Holy Cross Wraps Up 2011 Season

C.J. Martin

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Crusaders Post Seventh Straight Winning Season
Holy Cross finished the 2011 campaign with an overall record of 6-5, to post a winning record for the seventh year in a row. The Crusaders concluded the 2010 season with an overall mark of 6-5, after going 9-3 in 2009 (marking only the ninth time in the school history the team has won at least nine games). Holy Cross previously went 7-4 in 2006, 2007 and 2008, and its 42-25 mark over the last six seasons is its best in a six-year span since going 42-23-1 from 1989-1994. Holy Cross also posted a winning record in 2005 (6-5), and has an overall mark of 48-30 since the beginning of the 2005 campaign. The last time the Crusaders posted a winning mark in seven straight seasons was from 1986-1992. Holy Cross is one of only 12 football championship subdivision teams in the nation with at least seven straight winning seasons, along with Appalachian State, Drake, Harvard, Jacksonville State, James Madison, McNeese State, Montana, Montana State, New Hampshire, Northern Iowa and South Carolina State.

A Tough Slate
Holy Cross faced the fourth-hardest schedule in the NCAA football championship subdivision this season, according to the latest NCAA statistics. The 11 teams which the Crusaders played this year had a cumulative record of 63-44, good for a .589 winning percentage. Only Lafayette (.613), Missouri State (.600) and Villanova (.598) faced harder schedules, but none of those schools finished with a winning mark. Four of the Crusaders' five losses this year came against teams with winning records: New Hampshire (8-3), Brown (7-3), Georgetown (8-3) and Lehigh (10-1). Holy Cross' only other loss came to Massachusetts (5-6), while it had victories over Harvard (9-1) and Bucknell (6-5).

Defense Has Strong Season
The Holy Cross defense had an outstanding year in 2011, holding the opposition to just 20.0 points and 342.4 total yards per game. That marks the fewest points per game the Crusaders have allowed since 1992 (15.9 points per game), and the fewest yards per contest they have given up since 2006 (335.4 yards per game). On Nov. 5, Holy Cross held Lehigh to just 14 points and 394 total yards, well below their averages of 37.1 points and 491.0 yards entering the game. Previously at Bucknell, the Crusaders limited the Bison to just 146 yards of total offense, 13 points and eight first downs. At one point during the second half, Holy Cross held Bucknell to three-downs-and-out on six consecutive possessions. The 146 total yards were the fewest the Crusaders had allowed since giving up only 65 yards to Georgetown on Sept. 2, 2007, while the eight first downs were the least by a Holy Cross opponent since Georgetown had only seven first downs on Sept. 5, 2009.  In addition, the Crusaders totaled six quarterback sacks during the contest against Bucknell, their most in a single game since posting six sacks against Fordham on Sept. 30, 2006.

Senior Salute
Holy Cross had 23 seniors who played in their final career game at Fordham on Nov. 19. The members of the Holy Cross senior class were tailback Matt Bellomo (Holliston, Mass.), tailback Francis Camara (Reading, Pa.), offensive guard Kyle Cannon (Southington, Conn.), cornerback Chandler Fenner (Virginia Beach, Va.), offensive guard Andrew Jameson (Brockton, Mass.), wide receiver Josh Jenkins (Maywood, Ill.), free safety Cav Koch (Dallas, Texas), linebacker C.J. Martin (Plano, Texas), wide receiver Clinton McCabe (Poughkeepsie, N.Y.), offensive tackle Mike McCabe (Watertown, Conn.), wide receiver Charles McCall (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.), defensive end Ryan McGinn (West Chester, Pa.), defensive tackle Eric Oldiges (Taylor Mill, Ky.), linebacker Ricky Otis (Cleves, Ohio), punter Corey Page (Tampa, Fla.), tight end Alex Schneider (Inver Grove Heights, Minn.), quarterback Ryan Taggart (Bedford, Texas), placekicker Paul Tearson (Austin, Texas), linebacker Jimmy Thomas (Severn, Md.), quarterback Mark Tolzien (Rolling Meadows, Ill.), quarterback Kevin Watson (Belle Mead, N.J.), center Sean Whited (Canton, Ohio) and tight end Mike Wright (Quincy, Mass.). These 23 players were recognized prior to the start of the final home game against Lafayette on Nov. 12, along with team managers Ashley Alebiose (Stamford, Conn.), Billy Bellerose (Shrewsbury, Mass.), Tatiana Senat (Norwalk, Conn.) and Joe Tutino (Taunton, Mass.). The Crusader seniors led the team to a 28-17 record over the last four seasons, including the 2009 Patriot League championship and a trip to the 2009 NCAA playoffs.

