterback Kurt Rawlings. After Yale scored on a two-yard-run in the first (but missed the PAT), a 34-yard field goal from Ng in the second quarter made it a three-point game going into halftime.
In the third, Rawlings found senior wideout Caden Herring for a 24-yard score to go up 13-3. HC answered early in the final period when Degenhardt linked up with senior receiver Tenio Ayeni for a 27-yard touchdown pass, bringing Holy Cross back within a field goal. However, that was the closest the Crusaders would come to securing a second straight comeback win. Rawlings punched in a score from three yards out on the following period, and Yale tacked on a field goal later on to put the game out of reach.
Senior punter Cody Wilkinson earned Patriot League Special Teams Player of the Week honors for his performance against Navy, the second consecutive week a Crusader won the award. Wilkinson punted eight times against Yale with an average punt of 48.6 yards, breaking a single-game school record that dated back to 1991.
Holy Cross travels to upstate New York to take on Syracuse, its second FBS opponent of the season, this Saturday at 12:00 p.m. The Orange (2-2 overall, 0-1 ACC) have fallen to Maryland and No. 1 Clemson this year, but will be a huge test for the Crusaders.