Undefeated Holy Cross secure 8th seed and a first-round bye in the FCS playoffs

WORCESTER — The undefeated Holy Cross football team celebrated their well-deserved 8th seed and first-round goodbye for the playoffs of the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS ). for the tournament selection show, but the hilarity was short. HC players had their scheduled lift and were excited to get back to work.

“That’s how we run our program,” said junior quarterback Matthew Sluka. “That’s what we do.”

On Saturday, Sluka rushed for a career-high 301 yards and three touchdowns to lead Holy Cross to a 47-10 victory in Georgetown that capped an incredible regular season. For the first time since 1991, the Crusaders went 11-0, a mark certainly worthy of a place in the playoff top-8, the next step in HC’s national rise.

“The momentum just keeps building,” said coach Bob Chesney, “and I think that’s what’s exciting about this program.”

Holy Cross meets the winner of the first-round game between Fordham and the University of New Hampshire at Fitton Field on December 3 at noon.

HC defeated their Patriot League opponent Fordham 53-52 in overtime on October 29 in one of the most memorable games of the year. It is the first time since 2015 that the PL has received two bids.

UNH shared the CAA regular-season title with William & Mary.

Preparation for both opponents will begin on Monday, Chesney said.

The extra week should benefit the Crusaders, who went without six injured starters in Georgetown.

“Getting that send-off is really awesome,” Chesney said. “To bring back the six starters that we were missing last weekend is really exciting. Hopefully we can bring the whole team back to full strength, get through this week neatly and well and then be ready to go in two weeks.”

The other seeded players in the 24-team playoff field are South Dakota State, Sacramento State, North Dakota State, Montana State, William & Mary, Samford, and Incarnate Word.

Sacramento State (11-0) is the only other undefeated team among the Seedlings.

“Making a top 8 finish is something we’re really proud of as a program,” said senior wide receiver Ayir Asante, who threw a season-best 137 yards against the Hoyas.

Holy Cross, the first school to win four straight Patriot League championships, is making its fourth straight playoff appearance. In 2019 and 2020 (COVID spring season), the Crusaders lost in first-round road games at Monmouth and South Dakota State, respectively, before hosting a first-round game last year and beating Sacred Heart for their first FCS playoff win.

“It’s a snowball,” said senior safety Walter Reynolds. “We are already in the second round. It is exciting. Everyone is ready to compete and strive.”

Holy Cross conquered its 10thth Patriot League title. The Crusaders are the first PL team since Colgate in 2003 to go unbeaten in the regular season.

“To say after this game (Georgetown) ‘We’re 11-0’ is pretty awesome,” Asante said. “It felt good that that came to fruition but we just have to latch on and keep going 1-0 every week.”

HC players said they received many congratulations from members of Holy Cross’s 1991 and 1987 teams, who also went 0-11.

“It’s a very special feeling for all of us to see our hard work culminating in an undefeated regular season,” said senior linebacker Liam Anderson. “It’s something we’re all really proud of and will always cherish, but that wasn’t our main goal this year. This is an added bonus for which we are all very grateful.”

In addition to blowouts over Georgetown and Bucknell, the Crusaders had some exciting regular-season victories, including Sluka’s Hail Mary over junior Jalen Coker after time at FBS opponent Buffalo, a come-from-behind triumph in Lafayette and the OT game against Fordham as Asante ran with a trick play for the winning two-point conversion.

Additionally, the Crusaders won at Harvard in 2022 for the first time since 2000 and defeated Harvard and Ivy League champion Yale in the same season for the first time in program history.

“Going 11-0 the way we did it just never comes easy,” Chesney said, “and you don’t want it to be easy. On paper there are teams to beat and that’s not easy winning and winning every single game and it takes a very disciplined group to pull off that feat. ”

– Contact Jennifer Toland at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @JenTolandTG.