Defense sets tone as Gulls defeated No. 13 Rowan 31-28

Defense sets tone as Gulls defeated No. 13 Rowan 31-28

SALISBURY, Md. – The Salisbury University football team took down No. 13 Rowan University in New Jersey Athletic Conference action on Saturday afternoon, after a 22-point third quarter and a strong defensive game, bringing home the victory at Sea Gull Stadium in front of a crown of 2,728 on Homecoming Weekend.

After both teams punted on their first drives, a Salisbury fumble on its second possession set up the Profs on the Sea Gulls' 21-yard line. Rowan took advantage with a seven-play drive that ended with a 1-yard Withler Marcelin touchdown run.

On Rowan's next drive, it only took two plays for the Salisbury defense to turn the momentum for the Sea Gulls. On second and 5, Dante Pinckney dropped back for the pass, but senior James Hall came of the left edge and delivered a jarring hit to the Profs' quarterback, knocking the ball loose. Senior Zack Seifert came up with the fumble to give the Sea Gulls the ball on the Rowan 25.

Led by a 10-yard run by junior Aarron Moore, Salisbury reached the Profs' 8-yard line, from where sophomore Alex Potocko hit a 25-yard field goal to close the first quarter.

The teams combined for three-straight three-and-outs to start the second quarter, but Salisbury (3-1, 3-0 NJAC) was able to grab the lead on its second possession of the quarter.

Senior Jerome Johnson saw his number called three times on the drive, beginning with a 9-yard run. On the next play, he took a toss off the right side. After finding the edge, a Rowan defender reach for Johnson's ankles, but Johnson put his hand down, keeping his balance, and bounced back up to take off down the sideline for a 44-yard run.

After rushes from juniors Connor Canonico and Ryan Jones on first and second downs, respectively, Johnson found the end zone on a 4-yard rush to take a 9-6 lead.

Rowan (4-1, 3-1 NJAC) answered with a touchdown on its following drive to take a 14-9 lead, which the Profs would hold into halftime.

Despite trailing at the start of the second half, it did not take the Sea Gull defense long to again take over momentum and regain the lead.

On Rowan's second play of the half, junior Christian Wilson read Pinckney's three-step drop and broke on the throw. Junior Tyler Paradysz tipped the ball at the line, batting it up into the air, and Wilson cut in front of the receiver and ran under the ball, taking the interception back 24 yards for the score. The pick was Wilson's third of the year, and after a Johnson two-point conversion, the Gulls led 17-14.

The defense came up big again on Rowan's next drive, as the Profs drove from their own 25 to the Salisbury 26-yard line in six plays. On second and 12, Pinckney seemed to find Russ Forchion over the middle, but senior Mike Hale was there to deliver the hit and knock the ball loose for the incompletion. Two plays later on fourth and 7, Pinckney again looked to have a receiver on the left side, but freshman Shane Gaines, coming from his safety spot, made a diving play to force the Profs off the field on downs.

The play sparked the Sea Gull offense, which went on two-straight scoring drives.

Taking over on their own 21, Canonico got the Gulls going with a 7-yard run on first down, followed by a 3-yard run on second. After rushes from Jones and Moore, Canonico found a hold up the middle in the Rowan defense, taking the ball 44 yards to the Rowan 7-yard line, before Moore capped the drive with a 4-yard score. Following the Potocko kick, Salisbury led 24-14.

The defense forced a Prof three-and-out, again setting up the offense in favorable position at the Gulls' 48-yard line.

It only took two plays for Jones to find senior Isaiah Taylor down the middle for a 42-yard touchdown to push the lead to 31-14, after another Potocko point after.

The Profs were able to cut into Salisbury's lead with a Pinckney rushing score with just over a minute left in the third quarter, before Marcelin found the end zone again in the fourth to bring Rowan to within three, 31-28, with 6:04 left in the game.

The Salisbury offense went back to work, driving the ball 41 yards on 10 plays to kill 5:14 off of the clock. Canonico was handed the ball six times on the drive, rushing for 19 yards to lead the possession. Moore ran down to the Rowan 17 on fourth down to put the Profs deep in their own territory with only 50 seconds left.

Rowan was unable to break the Salisbury defense in the final seconds, as the Gulls closed out the win.

Canonico led the team with 105 rushing yards, while Johnson added 94 and the score. Taylor pulled in two receptions for 50 yards in the game.

Wilson and Hall led the team with 10 total tackles, each.

Salisbury stays home for its next contest, welcoming NJAC opponent William Paterson University to Sea Gull Stadium on Saturday, October 17; the opening kickoff is set for 1 p.m.

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