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Pollard leads Monmouth into important game
A Monmouth University football player was introduced to a reporter this week as, “The electric Mitchell Pollard.”
The Hawks hope the sparks will be flying again at 1 p. m. today from the feet of Pollard, the No. 2 pass reception leader in the Northeast Conference, when Monmouth (2-3, 1-1) jumps back into NEC play for the balance of the season at Bryant (4-2, 2-1).
With 32 catches, the sophomore also leads the league in receptions per game (6.4), and has also proved dangerous on kickoff and punt returns.
“We try to get the ball in his hands in a number of different ways,” Monmouth coach Kevin Callahan said. “He has some explosiveness and the ability to make big plays.”
Pollard sailed 56 yards on a punt return two weeks ago to set up the first score of the game vs. Robert Morris.
The return was the longest of his career and the third longest in Monmouth history.
“We knew he had the ability to return kicks ansd figured we’d get him into the mix there,” Callahan said. “He didn’t do a lot of that last year which was more for him about learning and becoming comfortable with the offense and the system. Now in his second year, his role is expanding.”
In the Robert Morris game, Pollard recorded a career-high 10 catches for 88 yards, the first Hawk player to record 10 catches since Adam San Miguel did it in 2006.
The fearless, 5-9, 175 pound sophomore does considerable damage catching balls over the middle.
“I take pride in just being able to do everything,” he said. “Being an all-around receiver, being able to go over the middle, run the ball if they need me to, just be all around.”
Pollard said the experience he gained in 2010 when as a true freshman when he topped Monmouth in yards-per-catch (15.6) has proved invaluable.
“I came into camp (this year) as one of the more experienced receivers, that was a little bit different,” Pollard said. “I had (to make) that adjustment to becoming a leader of the receiving corp.”
Monmouth quarterback Kyle Frazier leads the No. 3 passing offense in the league (218 yards per game).
Callahan said Bryant’s effectiveness against the run (No. 3 in the NEC) may lead the Hawks to attempt to air it out early and often.
“I would anticipate us really trying to get the ball to the perimeter in the run and maybe even throwing a little more to start with because they do pack it in and make it hard for teams to run against them,” Callahan said. “They play a lot of man-to-man coverage, a lot of one-on-one situations and hopefully with Mitchell, Neal (Sterling), and our other receivers, we can create some mismatches where we can win.”
Defensively Monmouth safety Jose Gumbs, who blocked a punt last year vs. Bryant, is coming off a blocked a PAT last week for the second straight game in addition to his nine tackles and pass breakup.
Callahan did not understate what today’s game means to his team.
“Obviously, we have one loss,” he said. “It’s important we don’t get another one.”
“It’s a huge game,” Pollard said. “We’re still in the race to be the best team in the NEC and potentially get that (NCAA playoff) bid. That’s all we want to do, get that bid, and get that ring.”
by Tony Graham, Asbury Press