Sea Gulls hold on for 21-19 win at Muhlenberg in ECAC South Atlantic Bowl
ALLENTOWN, Pa. – The Salisbury University football team closed out the 2013 season on Saturday, with the program's fourth Eastern College Atheltic Conference (ECAC) Bowl victory, claiming the ECAC South Atlantic Bowl at Muhlenberg College, 21-19.
The Sea Gulls avenged their only previous meeting with the Mules, a 2007 NCAA tournament first-round loss, with Saturday's win.
Sophomore quarterback John Dunbar led the way with 52 rushing yards and a score, he also threw for one touchdown, connecting on 3-of-7 passes for 72 yards, and senior running back Nick Aloi, who ran for 103 yards and a touchdown in the final game of his career. Aloi was named the ECAC South Atlantic Bowl's Most Valuable Player.
Defensively, the Sea Gulls allowed 362 yards in the game, but few big plays, forcing the Mules to run 90 plays in the game. The Salisbury defense was led by James Hall, who had 11 tackles, 10 of which were solo stops and Nick Anzallo, who had 10 tackles and half a sack. The Mules drove into Salisbury territory six times in the game, coming away with scores just three times.
Muhlenberg (8-3) scored first in the game. After Salisbury's opening drive stalled out at the Muhlenberg 39-yard line, junior Kyle Hamby pinned the Mules at their own 9-yard line, but Muhlenberg would cover the 91 yards in 17 plays to take a 7-0 lead. Kevin Van Laar got in from 4 yards out to open the scoring.
Salisbury (7-4) would draw even with its own extended drive. Beginning in the first quarter and carrying through to the second, the Sea Gulls covered 73 yards on 15 plays, eating up 7:22 on the clock. Five different Sea Gulls had carries on the drive, with Dunbar capping it by getting in from a yard out, tying the game with 8:26 remaining before halftime.
The Mules had a chance to take the lead just before the break, but Connor Winter's 33-yard field goal attempt missed wide left with 50 seconds remaining in the second quarter.
Salisbury, sparked by the defense, took the lead for good midway through the third quarter. Senior cornerback Andre Carter would find himself in the right place, picking off Nick Palladino's pass at the Sea Gull 40-yard line. The interception was the sixth of the season for Carter and the 16th of his career, which will allow him to finish second in program history.
The Sea Gulls needed just two plays to get into the end zone and take the lead as Dunbar found junior Isaiah Taylor for a 57-yard strike and the 14-7 lead. Salisbury would hold the lead the rest of the way.
Another extended drive for Muhlenberg, this time covering 81 yards on 18 plays, got the Mules in the end zone, early in the fourth quarter, but Salisbury would block the point-after try, to maintain the 14-13 lead.
Muhlenberg would recover an on-side kick attempt, and get within scoring range, but Winter pulled a 39-yard field goal try wide left, and Salisbury retained the lead.
Taking over with less than 10 minutes remaining, the Gulls looked to run some clock, but needed just three plays and 1:22 to go 78 yards thanks to Aloi's 65-yard burst up the middle for a score and a 21-13 lead.
The SU defense would stop the Mules twice, but after senior Calvin Ford's interception seemed to seal the win with 47 seconds on the clock, a Salisbury fumble would give the Mules one last chance.
Muhlenberg took advantage of the opportunity, scoring to get within two points, but Palladino's two-point conversion pass attempt hit the turf and Salisbury would recover the final on-side kick attempt to lock up the season-ending win.
The contest brings to a close the careers of 20 Salisbury seniors. In the past four seasons, the SU football program has posted a 34-12 record with four postseason appearances, including three-straight NCAA tournament berths.