First, a pat on the back
At the beginning of the year I was ultra confident in MY/OUR Holy Cross Crusaders. The prediction has been 100000% accurate as they plowed through the Patriot League to an 11-0 undefeated regular season. They got a first round bye, defeated the UNH Wildcats 35-19, and now face off against the #1 team in the country in the South Dakota State Jackrabbits. This is a tall task, but we must all rally for this one. Before we dive in.....Let’s get hyped.
All or nothing.#GoCrossGo pic.twitter.com/ufibybm3Kb— Holy Cross Football (@HCrossFB) December 6, 2022
Chills? I’d run through a brick wall for this man and this team. (He’s also just at hot as HCMF, just saying)
Enter the Jackrabbits....
A team that is currently 11-1, with the sole loss coming at Iowa in barn burner to open the year. The Jackrabbits fell 7-3 (2 safeties and a FG for Iowa lol) and then played great the rest of the year. They took down powerhouse North Dakota State by 3 and eviscerated Delaware by 36 points last week. They are led by Chicago’s own Mark Gronowski at QB and have dynamic twin brothers in Jadon and Jaxon Janke leading the way at WR. They also have the full force of Applebees behind them, which is alarming to say the least...
Looks like I have to buy another gift card for @jaxonjanke. I don’t want him left out this Christmas. #partnership #applebees pic.twitter.com/AEVZsNF2tY— Mark Gronowski (@mgronowski11) December 5, 2022
They are a well coaches and incredibly talented team and this will be a massive upset.....but Holy Cross isn’t flying to South Dakota to just mess around.....
This year has been nothing short of astonishing. The Crusaders have ascended to a legit top 5 team in the country, which is a looooong climb from when yours truly was running down on kickoff team. They are led by one of the top QBs, OL, and defenses in the FCS. They will lean on their run game with quarterback Matt Sluka and running back Peter Oliver leading the charge. Oliver is a moose behind this OL and Sluka is the top rushing QB in the nation.
FCS Playoff Second Round— FCS Football (@FCS_STATS) December 3, 2022
No. 8 seed Holy Cross (12-0) 35, New Hampshire (9-4) 19
QB Matthew Sluka: 3 total TDs
RB Peter Oliver: 30 carries, 175 yards, 2 TDs
Crusaders set program mark with 12th win, will face SDSU or Delaware in national quarterfinal
On top of that, look for Jalen Coker to be the top WR threat for the crusaders. He would be starting at ND this year......for reasons you will see below... 2 Hail Mary walk off TDs in massive moments? Sign me up for that on top of 11 TDs this year....
#FCSThrowback WR Jalen Coker (@jalencoker) scores the game-winning TD against Sacred Heart to give Holy Cross (@HCrossFB) their 1st ever win in the FCS Playoffs pic.twitter.com/so4AllEnPK— The Bluebloods (@The__Bluebloods) August 6, 2022
HOLY CROSS HAIL MARY FTW! pic.twitter.com/zjQpIvRxJ9— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 11, 2022
They will also need to continue the dominance of their special teams, which has more blocked punts than Brian Mason and the Irish. Imagine that? Devon Haskins and the full unit are menaces...
#FCS Holy Cross senior Devon Haskins has blocked a punt in fourth straight games, returning one against Lafayette 14 yards for a touchdown on Saturday.— FCS Football (@FCS_STATS) October 23, 2022
The only other #FCS player with four blocked kicks this season is Jihad McCall of Morehead State.
And Finally, the defense. They have been without projected NFL Draft Pick Jacob Dobbs, but have picked it up elsewhere. They have 2 NFL prospects in LB Liam Anderson and CB John Smith. They will need to force turnovers to keep this one close.
The Jackrabbits are the best team Holy Cross will have faced all year, and the best FCS team they will have played probably in the last 10-20 years. This is also the best Holy Cross team of my life (by a long shot). So what to predict? As Lee Corso would say...
GIVE ME HOLY CROSS 27 SDSU 24.
Finally, I have appreciated the love and support OFD nation has shown the Crusaders over the last few years. You have embraced my writing about them and I APPRECIATE you all for just letting me do this. I’ll see you all on Saturday on ESPN. LETS GO
ESPN. Saturday. 12 p.m. ET.#GoCrossGo pic.twitter.com/gNmVMJzzlw— Holy Cross Football (@HCrossFB) December 4, 2022