SALISBURY, Md. – The No. 18 Salisbury University football team fell in New Jersey Athletic Conference action for the first time on Saturday afternoon, 51-39, to Christopher Newport University at Sea Gull Stadium.
The Sea Gulls got going early, only needing 36 seconds to score their first touchdown. After receiving the opening kickoff, junior Connor Canonico took a handoff on the first play from scrimmage up the middle for 51 yards all the way down to the Captains' 4-yard line. From there, junior Aarron Moore capped the two-play drive with a 4-yard score.
CNU responded just over two minutes later on its first series with a 57-yard touchdown pass from Tyler Quigley to Daquan Davis to tie the score, 7-7.
Set back up on offense, Salisbury picked up a first down on an 11-yard Jerome Johnson run, but was eventually forced to punt, which marked the only punt of the first half.
The Captains took advantage with a 10-play drive, which ended in a Davis 1-yard run to take their first lead, 14-7.
It only took the Gulls six plays to again put the score even. Starting at their own 33, Canonico rushed for 7 yards, followed by a 14-yard Johnson run. Senior quarterback John Dunbar then ripped off three-straight rushes for 19-total yards to get to the Christopher Newport 27.
Dunbar then dropped back and found senior wide receiver Max Ehrsam on a go route down the right sideline; Dunbar's throw was perfectly placed and dropped right into Ehrsam's outstretched arms in the end zone for the 27-yard score for his first touchdown catch of the season.
The Sea Gull defense stepped up to start the second quarter, halting a CNU drive that had moved from the Captains 15 to the Salisbury 38. Senior linebacker James Hall wrapped up Quigley on a quarterback keeper and forced the ball loose, as classmate Nick Batastini pounced on the ball.
However, the Captains' defense returned the favor, forcing and recovering a fumble to set up their offense back at the SU 41. They would take advantage to take back the lead 21-14.
Canonico led a 10-play, 60-yard drive when Salisbury got back on offense with 25-total rushing yards, including a 9-yard run to begin the series. A 2-yard rush by junior Ryan Jones got the Gulls to the CNU 5-yard line, setting up a 22-yard Alex Potocko field goal to cut the lead to four.
The Captains were able to add one more touchdown before the half to take a 28-17 lead into the break.
Christopher Newport received the second-half kickoff and took the ball 82 yards on 14 plays, but the Salisbury defense held strong to force a field goal, as the Sea Gulls began their push for a comeback.
Starting at their own 35, the Sea Gulls picked up a first down on runs from Canonico, Johnson, and Jones, before Jones found senior Isaiah Taylor deep down the left side of the field for a 36-yard pass and catch. The play set up Salisbury at the CNU 19, and after two runs by Canonico, Johnson found pay dirt from 10-yards out to get back to within seven points, 31-24.
After two more Captains scores, building the lead to 44-24, Salisbury would not go away. On the first play of their next drive, Jones connected again with Taylor down the left sideline. Taylor beat his man down the field and hauled in the pass for a 70-yard score, cutting the deficit back down to 44-31.
After CNU returned an interception for a touchdown, Salisbury added its final score on a 22-yard pass from Jones to Moore, including a two-point conversion by the same pair.
Canonico led the Gulls with 109 rushing yards on the day, while Jones completed 7-of-13 passes for 184 yards and two touchdowns. Taylor hauled in five passes for 148 yards and a score.
Freshman Shane Gaines led the defense with 12 total tackles, while three Sea Gulls tallied 11 combined stops.
Salisbury next travels to No. 4 Wesley College in NJAC play on Saturday, November 7; the opening kickoff is set for 12 p.m.