Taggart Shines At Quarterback
Senior quarterback Ryan Taggart just finished his second year as the starter for the Crusaders. In 11 games played this year, he connected on 268 of 430 passes for 2,948 yards and 17 touchdowns with seven interceptions, in addition to ranking second on the team in rushing with 496 yards and seven scores on 132 carries. During the season finale at Fordham, Taggart connected on 24 of 37 attempts for 334 yards and three touchdowns, in addition to rushing for 63 yards and a score on 18 carries. Previously at Bucknell, he completed 32 of 58 attempts for 380 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Taggart also had a huge game against Dartmouth, rushing 23 times for a career-high 176 yards, and completing 29 of 41 passes for 250 yards and two touchdowns. He set a new school single-game record for the most rushing yards by a quarterback against the Big Green, breaking the mark set by Jack Lentz against Richmond in 1964 with 173 yards. Earlier in the season at New Hampshire, Taggart completed 40 of 57 passes for a career-high 412 yards and two touchdowns, in addition to rushing for 55 yards and two scores on 12 carries. With that performance, he placed third on the Holy Cross single-game lists for both completions (40) and yards of total offense (467), while ranking ninth for passing yards (412). Taggart also played well in the win over Harvard, hitting on 22 of 35 passes for 320 yards and a touchdown, while rushing for 34 yards and a score on nine attempts. Last year, Taggart connected on 185 of 317 passes for 1,899 yards and 14 touchdowns, in addition to ranking second on the team in rushing with 284 yards and five scores on 85 carries. During his career with the Crusaders, he completed 455 of 749 passes for 4,850 yards and 31 touchdowns, in addition to rushing for 787 yards and 12 scores on 220 carries.

Balanced Group Of Wide Outs Excel For Holy Cross
The Crusaders had a number of outstanding weapons in the passing game this year, and they all recorded career games at some point during the 2011 season. Junior wide out Gerald Mistretta (Brooklyn, N.Y.) had six catches for a career-best 136 yards and a touchdown at New Hampshire, then posted a career-high 12 receptions for 103 yards and a score against Dartmouth. Overall in 2011, Mistretta caught 60 passes for 723 yards and six touchdowns, to lead the team in all three categories. Sophomore wide receiver Mike Fess (Caldwell, N.J.) set career-highs by catching 11 passes for 95 yards and a score at New Hampshire. On the year, Fess ranked second on the team with 45 receptions for 417 yards and two scores. Sophomore wide out Kyle Toulouse (Arlington, Va.) posted a career-high 13 receptions for a career-best 110 yards at New Hampshire, tying for second place on the school single-game list for most catches. Overall this season, Toulouse stood third on the squad with 40 catches for 472 yards and three touchdowns. Sophomore wide out Jon Smith (Matawan, N.J.) had a career-high four catches for 43 yards against UMass and three receptions for a career-high 51 yards at Bucknell, while sophomore wide receiver Nate Stanley (Euclid, Ohio) added career-highs of nine catches and 109 yards at Bucknell. Smith totaled 23 catches for 274 yards and one touchdown this season, while Stanley had 18 receptions for 216 yards on the year.

