WAYNE, N.J. – The No. 22 Salisbury University football team got back in the win column in emphatic fashion, rolling to a 77-19 New Jersey Athletic Conference win at William Paterson University on Saturday afternoon.
The Sea Gulls (5-1, 4-1 NJAC) saw a balanced rushing attack with 14 different ball carriers in the game and eight of them went for at least 20 yards, led by senior Connor Canonico's 142 yards and a score. Salisbury scored seven times on the ground, while senior quarterback Ryan Jones passed for one touchdown, to Sean Rowland.
Defense and special teams were stellar on the day, with each area getting in on the scoring act, starting with the first time the ball was put in play. After the Pioneers (2-4, 1-4 NJAC) won the coin toss and deferred, Salisbury's offense was unable to get their hands on the ball thanks to an 80-yard kickoff return to begin the game by senior Aarron Moore. It marked the second time this season that Salisbury has opened a game with a kickoff return for a score.
The Salisbury defense forced consecutive three-and-out possessions by William Paterson, and the Sea Gull offense went on drives of 81 and 52 yards to push the lead to 21-0. Jones capped the first drive with a 6-yard scoring run on third down, while he got in from 5 yards out on the next drive, also on third down. They were the only two third downs that Salisbury faced in the first quarter.
After the Pioneers scored early in the second quarter, Salisbury added two quick ones on a Ryan Kolb 12-yard run, converting a fourth-down chance, and the Sea Gull defense came up with the next score. Junior linebacker Devon McClain picked off an Isaiah Diaz-Mays pass at the Paterson 19-yard line and took it in for the touchdown. When Alex Potocko booted the point after, the lead had grown to 35-7.
Jones connected with Rowland midway through the second quarter from 24 yards and Canonico got into the end zone late in the first half on a 4-yard run as the Sea Gulls rushed for 165 yards in the second quarter to build a 49-19 halftime lead.
Canonico's score was one of six that came from inside the 20-yard line with the Sea Gulls going a perfect 6-for-6 in the red zone during the victory.
Salisbury outgained the Pioneers in the third quarter by more than 100 yards, picking up 141 yards in the frame, 134 of which came on the ground. Malique Pratt and Moore each scored rushing touchdowns in the quarter while the Salisbury defense held William Paterson to just 12 yards total.
The Pioneers managed only 253 yards of total offense on the day, including 35 rushing yards. The Sea Gulls got off the field on every opportunity, holding William Paterson to 0-for-11 on third down and snuffed out the Pioneers' only attempt on fourth down. It is the first time since September 17, 2005 that the Sea Gulls have not allowed a third or fourth-down conversion. That day, Salisbury held Christopher Newport University 0-for-11 on third down and 0-for-2 on fourth down.
Salisbury put the game away in the fourth quarter with another defensive score, this time it was freshman defensive back John Steele who scooped up a fumble and ran it 54 yards for the touchdown. A 23-yard touchdown run by sophomore slot Michael Fowler finished off the scoring for the afternoon.
All of the top teams in the NJAC won on Saturday, maintaining a five-way tie atop the league standings. The Sea Gulls return home next Saturday, October 22, hosting Kean University in a contest scheduled to begin at 1 p.m., at Sea Gull Stadium.