NEWPORT NEWS, Va. – Senior superback Joe Benedetti ran for 216 yards and four touchdowns and senior quarterback Dan Griffin rushed for 102 yards and two scores as the No. 7 Salisbury University football team pulled away from Christopher Newport University, 40-16, at POMOCO Stadium Saturday.
CNU tied the game, 13-13, early in the third quarter when Rudy Rudolph caught a 70-yard touchdown pass from Aaron Edwards. The Captains could have taken a one-point lead but Mason Studer's extra point was blocked and Salisbury (1-0) found the end zone on its next three drives to put the game out of reach.
Griffin gave the Gulls the lead again with a 2-yard dive with 7:03 left in the third. After Christopher Newport (0-1) moved the ball for three consecutive first downs, the SU defense stiffened to allow a 34-yard field goal by Studer to make it a 20-16 game with 4:35 to play in the quarter.
Griffin found the end zone again on a 47-yard scamper up the middle to extend the SU advantage to 27-16 with 3:23 left. On CNU's ensuing possession, linebacker Kevin Costello jarred the ball loose from running back Markeese Stovall and Andre Carter recovered it. The Sea Gulls waited no time adding to the lead as six plays later, Benedetti had a 13-yard touchdown to push it to a 33-16 game, five seconds into the fourth quarter.
Benedetti tacked on a 48-yard score with just over two minutes remaining for the final margin.
SU accumulated 505 yards of offense, including 455 on the ground, while running for 8.3 per play. Senior slots Ross Flanigan and Christopher Wilkerson chipped in with 56 and 33 yards rushing, respectively.
Salisbury got on the scoreboard first after Benedetti ran for a 35-yard touchdown. Studer's punt from the Christopher Newport end zone went off the side of his foot and out of bounds at the Captains' 35, setting up Benedetti's first score of the night and a 6-0 SU lead with 1:39 left in the first quarter.
On the Sea Gulls' next possession, Benedetti capped a seven-play, 54-yard drive with a 2-yard plunge to extend the advantage to 13-0 with 11:30 left in the half. Griffin and Benedetti combined to rush for 40 yards in two consecutive plays on the drive prior to Benedetti's second touchdown of the night.
CNU's Edwards and Rudolph hooked up on a 6-yard touchdown pass to get on the board to finish a 13-play, 78-yard march with 4:32 left, getting within one score at 13-7.
Edwards completed 26-of-43 passes for 253 yards and two touchdowns while Rudolph had seven catches for 126 yards and the two scores.
Senior safety Chris Everett made nine tackles and broke up one pass to pace the Salisbury defense, while Justin Navarro had 13 tackles, three for loss, and two sacks to lead Christopher Newport.
Salisbury opens its home slate, hosting No. 3 Wesley College at Sea Gull Stadium next Saturday at 6 p.m.