Holy Cross, which captured its third-straight Patriot League crown last fall, secured the 18th position while the University of Rhode Island tied with the University of Richmond for the 24th spot.
The Crusaders concluded its 2021 campaign with 10 wins – they also captured the program’s initial postseason victory against Sacred Heart University. Additionally, Holy Cross scored its first football bowl subdivision win in its season-opener last September against the University of Connecticut.
Chesney’s extension was announced this morning by Holy Cross Director of Athletics, Kit Hughes.
“I could not be happier with this process and the opportunity to reaffirm the College’s commitment excellence for Holy Cross Athletics,” Hughes said in a statement. “Under Coach Chesney’s leadership, our Crusader student-athletes have achieved new heights in the classroom, community, and field of competition.”
In four seasons with the Crusaders, Chesney has guided the Purple and White to 25 wins, along with three Patriot League titles and three appearances in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) postseason. Additionally, he led the Purple and White to its first-ever postseason win last November with a come-from-behind win against Sacred Heart University.
Holy Cross has improved every season under Chesney since his initial campaign in 2018 when the Crusaders placed second in the Patriot League with a 4-2 record while registering single-season records with seven blocked kicks, six blocked punts, and four blocked punts returned for touchdowns.
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.
Saturday will be a special day for either Holy Cross or Sacred Heart University.
The two teams secured a date in the opening round of the 2021 NCAA FCS Playoffs with the winner advancing to the second round next Saturday, December 4 against Villanova University.
Neither team has won a postseason contest, but this is certainly not the first time either school has competed in the playoffs.
Holy Cross, which is making its sixth appearance in the postseason, has lost three first-round matchups, a quarterfinal meeting with Western Carolina, and their first and only trip to the Orange Bowl in 1946 to the University of Miami.
Sacred Heart has made three trips to the playoffs and dropped a pair of first-round contests to Fordham University in 2013 and 2014. This past spring, the University of Delaware outlasted the Pioneers, 19-10.
Both teams captured their respective conference title this fall – the Patriot League for Holy Cross and Northeast Conference (NEC) for Sacred Heart – and boast identical six-game winning streaks, which began last month.
Holy Cross appears to be the “favorite” in this matchup – currently, the Crusaders are ranked 24th in the latest FCS Coaches Poll with the 10th best rushing attack (the team is averaging 217.7 yards per game). Additionally, their defense is very good. The Purple and White have forced 24 turnovers, including 18 interceptions, which is the second-most in the FCS behind Austin Peay with 19 and held opponents to 76.6 rushing yards per game.
Linebacker Jacob Dobbs was named the Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year, while coach Bob Chesney earned the conference’s Dick Biddle Coach of the Year award (Dick Biddle was previously an assistant and coach of the Colgate University football team). Both are also being considered for national awards.
Holy Cross quarterback Matthew Sluka, who was named the Patriot League Rookie of the Year this past spring, has tallied 23 touchdowns this fall, including a team-high 13 scores on the ground. He will certainly be a player to watch, along with halfback Peter Oliver and linebacker Liam Anderson.
The most intriguing matchup to watch on Saturday is the Holy Cross rushing defense against Sacred Heart’s Malik Grant, who led the Northeast Conference with 1,288 yards on 226 carries and nine touchdowns. He is currently averaging 117.09 yards per game and one of 12 FCS halfbacks to rush for 1,000 yards or more this season.
In addition to Grant, fans should keep an eye on halfback Julius Chestnut, who only played four times this fall, but is gaining attention from NFL scouts. The Bowie, Maryland native has rushed for 100 yards or more in three contests while locating the end zone three times.
Holy Cross has won a pair of meetings against Sacred Heart with their last win coming in 2009 when the Crusaders won nine games like they did this fall.
The two teams will meet on Saturday, November 27 at Fitton Field in Worcester with kickoff scheduled for 12 p.m. The winner will advance to the second round to compete against fifth-ranked Villanova University.
“It’s exciting to be one of the 24 teams left playing,” said Sacred Heart coach Mark Nofri. “We’re excited to be in the FCS Playoffs. Holy Cross is a great draw, they’re one of the best schools in the Northeast and the entire country.”
Saturday’s home playoff game will be the first for Holy Cross since they hosted Western Carolina in the NCAA Division I AA playoffs on December 3, 1983. The Catamounts beat the Crusaders, 28-21, and advanced to the national championship, but lost to coach Ray Dempsey’s Southern Illinois Salukis by a score of 43-7.
Holy Cross has competed in the NCAA FCS Tournament four times with their last three trips, including this spring ending with first-round setbacks. Sacred Heart is seeking its first postseason victory in program history.
“I know our guys will be fired up and ready to play,” said Nofri. “We have quite a few guys from Massachusetts on our team and we look forward to the challenge of playing up there.”
Holy Cross has won the last two meetings with the Pioneers, including a 52-21 victory in 2009. Quarterback Dominic Randolph concluded the game with four touchdowns, including two on the ground.