SALISBURY, Md. – The Salisbury University football team collected a key 17-7 Homecoming victory on Saturday afternoon against visiting Christopher Newport University in front of 3,123 at Sea Gull Stadium.
It was the Sea Gull defense that proved to be the difference, holding the top passing offense in the New Jersey Athletic Conference to just 228 yards through the air and 289 yards of total offense – 58 yards below the Captains' season average.
Each defense would be at its best in the opening half of play, with neither team accumulating more than 125 yards in the first 30 minutes with a combined nine punts.
Salisbury (4-1, 4-0 NJAC) took over for its second possession of the day already into Christopher Newport territory, after the Sea Gull defense pushed the Captains back to their 11-yard line. A punt from Dylan Curran traveled to the Salisbury 46-yard line and Blake Joppy brought it back 20 yards to the CNU 34-yard line.
Salisbury got 14 yards on a run from senior Brady Curley on the first play of the drive, but saw its chance stall at the 17-yard line with senior Alex Potocko booting a 34-yard field goal to give Salisbury the lead. Curley led the ground game for the Sea Gulls, going for 99 yards on a team-high 17 carries.
The Sea Gull defense made the three-point lead stand up at halftime, as the Captains (4-2, 3-2 NJAC) were able to run just one offensive play in Salisbury territory. That lone play from the 48-yard line resulted in a sack by Noah Zentz and Nour Mays, pushing Christopher Newport back across the 50-yard line.
The Captains took the opening kickoff of the second half and embarked on their longest drive of the day to that point, getting the Sea Gull 32-yard line. Facing a fourth-and-4 play and going into a slight breeze the visitors kept their offense on the field.
Jack Anderson's pass went to Khiry Weaver on a slant on the left side, but sophomore John Steele was there to get a hand in, breaking up the pass and ending the drive. It was one of two breakups for Steele on the day as the secondary broke up five CNU passes.
Salisbury made the defensive play even bigger when the offense drove 68 yards on seven plays to get the first touchdown of the day. Dandre Dennis, who rushed for 43 yards in the game, got 28 of them on the drive, scoring on a 12-yard run up the middle and Potocko's point after, gave the Gulls a 10-0 lead.
The defense stood up CNU for a quick three-and-out and the offense got it done again, driving 58 yards, with Curley getting the final shot, a 7-yard touchdown on the left side for the 17-0 lead.
The Captains got their only points of the day on the next drive, going 76 yards, finishing things with an 18-yard touchdown pass. The Christopher Newport quarterbacks completed a combined 28-of-42 passes in the game, with just six completions going for more than 10 yards, as the Sea Gull defense held CNU to 5.4 yards per pass attempt.
The Salisbury defense saw a number of different looks from the Captains, with three different players taking snaps, including a wildcat look, but the Gulls stood their ground, recording three sacks on the day and eight tackles for loss. Senior defensive back Dakarai Ellis led the effort with 12 tackles, five of which were solo stops, while junior linebacker Tom Montag had 11 tackles.
With the win, Salisbury is one of just two remaining unbeaten teams in NJAC play, along with Wesley College, which topped previously unbeaten Frostburg State University in overtime on Saturday.
The Sea Gulls hit the road next week, traveling to Montclair State University on Saturday, October 14, with kickoff slated for 2 p.m.