SALISBURY, Md. – Junior quarterback Dan Griffin ran for a season-high 175 yards and three touchdowns as the No. 13 Salisbury University football team advanced in the 2011 NCAA Division III Football Tournament with a 62-24 win over Western New England University at Sea Gull Stadium on Saturday.
SU (10-1), which also received two rushing scores from junior Ross Flanigan and one each from Randal Smedley, Jonathan Briscoe and Brendan Chavis, moves on to play No. 15 Kean University next Saturday, Nov. 26 at noon. The site of the game will be announced on Sunday.
The win marked the first for the Sea Gulls in the NCAA tournament since Dec. 6, 1986 when Salisbury defeated Ithaca College, 44-40, on the road on its way to the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl.
Salisbury racked up 597 yards of offense on Saturday, including 568 on the ground. It was the first time the Sea Gulls ran for over 550 yards since a 70-45 win on Oct. 1 against Utica.
Griffin, the recently named Empire 8 Offensive Player of Year and first team all-conference selection, ran just 11 times for a 15.9 yards-per-carry average. Flanigan finished with 113 yards and the two touchdowns on seven touches while Joe Benedetti and Smedley had 98 and 86 yards, respectively.
Western New England (10-2) was led offensively by quarterback Bryce Brown who was 12-for-23 for 140 yards and two touchdowns through the air. He also posted 14 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Kevin Cook ran for a team-high 76 yards on 23 carries.
Western New England's onside kick to start the game went out of bounds, giving SU the ball on its 49. After a penalty and fumble, Griffin found Flanigan down the middle of the field on a second-and-21 play for 29 yards. Flanigan finished the drive with a 27-yard run to put the Sea Gulls up, 7-0, with 12:38 left in the opening quarter.
The Golden Bears got on the scoreboard with a 29-yard field goal by Nick Fox-Edele. On Salisbury's ensuing possession, with the Sea Gulls in punt formation, WNEU got a hand on the ball which was then touched downfield by a Western New England player and was scooped up by Benedetti at the SU 35.
Nine plays later, Griffin found pay dirt with a 1-yard plunge to make it 14-3. The key play on the drive came on a Smedley 21-yard rumble to the 10-yard line.
Salisbury forced a punt on the next WNEU possession and the Sea Gulls made the Golden Bears pay as Griffin sped down the sideline for a 79-yard touchdown to push the SU lead to 21-3 with 11:32 left in the second quarter.
Western New England cut into the lead with a 17-yard touchdown pass from Brown to Andrew Walz to make it 21-10 with 4:11 left before the half.
On the ensuing kickoff, Benedetti returned the ball into Golden Bears' territory 19 yards to the 43 and Smedley sprinted 43 yards to the end zone to restore an 18-point advantage at 28-10 with just under seven minutes to play in the period.
The Salisbury defense got into the scoring mix when Brown fumbled deep inside Western New England territory and junior linebacker Matt McMurdo picked it up and went 18 yards for the touchdown giving the Gulls a 35-10 edge with 6:45 to play.
WNEU drove all the way to the SU 2-yard line but a fumble by backup quarterback John Krafick, recovered by Greg Stanton gave the ball back to the Gulls.
Griffin got his team out of the shadow of its own goalpost as he scampered 77 yards to the WNEU 21. Five plays later, he punctuated the team's longest drive of the season with a 2-yard run for a 42-10 lead at the break.
Flanigan added a 31-yard rushing touchdown less than four minutes into the second half to stretch the lead to 49-10.
Brown brought the Golden Bears right back with a 1-yard run on fourth down to make it 49-17, capping a six-play, 67-yard march.
The Sea Gulls' final two scores of the day came on 5-yard rushes by Briscoe and Chavis before Brown finished the scoring with a 42-yard touchdown pass to Kareem Hines with 6:25 left for the final margin.
Chris Everett paced the Salisbury defense with a game-high 17 tackles while McMurdo had 11, two tackles for loss, a sack and fumble recovery for the touchdown.
In all, the Sea Gulls had four sacks and recovered four Western New England fumbles.
Alex Miller led the Golden Bears' defense with seven solo tackles and one tackle for loss.