The stigma for most sports teams is that the hardest games of the season come when traveling long distances to opposing teams’ stadiums. Head coach Jay Accorsi and the Rowan football team, however, have flipped that script completely on its head, winning all of their games on the road in 2023.
On Oct. 28, 2023, for the first time since the 2012 season, The Profs went into Sprauge Field and beat the Montclair State Red Hawks 21-14, improving their road record to 3-0 and their overall record to 3-5.
The maturity and growth of freshman quarterback Nate Maiers was on full display in this game. He was uber-efficient, completing 11 of his 14 passes for 161 yards and three touchdowns.
“We’re more settled now then we were in previous games; Nate Maiers has come along great for someone that last year was playing against high school students,” Accorsi said.
The first touchdown of the game came when the Maiers dropped back to pass, and while absorbing a big hit from a Red Hawks’ defender, delivered a strike to junior Kevin Degnan down the right sideline for 76 yards.
“In terms of his personality and work ethic, he plays just like a senior,” Degnan said. “You never see him phased, he’s always relaxed and it’s been a pleasure to see him grow week-to-week.”
After Montclair State tied the game, Maiers found the hero against The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) Shane Martin for a 20-yard touchdown, a play where Martin shook multiple defenders to make the score 14-7 with 52 seconds left in the first half.
“Maiers is a student of the game and very mature for his age,” Accorsi said. “He has shown a lot of poise, especially for someone who’s been thrown into tough situations throughout the season. He’s shown everyone he can handle adverse situations.”
The Profs’ defense was dominant, which is nothing new for the 2023 version of Rowan football. Before the end of the second quarter, Montclair State’s offense got inside the five-yard line with two seconds left on the clock. On fourth down, the Red Hawks’ head coach Mike Palazzo trusted his offense to get into the end zone to tie the game instead of kicking a field goal.
The gamble wouldn’t pay off, as they handed the ball off to running back Henry Lewis and star freshman defensive lineman Carter Williams tackled him short of the goal line to force a turnover on downs.
To open up the second half, Rowan’s kick returner KaRon Laws ripped an 82-yard return to set up the Profs’ offense for an instant goal-to-go situation.
Maiers took full advantage of the field position, finding Degnan again for a seven-yard touchdown where he bulldozed a Red Hawks’ defender to extend the lead to 21-7. Degnan ended his day with four catches for 86 yards and two touchdowns.
Coach Accorsi has noticed all the big plays Degnan has made throughout the season thus far.
“He’s very dynamic, powerful, and fast which gives him the ability to break a long play at any time,” Accorsi said. “It’s been a growing year for him, so it’s been nice to see him get better each game.”
The play of the game was made by senior defensive back Miles Cook. After Montclair State scored a touchdown late in the fourth quarter to cut the Profs’ lead to 21-14, the Red Hawks got another possession with a chance to complete a game-tying drive with 1:49 remaining in the fourth quarter.
On the second play of the drive, Cook dove in front of a Red Hawk receiver to secure his first interception of the year and seal up the win.
“On the play it was simply me playing my assignment and knowing what I needed to do,” Cook said. “I felt the need to make a play at that point in the game with how much time was left, and it felt great to seal the game like that.”
Overall, the Profs’ defense forced five turnovers throughout the game, which led to Accorsi hailing praise on the unit for not just their performance on Saturday, but their outstanding play throughout the season.
“The defense has played well all year long,” Accorsi said. “We knew coming into the year that we were gonna lean heavily on the defense since there’s more returning veterans on that side of the ball. In that aspect, they’ve played very well.”
It all came together for the Profs in this one, as the defense was dominant once again, and the offense was consistent throughout the game for the first time since Week 2 against McDaniel College. With a 2-2 record in New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) play, and with two games remaining in the season, the clock is ticking for coach Accorsi and company to make a potential playoff run.
Up next for Rowan is a trip to Alumni Stadium in Union, New Jersey on Nov. 4, 2023, where they will take on the 0-8 Kean Cougars.