Saturday was a historical day for the Holy Cross football team.
The Crusaders won their first-ever postseason contest by rallying to defeat Sacred Heart University, 13-10, in the opening round of the 2021 NCAA FCS Tournament.
With the win, Holy Cross snapped a five-game losing streak in the “second season,” which includes a trio of first-round setbacks to secure a date with Villanova University on Friday, December 3 in the second round. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Holy Cross erased a 10-3 deficit during its final two series with a 38-yard field goal by Derek Ng and a 35-yard touchdown pass from Matthew Sluka to Jalen Coker, which provided the hosts with their first and only lead. Sluka’s touchdown was reviewed, but not reversed — the go-ahead score occurred with 14 seconds remaining in the final session.
Sluka concluded the contest with 171 passing yards on 13 of 19 attempts to go with a game-high 90 yards on 23 carries. Peter Oliver added 15 yards on three carries while Coker led all receivers with five receptions for 103 yards.
Sacred Heart’s Rob McCoy provided the Pioneers with a 7-0 lead early in the first quarter when he capped a 10-play, 75-yard drive with a five-yard score. Holy Cross would counter late in the second with a 23-yard field goal by Ng before Sacred Heart added to its lead with a 33-yard field goal from Noah Gettman with 12:09 remaining in the final stanza.
McCoy led the Pioneers’ rushing attack with seven carries for 62 yards while quarterback Marquez McCray registered 137 yards of total offense, including 78 passing yards.
Holy Cross accumulated 288 total yards of offense on 56 plays compared to Sacred Heart, which finished with 236 yards on 56 plays.
Like Holy Cross, Sacred Heart was seeking its first-ever playoff victory, but today’s loss sends the Pioneers to 0-4 in the postseason, including 0-3 against teams from the Patriot League (Fordham University beat the Red and White in back-to-back seasons in 2013 and 2014).
Sacred Heart concludes its 2021 campaign with eight wins while Holy Cross scored its 10th victory, which is the most a Purple and White squad has accumulated since posting an 11-0 record in 1991.
Holy Cross has never competed in the second round of the FCS Tournament but did appear in the quarterfinals in 1983 when they lost to Western Carolina.
Villanova has won 13 of 22 meetings with Holy Cross, including a first-round matchup in 2009 when the Wildcats defeated the Crusaders, 38-28. The Purple and White’s last win over the Wildcats occurred in 1989.