SALISBURY, Md. – The Salisbury University football team suffered a heart-breaking 23-21 defeat at the hands of Alfred University on Saturday afternoon at a blustery Sea Gull Stadium.
The game was close throughout, with neither team seeing its lead grow to more than seven points, and Salisbury (4-4, 3-3 Empire 8 Athletic Conference) never trailed until the final scoring play.
The Sea Gulls got a big third-down stop as the Saxons faced a third-and-10 at their own 9-yard line late in the third quarter. The pass play, broken up by George Van Hove, finished with just one second left on the clock in a 14-14 game.
The one second would be key, as Alfred punter Ryan McDonnell was forced to attempt to kick into a steady 25 mile-per-hour wind, which was blowing throughout the day. McDonnell's boot was knocked down by the wind, and bounced backwards, resulting in a 5-yard punt, and giving Salisbury possession at the 14-yard line.
On the first play from scrimmage, junior Jerome Johnson took the ball off the right side and got into the end zone for a 14-yard touchdown, his second of the day, and sophomore Zak Osborne's point after gave Salisbury the 21-14 lead.
The Saxons (5-3, 3-3 Empire 8) came back with a wide receiver pass from Rodney Etienne to Brendan Buisch for a 76-yard touchdown just two plays later. It appeared the score would be tied, but junior Nick Anzallo was able to break through the line to block Trevor Monk's point-after try, maintaining the 21-20 Salisbury lead.
Looking to build upon the lead, sophomore quarterback Ryan Jones, who entered the game in the second quarter, drove the Sea Gulls 54 yards, down to the Alfred 14-yard line, on 11 rushing plays, before a fumble gave the Saxons the ball with 8:37 left in the game.
Alfred used 16 plays, and all 8:37, to move the ball 72 yards to the Salisbury 4-yard line, calling a timeout with three seconds left before Monk connected on a 22-yard field goal for the 23-21 win as time expired.
Salisbury grabbed the first lead of the game, in the second quarter, when Johnson scored from 2 yards out, taking the ball of the right side. Osborne booted the point after for a 7-0 lead, but the Saxons would answer with a 13-play, 75-yard drive, capped by Tyler Johnson's 10-yard pass to Etienne with 2:21 left in the first half.
It took just two plays for Jones to plunge in from a yard out to give the Sea Gulls a 14-7 lead at halftime.
The Saxons, however, would score on their second drive of the third quarter, tying the game at 14-14.
Johnson led the Sea Gulls with 68 rushing yards and the two touchdowns, while Jones was good for 63 yards on the ground on 12 carries. The duo helped Salisbury to its 253 total rushing yards, as the Sea Gulls did not attempt a pass in the game.
Salisbury will play its final home regular-season game of the 2014 season next Saturday, November 8, hosting the State University of New York at Brockport. Prior to the contest, the Sea Gulls will honor their senior class.