SALISBURY, Md. – The Salisbury University football team kicked off its 2010 season on Saturday night at Sea Gull Stadium, holding on for a 13-7 victory against North Carolina Wesleyan College. The win avenged a 24-17 loss from the 2009 season.
The Salisbury defense set the tone for the first half on the opening drive when junior Brandon Lemon made a leaping interception in front of the Salisbury sideline. It was the first of five consecutive possessions in which the Bishops would not register a first down, a string that would last into the second quarter. The first Bishop first down came with less than 10 minutes remaining in the first half after Salisbury had established a 6-0 lead.
The Sea Gulls (1-0), though moving the ball for nearly 100 yards of offense in the first quarter, could not get on the board. But the home team would ignite the 2,531 in attendance early in the second frame. Salisbury's offense went on a five-play, 88-yard drive that was capped by 48-yard touchdown run by junior Randal Smedley. The superback rumbled down the right sideline to get the Sea Gulls into the end zone for the first time in 2010. After a failed extra-point effort, Salisbury led 6-0 with 10:02 showing on the clock, a lead they would not relinquish.
Running numerous formations, the Bishops (0-1) were able to gain offensive yards, primarily through the air on short pass plays; two quarterbacks attempted a total of 50 passes in the game for North Carolina Wesleyan. But the Salisbury defense would not give in. The Bishops had 136 yards at halftime, 125 through the air, as Salisbury maintained its 6-0 lead at the break.
In the third quarter, each team was able to drive into their opponent's territory, but came away with no points until the Sea Gulls put together a 48-yard drive on eight plays, finished off by a 26-yard touchdown run by sophomore slot Brandon Norwood. Sophomore A.J. Rosenthal booted the extra point for a 13-0 lead with 12:27 remaining in the contest.
Salisbury would not be able to breathe easy, as the Bishops came right back with their only scoring drive of the day, a 12-play, 67-yard drive finished off by a Teron Bush 3-yard run; the extra point cut the deficit to 13-7. It was one of the few successful rushing plays for the Bishops, who went for just 58 yards on the ground and threw for 297 yards.
The Sea Gull defense would bend, but not break, through the rest of the game. North Carolina Wesleyan got the ball two more times, but could not push through to the end zone. The Bishops drove down to the Salisbury 22- and 15-yard line on their final drives, but could get no further on their final offensive chances. The last chance fell to the ground after junior safety Ricky Cassidy jarred the ball loose from a Bishop receiver five yards deep in the end zone.
Sophomore defensive back Chris Everett was key in the final two defensive stands for the Sea Gulls, registering 3.5 of his game-high 13 tackles on the two drives. The 13 tackles is a career-high for Everett, who also forced a fumble and recovered one. Sophomore Matt McMurdo also registered double-digit tackles for the Sea Gulls, finishing with 10 tackles, 1.5 of which went for a loss.
Smedley led the way for the Sea Gulls offensively with 103 rushing yards. Sophomore quarterback Dan Griffin ran for 67 yards as Salisbury rushed for 248 yards in the game.
One of the special teams keys for Salisbury was the punting of freshman Matt Elsasser, who registered seven punts in the game for a 39.6-yard average. Two of Elsasser's punts traveled inside the 20-yard line, and only three were returned, for a total of 1 yard.
The Sea Gulls will be back in action next Saturday, when they host Christopher Newport University at Sea Gull Stadium. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m.