Crusaders In The Patriot League
Having just concluded its 26th season of play in the Patriot League, Holy Cross owns an all-time record of 81-63 (.563) in conference action. The Crusaders won their last conference championship in 2009, clinching the title with a 28-26 victory over Lafayette to earn the league's automatic bid to the NCAA playoffs. Holy Cross' six Patriot League championships (all of them outright) have come in 1986, 1987, 1989, 1990, 1991 and 2009. The Crusaders are tied for the second-most championships in conference history, behind only Lehigh with nine titles. In 2009, Holy Cross won five Patriot League games for just the fourth time in school history. The Crusaders previously went 5-1 in 2008, while posting 5-0 conference records in 1990 and 1991.

Trio Of Seniors Lead Linebackers
Senior linebackers C.J. Martin, Ricky Otis and Jimmy Thomas were all key parts of the Holy Cross defense in 2011. Otis led the team with 97 tackles this season, including four sacks and 10 tackles for loss. During the season finale at Fordham, he led the team with 11 total tackles and two quarterback sacks. Otis previously totaled a season-high 12 tackles with a sack an interception and a pass breakup at Lehigh, while recording 10 tackles with two tackles for loss against Massachusetts. He also finished with nine tackles against Brown, New Hampshire, Colgate and Lafayette. In 2010, Otis led the team with 108 total tackles and earned first team All-Patriot League honors, despite missing two games due to injury. He reached double-figures in tackles six times in 2010, including a career-high 17 tackles at Lafayette. Over the course of his Holy Cross career, Otis had 232 total tackles, 12 tackles for loss, two fumble recoveries and seven pass breakups. Martin ranked third on the team with 71 tackles this season, including four sacks. He had a season-best 11 tackles against Georgetown, while recording nine tackles and a sack at New Hampshire, nine tackles and an interception against Lafayette and four tackles with two sacks at Bucknell. Martin ranked second on the team with 95 total tackles in 2010, including 61 solo stops and two tackles for loss. He recorded double-digit tackles four times in 2010, with a high of 18 tackles at Massachusetts. Over the course of his collegiate career, Martin recorded 199 tackles, seven tackles for loss, three interceptions and three pass breakups. Thomas totaled 59 tackles, five tackles for loss, an interception and two pass breakups this year. He had 10 tackles, one tackle for loss and a 60-yard interception return for a touchdown against Colgate, while finishing with 10 tackles, two tackles for loss and a pass breakup at Brown. Thomas previously recorded 35 tackles with five tackles for loss in 2010, after totaling 67 tackles, nine tackles for loss and four sacks in 2009. Over the course of his Holy Cross career, Thomas has 163 tackles, 19 tackles for loss and five sacks.

Fenner & Mannix Stand Out In Secondary
Senior cornerback Chandler Fenner and junior strong safety Tom Mannix (Kenilworth, N.J.) both enjoyed strong seasons in the Holy Cross secondary. In 11 games played this year, Fenner recorded 68 tackles, two interceptions, two forced fumbles and a team-high 14 pass breakups. During the Lafayette game, he recorded three tackles, an interception and two pass breakups. Previously at Bucknell, Fenner totaled eight tackles with a sack and a pass breakup. Some of his other top games this season were against New Hampshire (12 tackles and a forced fumble to set up the game-tying touchdown in the fourth quarter), Brown (10 tackles, three pass breakups), Harvard (seven tackles, one interception, two pass breakups), Dartmouth (six tackles, one forced fumble) and Massachusetts (four tackles, three pass breakups). In 2010, Fenner earned first team All-Patriot League honors after finishing with 58 tackles, one quarterback sack, two tackles for loss, four pass breakups, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a blocked punt. Over the course of his Holy Cross career, Fenner totaled 158 tackles, two interceptions, four forced fumbles and 18 pass breakups. Mannix ranked second on the team with 87 total tackles this year, to go along with three forced fumbles, an interception, a fumble recovery and 10 pass breakups. During the Lehigh game, he recorded a career-high 12 total tackles with a forced fumble. Earlier in the season, Mannix had eight total tackles and an interception against Dartmouth; made 11 tackles with a forced fumble and a pass breakup against Massachusetts; and totaled 10 tackles, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a pass breakup at New Hampshire. During his career with the Crusaders, he has now totaled 138 tackles, two interceptions, four forced fumbles and 16 pass breakups.

