ROCKY MOUNT, N.C. – After two narrow defeats to open the year, the Salisbury University football team claimed its first win of the 2013 season, 28-10, at North Carolina Wesleyan College on Saturday afternoon.
After seeing two late-game scores against them in the first two games, the Sea Gulls took a lead into the fourth quarter and made it stand up with a lengthy drive to close the game.
The Battling Bishops (0-3) scored on the first play of the fourth quarter, on quarterback Robbie Lanier's 4-yard run, cutting Salisbury's lead to 21-10, but two long drives allowed the Sea Gulls (1-2) to hold the ball for nearly 11 minutes of the final quarter, milking the clock and closing out the win.
Salisbury's first drive of the final quarter ended in an interception, but not before the Gulls would move the ball 54 yards in more than four minutes. Salisbury ran the ball six times over 10 plays during the drive as junior Desmond Sivels converted two third downs on the drive with runs of 11 and 10 yards.
North Carolina Wesleyan took the ball inside the Salisbury 10-yard line on the ensuing drive, trying to get the Sea Gull advantage to single digits, but an ill-advised throw by Lanier was picked off by Andre Carter, giving Salisbury possession at its own 3-yard line.
The interception was the second pick of the day for Carter, who now has 13 in his career, tied for second in program history with John Baugher (1986-89) and five back of program record holder Byron Westbrook (2003-06).
The Carter interception gave the Gulls the ball with 7:35 left in the game. They would not relinquish control until they had driven 97 yards on 14 plays, all carries, over seven minutes, capped off by junior J.D. Hook's first touchdown in maroon and gold, from 19 yards out, for a 28-10 Salisbury lead, sealing the win.
The 97-yard drive is the longest for Salisbury since a 98-yard march against Western New England University in the first round of the 2011 NCAA Tournament.
Hook had six carries on the final drive and led the Sea Gulls with 65 rushing yards on 10 carries as Salisbury went for a season-high 245 yards in the run game.
While the Gulls ran for 245 yards, the SU defense held the Battling Bishops to 62 yards on the ground and 234 yards of total offense. The Salisbury defenders picked off three passes in the game and senior Jeremy Keith sacked Lanier four times in the game, including the final play.
Four sacks is the most by one player since Paul Cynewski had four against Lake Erie College during the 2008 season. Keith had five tackles in the game, all coming behind the line of scrimmage, pushing the Bishops back 33 total yards on the five takedowns.
North Carolina Wesleyan scored the first points of the game, coming up with a field goal on the Bishops' first possession of the day. But Salisbury would respond with a 42-yard drive, capped by a 6-yard touchdown run by sophomore slot Jerome Johnson, his first career score, for a 7-3 lead with 3:31 left in the first quarter.
Johnson didn't wait long to come through with his second romp in the end zone, scoring on Salisbury's first possession of the second half, stretching the lead to 14-3. Johnson had five carries for 29 yards and a pair of pass receptions for 42 yards in the game.
The Sea Gull lead grew when junior quarterback Joey Jones hooked up with classmate Isaiah Taylor for a 37-yard touchdown pass midway through the third as Salisbury would take the 21-3 edge into the fourth quarter.
Jones completed four passes in the game for 92 yards, while Sivels finished with 29 rushing yards and Taylor caught two passes for 53 yards.
The win sends Salisbury into its bye week on a high note. The Sea Gulls will be back in action on Saturday, Oct. 5, traveling to Utica College for each team's Empire 8 Athletic Conference opener. That game is scheduled to begin at 12 p.m.