SALISBURY, Md. – The No. 8 Salisbury University football team remained perfect in Empire 8 Athletic Conference play, holding on to defeat Alfred University, 24-21, in a battle of the league's top two teams at Sea Gull Stadium on Saturday.
Salisbury (6-1, 4-0 Empire 8) never trailed, jumping out to leads of 14-0, after the first quarter, and 17-7 at halftime. Alfred (4-2, 3-1) used two fourth-quarter touchdowns by Chuck Beckwith to get within a field goal with 5:25 left, but the Sea Gulls gained three first downs on their final possession to run out the clock and seal the victory.
Sophomore slot Isaiah Taylor scored two rushing touchdowns of his own and junior defensive back Andre Carter notched his fourth career touchdown on a 38-yard fumble recovery and runback. Sophomore place-kicker Eric Hart knocked down his second field goal in as many weeks, this one from a career-long 37 yards in the win.
The Sea Gulls opened the scoring on the first drive of the day when Taylor finished off a nine-play, 70-yard drive, taking a pitch 2 yards for a touchdown, giving the Gulls a 7-0 lead at the 10:52 mark. The key play came when quarterback Dan Griffin hit Taylor for a 34-yard pass completion on first down to the Alfred 25.
With the Saxons on their own 45-yard line after a pair of first downs, Austin Dwyer fumbled and Carter scooped up the ball on the 38, racing in for a 14-0 advantage with 2:26 to play in the first quarter.
Alfred cut into the lead when Zach Sopak connected on a 6-yard touchdown pass to Adam Schutz with 3:15 to go before the break, finishing a nine-play 45-yard drive that began when J.R. Britton recovered the first of two fumbles on the day.
Griffin hooked up with Juma Richards on a 52-yard pass play to the Alfred 18, setting up Hart's field goal with just over a minute to play in the half.
After a scoreless third quarter, Taylor punched it in from 5 yards out, 2:31 into the fourth, completing a seven-play, 79-yard march, for the eventual winning score and a 24-7 edge.
Griffin, though, fumbled on the Salisbury 32 and Brendan McGinnis recovered. Six plays later, Beckwith found the end zone from 4 yards to cut the Gulls' lead to 24-14 with 8:43 left.
Alfred's Zach Tavolaro squibbed the ensuing kickoff and Brendan Chavis brought it to midfield, but after a mishandled snap, Britton gave the Saxons the ball on the SU 48. Beckwith added his second score of the day from 2 yards out to move his team within three, but that was as close as AU got.
Joe Benedetti had 15 carries for a game-high 81 yards while Griffin was 2-for-6 with 86 yards passing and had 17 carries for 51 yards.
Greg Stanton posted a game-high 12 tackles, his fourth interception of the season and sixth of his career; he also broke up two passes. Rodney Hill finished with double-digit tackles with 10 and 2.5 for loss. He also recorded a breakup and quarterback hurry. Steven Gamble totaled nine tackles and game highs of 1.5 sacks and three tackles for loss. Carter registered a game-high three passes broken up.
Beckwith had 80 yards and the two touchdowns on 19 carries. Sopak was 16-for-27 for 150 yards and one pick. Schutz caught five passes for 31 yards and the touchdown. Defensively, Mike Raplee had 10 tackles, a sack and a tackle for loss.
SU hits the road to Ithaca, N.Y., to take on Ithaca College next Saturday at noon.