Taggart Climbs The Charts
Even though he was only Holy Cross' starting quarterback for two seasons, senior Ryan Taggart placed his name among the school's all-time leaders in a number of statistical categories. He finished his time with the Crusaders ranked third in career completion percentage (.607); fourth in career pass efficiency rating (125.1); sixth in career passing yards (4,850), career completions (455), career pass attempts (749) and career yards of total offense (5,637); and seventh in career passing touchdowns (31). With his performances in 2011, Taggart also placed fourth in single-season completions (268) and single-season pass attempts (430); fifth in single-season completion percentage (.623) and single-season yards of total offense (3,444); seventh in single-season passing yards (2,948); and eighth in single-season touchdowns responsible for (24).

Head Coach Tom Gilmore
A two-time Patriot League Coach of the Year (in 2006 and 2009), Tom Gilmore just concluded his eighth season as the head football coach at Holy Cross in 2011. He has guided the Crusaders to an overall record of 51-38 during his time at Holy Cross, including a 48-30 mark since the beginning of the 2005 campaign. In 2009, Gilmore led the Crusaders to an overall record of 9-3, the Patriot League championship and a trip to the NCAA playoffs. A finalist for the 2009 Eddie Robinson Award, Gilmore has led the Crusaders to winning records in seven straight seasons, including 7-4 marks in 2006, 2007 and 2008, along with winning streaks of six games (in 2008) and five games (in 2006 and 2009). Two of Gilmore's players, Dominic Randolph (2007, 2008 and 2009) and Steve Silva (2005), have been named the Patriot League Offensive Player of the Year, with Silva earning first team All-America honors. Gilmore has also led the Crusaders to four victories over ranked opponents, three of which came in 2009. Prior to his time at Holy Cross, Gilmore served as an assistant coach at Lehigh (2000-2003), Dartmouth (1992-1999), Pennsylvania (1986, 1990-1991) and Columbia (1987-1989). An Academic All-American at Pennsylvania, Gilmore graduated in 1986 with a bachelor's degree in computer mathematics. He was the Ivy League Player of the Year as a senior and helped lead the Quakers to four consecutive Ivy League titles.

Football Legends Ring Of Honor Inducts Second Class
The athletic department at the College of the Holy Cross recognized four former football standouts on Sept. 1, 2011, as the second class of the Crusader Football Legends Ring of Honor. George Connor (1942-1943), Bruce Kozerski (1980-1983), Jon Morris (1961-1963) and Joe Wilson (1970-1972) were honored in a ceremony prior to the UMass game, and received permanent recognition at Fitton Field. Only former Crusader football players who have been elected to the Holy Cross Varsity Club Hall of Fame are eligible for this honor, which is an annual event each fall. In 2010, the inaugural class in the Crusader Football Legends Ring of Fame included, Gill Fenerty (Class of 1986), Gordie Lockbaum (Class of 1988), Edmund Murphy (Class of 1943), Bill Osmanski (Class of 1939), Vince Promuto (Class of 1960) and John Provost (Class of 1975).

Tradition Of Excellence
The 2011 campaign marked the 116th season of Holy Cross football. The Crusaders currently own an overall record of 605-477-54, good for a .556 winning percentage. Prior to the start of the 2011 season, Holy Cross' 599 all-time victories ranked as the 16th most among all Division I-AA schools. Holy Cross has had 31 first team All-America selections, sent 69 players on to professional football, won five Lambert Cups, claimed six Patriot League championships, and was named the Division I-AA Team of the Year in 1987. The Crusaders also played in the 1946 Orange Bowl, losing to host Miami on the game's final play.

