SALISBURY, Md. – The No. 16 Salisbury University football team opened its New Jersey Athletic Conference title defense with a 40-20 win against Montclair State University on Saturday afternoon at Sea Gull Stadium.
The Sea Gulls (2-0, 1-0 NJAC) opened the game by taking the kickoff and driving 66 yards in just under four minutes to grab the 7-0 lead. Senior superback Connor Canonico, who went for 73 yards on the ground in the game, had three carries on the opening drive, including an 8-yard power run for the score.
The Red Hawks (1-1, 0-1 NJAC) came right back with a 75-yard touchdown run by John DiStefano, and the point after tied the game, with 11:02 left in the first quarter, but it would be the only points for Montclair State in the first three quarters of play.
The Salisbury defense, paced by Christian Wilson's six tackles, an interception by Shane Gaines, and a David Handy sack, forced five straight punts in the first half, including two Red Hawk drives which went for negative yards. At halftime, Montclair State had accumulated only 66 yards of total offense after DiStefano's scoring run.
The score stood at 21-7 at the break with Canonico finding the end zone again, this time from 1 yard out late in the first quarter, capping another 66-yard drive, and quarterback Ryan Jones connected with Brad Rose for a 10-yard scoring play three minutes into the second quarter.
Jones did most of his damage on the ground, rushing for a game-high 159 yards on the afternoon, but also connected on 6-of-8 passes for 108 yards.
In the second half, Salisbury was able to stretch the lead to 34-7 before the Red Hawks scored twice late.
Brady Curley got Salisbury's first touchdown of the second half, rushing down the right side for 24 yards before getting upended just short of the goal line and flipping into the end zone less than two minutes into the second half.
Gaines' interception came late in the third quarter, making a diving pick on a Ryan Adzima pass over the middle. The ball floated as Kenny Vercilien hit Adzima as he released the throw.
The interception set up Jones for a 1-yard scoring run, using his second effort to get into the end zone for a 27-point Salisbury advantage with 1:31 left in the quarter.
The Red Hawks scored twice in the fourth quarter, around a Ryan Kolb 9-yard touchdown run, never truly threatening the Salisbury lead.
Jones found five different targets on his six completions, with Rose catching two for 23 yards. Kolb finished with 95 yards on eight carries while Curley had 74 yards on the ground.
The balanced offensive onslaught led to 569 yards of total offense and 461 rushing yards for the Sea Gulls, the most since going for 651 yards on the ground last October 17 against William Paterson University.
The Salisbury defense held the Red Hawks to under 300 yards in the game, surrendering just 293 yards in the game, with Zachary Wolfrey recording five tackles and a trio of Sea Gulls garnering four tackles.
Salisbury will look to keep rolling next Saturday, September 24, as it travels to Southern Virginia University for another NJAC contest, beginning at 1 p.m.