DOVER, Del. – The No. 25 Salisbury University football team took its first New Jersey Athletic Conference defeat on Saturday, battling No. 13 Wesley College throughout a 30-20 contest.
Each team put up more than 400 yards of offense, with Salisbury (7-2, 7-1 NJAC) rushing for 362 yards in the game – the second-highest total for the team this year.
The teams traded punts on their opening possessions before the Sea Gulls got on the board first. On a second-and-9 play from the Salisbury 42-yard line, sophomore Damien King took the ball on a reverse, found a seam and rushed 58 yards for a 7-0 lead.
The Wolverines (8-1, 8-0 NJAC) countered with a four-play, 75-yard drive scoring on a 40-yard pass from Khaaliq Burroughs to James Okike, tying the game, 7-7, and it remained that way until early in the second quarter.
Salisbury would score to begin the second frame after Dandre Dennis' 20-yard run set up a manageable third-and-1 play following a sack of quarterback Brandon Lewis. Dennis and fellow superback Malique Pratt carried much of the load in the game, as Pratt rushed for 129 yards and Dennis had 27 yards on the ground.
Senior slot Brady Curley got in the end zone on a 15-yard run, but the Wolverines countered again, scoring four plays later, but each extra point was blocked, with Keith Payne blocking the Wesley try, keeping the game square at 13-13.
Dennis powered his way in from 1 yard out with 6:10 left in the second quarter and Alex Potocko's kick gave Salisbury a 20-13 lead which the Sea Gulls took to halftime.
The Wolverines cut into the lead on the opening drive of the second half, marching 70 yards on 15 plays before the Salisbury defense made a stand inside the 10-yard line, limiting Wesley to a 22-yard field goal.
After the Sea Gulls were held to a three-and-out possession, the Wolverines struck quickly with a 72-yard pass connection from Burroughs to Okike, with the extra point giving Wesley a 23-20 advantage.
The Wolverines added to their lead with a rushing score by Burroughs in the fourth quarter to push the lead to 30-20, and Salisbury had chances – getting the ball into Wolverine territory and inside the 35-yard line on each of its final four drives – but was unable to come away with points.
Along with the 156 rushing yards from the superbacks, Curley finished with 94 rushing yards and caught a pair of passes for 36 yards while senior Ryan Kolb had 40 yards on the ground.
Defensively, Tom Montag led the way with a dozen tackles, including six solo stops and half a sack. Shane Gaines, Patrick Bernardo, Brandon Robeson, and Payne each had five tackles while Dakarai Ellis came up with a second-quarter interception setting up the Dennis touchdown.
With the win, Wesley claims at least a share of the NJAC title and locks up the automatic berth in the NCAA tournament.
Salisbury will close out the regular season next Saturday, November 11 hosting Frostburg State University in the annual Regents Cup Game. Game time is to be announced.