Daily Record Sports Editor Donnell Coley gives his thoughts on Campbell's first-place showdown with Monmouth over the weekend.
BUIES CREEK — A tie early in the second quarter was the closest Campbell would get to Big South Conference-leading Monmouth during Saturday's 34-17 home loss.
The Camels' (3-3, 2-1) three-game win streak came to an end after the Hawks (4-3, 3-0) out-gained them 454 yards to 401 overall, and 168 to 87 on the ground.
Campbell football coach Mike Minter was less concerned with his group's effort following the loss as he was with the talent gap between the two teams.
"Our guys played with effort, but their guys made plays, man," Minter said with a smile during the postgame Zoom call with local media.
"I think my guys played hard, but they just ain't good enough yet."
Here's three takeaways from the Camels' first loss in league play this season.
Unlike the previous three wins, a recurrent theme for a lackluster Camels performance on offense was an inability to perform deep inside Monmouth territory.
CU quarterback Wiley Hartley found some success in between the 20s, throwing for 314 yards on 19-of-37 passing, but saw the offense stall and have to settle for field goals throughout the contest.
Isaac Riffle connected on a 24-yard field goal with 7:28 to play in the second quarter to tie things at 10.
But the make was sandwiched by three other missed attempts that Minter felt could have changed the trajectory of what was a two-possession contest through most of the second and third quarters.
The third quarter saw Camels running back Bryant Barr convert a fourth-and-2 play from the Monmouth 14, but the team's second missed field goal of the day salted away a chance to dig into the deficit.
"They stopped us every red zone opportunity," he said. "We got three points out of those opportunities. You can't win the game like that."
Campbell entered the game as the nation’s leader in turnover margin, but committed three while forcing just one Saturday.
The miscues began on the Camels' first possession when a fumble on the first play from scrimmage eventually resulted in a 39-yard field goal that Monmouth used to extend its early lead to 10-0.
Just before Riffle's game-tying field goal in the second, Campbell defensive end Brevin Allen knocked the ball loose from Monmouth quarterback Tony Muskett and Chris Cromartie scooped it up.
But Hartley ended with a pair of interceptions that ultimately swung the momentum to the visitors' side.
"Turnovers are important. The team who wins the turnover battle normally wins the football game," Minter said.
"The plays were there to be made in the passing game and I think our DBs got to step up and make them. Their DBs did, our DBs didn't."
A bright spot all season for the CU offense has been the weekly exploits of talented wideout Caleb Snead.
A fourth-and-4 play from the Monmouth 43 with just over five minutes left in the first saw the Camels get their first points. Hartley found Snead on a short slant to the left and the big-bodied speedster carried it home, cutting the deficit to 10-7.
Snead's score gives him at least one in all six contests this season, a Big South Conference record, while also tying the school record for career TD receptions. The 6-foot-4 senior finished with six receptions for a game-high 178 yards.
The Camels host Kennesaw State Saturday, with homecoming kickoff set for 4 p.m.
Donnell Coley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (910) 230-2040.