SALISBURY, Md. – The Salisbury University football team will host the Alfred University Saxons on Saturday afternoon in the 2018 ECAC Division III Asa S. Bushnell Bowl. Saturday's bowl game marks the first time the two programs will meet since both were members of the Empier 8 conference in 2014.
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How We Got Here
Salisbury finished the regular season with an overall record of 8-2 and a New Jersey Athletic Conference record of 7-2. The Sea Gulls suffered back-to-back heartbreaking overtime losses to close out the season, falling to Wesley College, 19-13, and then dropping a 38-35 overtime decision to Frostburg State University in the battle for the Regents Cup and NJAC Championship. Despite the loss, senior quarterback Frank Pipich Jr. earned NJAC Offensive Player of the Week honors and was named Salisbury's Mike McGlinchey Most Valuable Player for the game for his performance.
The Sea Gulls managed to run off seven straight victories to open the season, climbing all the way to the 18th ranking in the nation in the D3football.com poll before suffering the two losses.
How They Got Here
Alfred finished the regular season with an overall record of 6-4 and a record of 4-3 in Empire 8 play. The Saxons got off to a hot start winning four of their first five games, including a stretch of three straight, posting victories over SUNY Cortland, Morrisville State College, and Buffalo State. However, Alfred dropped three of its next four before bouncing back with a convincing 41-13 victory over the University of Rochester in the regular season finale on November 10.
Scouting the Saxons
Alfred comes into the contest averaging 29.1 points per game in 2018 while holding its opponents to a mark of 22.5. The Saxons scoring offense was good enough for fifth in the Empire 8 while its scoring defense was ranked fourth overall.
Offensively the team is led by Nas Smith, who has racked up 1,260 all-purpose yards, including a team-best 1,163 rushing yards and another team-best 17 total touchdowns that included two receiving and 15 rushing. Smith ranks first in the Empire 8 in both rushing yards and touchdowns by more than 100 yards and seven touchdowns respectively.
Defensively the team is led by Cole Reed, who has accumulated a team-high 117 total tackles, including 55 solo tackles. Reed has also racked up eight and a half tackles for loss, two sacks, and two interceptions in 10 games played this season. Defensive lineman Raymond Johnson leads the team in both sacks and tackles for loss, accumulating four and nine and a half respectively. As a unit the defense is holding teams to an average of 88.7 rushing yards per game while allowing teams a total of 303.7 yards per game, both of which rank second in the Empire 8.
The Last Time We Met
These two programs have not met since 2014 with the last contest coming in the exact stadium the game will played in on Saturday. The Sea Gulls took a 21-14 lead early in the fourth quarter but were unable to hold off the Saxons as they rallied back, scoring nine unanswered points in the fourth quarter that included a game-winning 22-yard field goal as time expired to edge the Sea Gulls 23-21. Alfred embarked on a 16 play, 72 yard game-winning drive that took 8:37 seconds off the clock to earn the conference victory.
The Saxons totaled 339 yards in the contest, passing for 211 yards while rushing for 128 and converting 9-of-15 (60%) third downs in the game. The Saxons held the maroon and gold to a mark of just 2-of-8 (25%) on third down. Meanwhile, Salisbury totaled 253 yards, all of which came on the ground as the Gulls did not attempt a single pass in the contest.