Holy Cross In The NCAA Statistics
Six Crusaders were ranked among the NCAA leaders in various statistical categories, at the conclusion of the regular season. As a team, Holy Cross ranked fifth in the nation in punt return coverage, 10th in first downs and 19th in scoring defense. The rankings:

Category Rank Player / Team Avg. / Pct.
Punt Return Coverage 5 Holy Cross 2.8
Passes Defended 7 Chandler Fenner 1.5
  35 Tom Mannix 1.0
Total Offense 8 Ryan Taggart 313.1
  30 Holy Cross 400.9
First Downs 10 Holy Cross 22.2
Completions 12 Ryan Taggart 24.4
Fewest Penalty Yards 14 Holy Cross 40.4
Fewest Penalties 15 Holy Cross 4.8
Passing Yards 15 Ryan Taggart 268.0
  20 Holy Cross 268.0
Scoring Defense 19 Holy Cross 20.0
Points Responsible For 27 Ryan Taggart 13.1
Field Goals 28 John Macomber 1.2
Forced Fumbles 28 Tom Mannix 0.3
Pass Efficiency Defense 28 Holy Cross 115.6
Quarterback Sacks 29 Mike Tucker 0.8
Receptions 33 Gerald Mistretta 5.5
Pass Efficiency 48 Ryan Taggart 129.7

Crusaders Among League Leaders
Several Holy Cross players ranked at or near the top of the Patriot League standings in a number of statistical categories, at the end of the regular season. Senior quarterback Ryan Taggart led the way by ranking second in the league in passing yards (268.0 yards/game) and total offense (313.1 yards/game), while standing fourth in pass efficiency (129.7 rating). Junior wide receiver Gerald Mistretta stood third in the conference in both receptions (5.5 catches/game) and receiving yards (65.7 yards/game), while sophomore placekicker John Macomber (Vienna, Va.) ranked third in field goals (1.2 made/game) and fifth in scoring (5.6 points/game). In addition, sophomore cornerback Andrew Zitnik (Warren, Ohio) stood third in kickoff returns (22.5 yards/return), senior punter Corey Page (Tampa, Fla.) ranked third in punting (37.5 yards/punt), sophomore wide out Mike Fess was fourth in receptions (4.5 catches/game) and junior tailback Eddie Houghton (Toronto, Ontario) stood fifth in rushing (50.6 yards/game). As a team, Holy Cross led the league in passing defense (195.2 yards/game); while standing second in total offense (400.9 yards/game), passing offense (268.0 yards/game), pass efficiency (129.4 rating), pass efficiency defense (115.7 rating) and net punting (35.7 yards/punt); and ranking third in total defense (342.4 yards/game) and kickoff returns (21.2 yards/return).

Defense Steps Up In The Red Zone
The Holy Cross defense has turned in some of its top performances of the 2011 season once the opposing team reaches the red zone. Overall this year, Crusader opponents moved the ball inside the 20-yard line 42 times, and scored only 19 touchdowns. Holy Cross forced the opposition to attempt 16 field goals (10 of which were made), caused three turnovers (two interceptions and one fumble) and stopped the other team on fourth down three times. The Crusaders overall percentage of allowing the opposition to score just 69.0 percent of the time once reaching the red zone ranked 15th in the nation.

Defending The Home Turf
Holy Cross has enjoyed great success at Fitton Field over the years, and had a 4-2 mark at home in 2011. The Crusaders, who played their first game at Fitton Field in 1903, have posted an all-time home mark of 367-169-27 (.676). From Oct. 11, 2008-Oct. 9, 2010, Holy Cross had a streak of 13 straight victories at home. The Crusaders had a perfect 6-0 mark at Fitton Field in 2009, and finished the 2011 campaign with a winning record at home for the sixth straight season. Fitton Field is the second-oldest stadium still used for Division I college football, behind only Franklin Field at the University of Pennsylvania (opened in 1895).

The Captains
Holy Cross had three captains during the 2011 football season. Senior offensive tackle Mike McCabe, senior linebacker Ricky Otis and senior quarterback Mark Tolzien were named the team's captains by head coach Tom Gilmore following the conclusion of spring practice. These three players took over the leadership role from Anthony DiMichele, Sean Lamkin and Freddie Santana, who served as the Crusaders' captains during the 2010 season.

