#37 Holy Cross FCS Football 2021 Preview

Holy Cross Crusaders
Overall Rank: #37
#1 Patriot
 Holy Cross Logo
Holy Cross made their second straight playoff appearance in the spring of 2021. Their only regular season games came against Lehigh and Fordham. The Crusaders then beat Bucknell in the Patriot League Championship to earn the conference’s automatic bid. They had a tough draw in the playoffs and headed to Brookings to take on South Dakota State where they lost 3-31.
2020-21 Record: 3-1, 2-0
2020-21 Postseason: FCS Playoffs
Coach: Bob Chesney (15-13 at Holy Cross, 82-38 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Justin Roper
Defensive Coordinator: Scott James
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Matthew Sluka, QB, 234 yards
Passing: Matthew Sluka, QB, 187 yards
Receiving: Jalen Coker, WR, 72 yards; Spencer Gilliam, WR, 72 yards
Tackles: Jacob Dobbs, LB, 41           
Sacks: Benton Whitley, DL, 2.0
Interceptions: John Smith, DB, 3
Other Key Returnees: RB Peter Oliver, WR Jack Jewell, WR Ayir Asante, TE Sean Morris, OL Nick Olsofka, DL Dan Kuznetsov, DB Grant Holloman, K Derek Ng, P Patrick Haughney
Key Losses: QB Connor Degenhardt, OL Brian Foley, DB Joe Lang, DL Jordan Jackson
Coach Bob Chesney played multiple quarterbacks in those four games, but now the job should belong to Matthew Sluka. As a redshirt freshman this spring, he led the team with 187 passing yards and 234 rushing yards. With Sluka on the field for a full season and the return of running back Peter Oliver, who averaged 7.1 yards per carry, Holy Cross will be very productive and dangerous on the ground. That should set up some decent opportunities through the air. Sluka’s limited experience in the spring will only help. The return of steady receiver Spencer Gilliam, big playmaker Jalen Coker and tight end Sean Morris will help make the passing attack better than it was.
The Holy Cross defense has a couple contributors to replace, but they should be able to be one of the better defenses in the Patriot League once again. John Smith proved to be the best playmaker on the team, intercepting three passes. Jacob Dobbs will make some big plays too and he led the team with 41 tackles. Benton Whitley and Dan Kuznetsov are experienced seniors who will spend plenty of time disrupting the quarterback.
The Bottom Line:
An interesting non-conference slate with road games against Connecticut, Yale and Monmouth and home dates with Merrimack and Harvard will prepare this team for conference play. Holy Cross has turned into the team to beat in the Patriot League, but trips to Lehigh and Fordham are always tough. A home contest with Colgate on October 23rd in the second conference game of the season will determine who the early favorite is to win the title in 2021.
Projected Postseason:  FCS Playoffs
2020-21 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 178.8 (20th in nation, 1st in conference)
Passing Offense: 86.0 (96, 6)
Total Offense: 264.8 (89, 5)
Scoring Offense: 22.5 (53, 2)
Rushing Defense: 103.2 (14, 4)
Pass Defense: 226.5 (65, 5)
Total Defense: 329.8 (35, 4)
Scoring Defense: 17.0 (9, 2)
Turnover Margin: 0.75 (15, 2)
Sacks: 2.50 (31, 3)
Sacks Allowed: 3.25 (82, 5)