SALISBURY, Md. – A battle of two of the top defenses in the nation lived up to the billing as the Salisbury University football team hosted No. 16 Frostburg State University in the 19th annual Regents Cup game, with the Bobcats coming out with a 14-7 double-overtime victory on Saturday.
The Sea Gull defense was paced by senior Dakarai Ellis, who finished with six solo tackles, one for a loss, recovered a fumble and broke up a pass. He was named Salisbury's Mike McGlinchey Most Valuable Player for the game.
The Bobcats (9-1, 8-1 New Jersey Athletic Conference) retained the Regents Cup, after scoring in the second overtime on a 27-yard pass from Connor Cox to Christian DiPaola. Cox, who did not play in the first quarter, went 15-for-29 passing in the game for 184 yards and a pair of touchdowns, and was named the McGlinchey MVP for Frostburg.
The Bobcat defense held Salisbury (7-3, 7-2 NJAC) to a three-down possession to begin the first overtime period, after Frostburg won the coin toss and elected to go on defense first. The Sea Gulls faced a third-and-9 play from the Frostburg 24-yard line. Salisbury quarterback Brandon Lewis went to the back shoulder of Sean Rowland on the left sideline, but Josh Washington jumped the route, ending the drive.
A taunting penalty against the Bobcats put the ball at the Salisbury 40-yard line to begin the Frostburg possession, which stalled at the 17-yard line. Keith Payne raced off the left edge on Hassan Mostafa's 34-yard field goal try, blocking the effort and sending the game to a second overtime.
Cox found DiPaola on the second play from scrimmage, giving the Bobcats a 14-7 lead, and just two plays into Salisbury's final possession a fumble ended the contest.
The Salisbury defense came out in stifling fashion to begin the game, holding the Bobcats to 28 total yards in the opening quarter of play, with 24 on the ground and four through the air with quarterback T.J. Peer going 1-of-4 in the quarter before being replaced by Cox.
Salisbury held the ball for 12:07 in the first period, including a drive that went for more than seven minutes, carrying into the second quarter, but the Bobcats would come up with the game's only first-half score on their first drive of the second period.
Cox drove Frostburg 54 yards before facing a third-and-7 situation from the Salisbury 21-yard line. He looked down the right side of the field for Sergio Andino. Andino elevated for the pass just shy of the goal line, and was able to tip the ball in the air while battling with a Salisbury defensive back. The ball fell into the end zone, where Andino made a one-handed catch while falling to the ground for the 7-0 lead.
The game went to halftime at the same score, and the Salisbury defense stood strong in the third quarter, keeping the Bobcats from adding to their lead despite moving the ball into Sea Gull territory twice.
On the opening drive of the second half, Frostburg moved the ball to the Salisbury 13-yard line, facing second-and-3, but the Sea Gull defense held. Seniors Zachary Wolfrey and Malik Hollings stood up running back Jamaal Morant a yard shy of the first down before Tom Montag and John Steele stopped Grayson Bryce for a loss of a yard on third down and a missed field goal by Mostafa kept it a one-score game.
Montag and junior Shane Gaines each recorded a team-high nine tackles in the game, with Gaines good for five solo stops and a pass breakup.
The Sea Gulls were held on the ensuing drive, but a muffed punt by the Bobcats, which Ellis was able to fall on, gave Salisbury possession at their own 45-yard line and it took just two plays to draw even in the game.
Superback Malique Pratt burst up the middle and rumbled 47 yards, outracing the defense to the goal line for the game-tying score with 12 minutes showing on the clock.
Pratt finished with a team-high 75 yards on the ground while Lewis went for 62 and Brady Curley rushed for 53 yards.
Each team looked for a last-second score to avoid overtime, but Salisbury's 50-yard field goal try came up short and the Bobcats' final effort, with three laterals, resulted in a fumble recovered by Salisbury freshman Maurice Harris.
Both teams will now await their postseason fates with the announcements of the field for the NCAA Division III tournament and the Eastern College Athletic Conference Football Fest participants early next week.