UNION, N.J. – The No. 23 Salisbury University football team pushed its winning streak to five games with a 45-33 New Jersey Athletic Conference win at Kean University.
The Sea Gull defense was tested early when a turnover on downs gave the Cougars (4-3, 3-3 NJAC) the ball at the Salisbury 13-yard line. Kean got to the 4-yard line, but were stopped on consecutive rushing plays, with senior James Hall in on both stops to give the ball back to the offense.
The teams traded drives, with a Sea Gull turnover giving the Cougars the ball deep in their own territory. The Salisbury defense pinned Kean deep forcing a punt, and senior Isaiah Taylor fielded the short kick to give Salisbury good field position midway through the first quarter, at the Cougar 29-yard line. The Salisbury offense made its way down the field, with junior quarterback Ryan Jones finding Taylor on the left side, converting for a first down on a third-and-5 play, keeping the drive alive.
With the benefit of a few Kean penalties, Salisbury found itself with a first-and-goal situation from the 1-yard line. Jones was stopped on the first-down play, but on an option play to the right, Jones pitched to senior Jerome Johnson, who cut through a hole, sealed off thanks to good blocking by wide receiver Josh McClain on the outside for the game's first score with just under two minutes to play in the opening period.
Salisbury forced a turnover on special teams, when a fumble was recovered by kicker Timothy Steindl on the ensuing kickoff. The Sea Gulls (5-1, 5-0 NJAC) took advantage of the opportunity, moving 45 yards for the touchdown, with Connor Canonico capping the drive by going 12 yards up the middle for the touchdown and the 14-0 lead.
Jones, who was 6-for-12 passing on the day for 106 yards, found Brady Curley for a 20-yard gain on the drive. The pass attempts for Jones are a career high, with the six connections matching a career best in completions.
The Cougars responded with a 54-yard drive before the Salisbury defense forced the effort to stall with a 38-yard field goal attempt by Aryeh Moslavi, which was good, cutting the Sea Gull lead to 14-3.
But 11 points was as close as Kean would keep the game with Salisbury outscoring the Cougars 24-10 over the next 25 minutes into the second half to pull away.
Salisbury answered the field goal with a 69-yard touchdown drive with Jones connecting on a 18-yard strike to Taylor and a 25-yard pass to Aarron Moore to get the Gulls to the 8-yard line before a pair of runs got Salisbury into the end zone on Moore's 6-yard run to the left for the 21-3 lead as five minutes showed on the clock in the first half.
Not content to take the 18-point lead to halftime, the Salisbury defense got a quick three-and-out stop, capped by Hall's sack of quarterback Charles App, and the punt was blocked by freshman Clark Stieren coming up the middle.
Two plays later, both runs for Canonico, and the Sea Gulls were in the end zone again, as Canonico charged up the middle for a 7-yard scoring run and the 28-3 lead.
The Cougars scored their first touchdown of the day late in the second quarter, and started the second half with a field-goal scoring drive, to cut the lead to 28-13.
Alex Potocko connected on his third field goal of the year on Salisbury's next drive, pushing the lead to 31-13. The three-point drive was set up by Curley's 54-yard kickoff return, and Potocko drove home the 37-yard attempt inside the right upright with 8:01 left in the third quarter for the 38-13 lead.
The Cougars got back the score, but just as quickly, Johnson stretched the lead back out with a 46-yard touchdown run with eight minutes left in the game on a counter play, faking to the left before finding a seam on the right side and racing to the end zone.
Kean scored twice late in the fourth quarter, but never got within one possession.
Johnson and Canonico led the Sea Gull rushing attack. Johnson went for 118 yards on 10 carries and the two scores, while Canonico found the end zone twice, as well, totaling 82 rushing yards.
The Sea Gulls return home next Saturday, October 31, hosting Christopher Newport University with the opening kickoff slated for 1 p.m.