Crusaders Bring In Academic Honors
Two Holy Cross players were honored this season for their performance both in the classroom and on the football field. Senior offensive tackle Mike McCabe (Watertown, Conn.) was selected as a semifinalist for the 2011 William V. Campbell Trophy, presented by the National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame to the top scholar-athlete in the nation. McCabe and sophomore placekicker John Macomber were also both named to the Capital One / CoSIDA Academic All-District first team. This marked the third straight season that McCabe made the Academic All-District squad.

Crusaders On The Radio
All of Holy Cross' games in 2011 aired on WTAG 580 AM and 94.9 FM in Worcester. Holy Cross Hall of Famer Bob Fouracre was in his 42nd season calling the play-by-play for Holy Cross football, and his 26th year covering the Crusaders on the radio. Former Holy Cross standouts Tom Kelleher and Gordie Lockbaum served as color commentators for selected games this season. All of the Crusaders' games were also available free of charge through Stretch Internet. In addition, WCHC 88.1 FM, the Holy Cross student station, carried a number of games this year.

Holy Cross On Television
The Crusaders had five games shown on live television during the 2011 season. Here is a look at Holy Cross' television schedule from the 2011 campaign:

Sept. 1 vs. Massachusetts: CBS Sports Network
Sept. 17 vs. Harvard: Charter TV3
Oct. 15 vs. Dartmouth: Charter TV3
Nov. 5 at Lehigh: Service Electric
Nov. 12 vs. Lafayette: Lafayette Sports Network

The Holy Cross Football Show
Every Tuesday during the season, head coach Tom Gilmore was joined by Bob Fouracre for the Holy Cross Football Show. The show aired live from 1:00-1:30 p.m. exclusively on the internet, with archives of all the shows available to those who could not listen in live. To listen to the archives of the Holy Cross Football Show, click here.

Crusader Vision
Live video streaming of several 2011 Holy Cross regular season home football games was available over the internet through Crusader Vision. The package, done in association with Stretch Internet, was available for $8.95 per game. For more details on Crusader Vision, click here.

Quick Hits
Sophomore placekicker John Macomber connected on 12 out of 15 field goal attempts this season, to tie the school single-season record of 12 field goals made (which had been done five other times) ... Junior tailback Eddie Houghton carried the ball 15 times for a career-high 153 yards and two touchdowns during the season finale at Fordham. He also scored twice during the Lafayette game, and finished the year as the team's leading rusher with 506 yards and four touchdowns on 86 carries ... Sophomore linebacker Mike Tucker (Chester Springs, Pa.) recorded four total tackles and three quarterback sacks during the victory over Bucknell. He led the team with nine sacks on the season, while totaling 27 tackles ... The Holy Cross defense recorded four quarterback sacks during the Nov. 5 game at Lehigh. The Mountain Hawks had previously allowed only eight total sacks in their first eight games of the season combined ... During the Oct. 29 game against Georgetown, the Crusaders wore pink shoelaces as part of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month ... Senior quarterback Ryan Taggart had a school-record streak of 209 consecutive passes thrown without an interception from Oct. 23, 2010-Oct. 1, 2011 ... In the victory over Colgate on Sept. 10, the Holy Cross offense averaged 7.8 yards per play, and did not punt once the entire game ... During the season-opening game against Massachusetts on Sept. 1, a total of 15,942 fans showed up at Fitton Field. That marked the largest home attendance for the Crusaders since Oct. 20, 1990, when a crowd of 17,848 was on hand to watch Holy Cross defeat Lehigh 34-22 ... Holy Cross was picked third in the 2011 Patriot League preseason poll of the conference's head coaches and sports information directors, behind Lehigh and Colgate ... In three of the last four years, the Holy Cross football team has received an NCAA Division I Academic Progress Rate Public Recognition Award, for posting multi-year APR scores in the top 10 percent of all football squads in the nation.