Sea Gulls punch eighth NCAA tournament ticket with victory over St. John Fisher on Homecoming, 41-21
SALISBURY, Md. – For the eighth time in program history, the No. 15 Salisbury University football team will be making an NCAA tournament appearance as the Sea Gulls posted a 41-21 victory over St. John Fisher College before 1,865 fans at Sea Gull Stadium on Homecoming weekend. The triumph guarantees SU a share of the Empire 8 title, as the Sea Gulls used 329 yards on the ground to outrush their opponents for the 19th consecutive game.
Salisbury (8-1, 6-0 Empire 8) used an efficient offensive performance to head into their regular-season finale undefeated in the Empire 8. The Sea Gulls registered four drives of at least eight plays and six drives of over 50 yards. SU took its place atop the conference standings behind a great effort on third down, where the Sea Gulls were 8-for-11.
SU jumped on St. John Fisher (7-2, 5-1) at the opening possession of the game when the Sea Gulls capped a nine-minute, 15-play drive with a 4-yard touchdown scamper by junior slot Ross Flanigan. SU held its 7-0 lead for 16 minutes before junior quarterback Dan Griffin stepped up with a huge effort. With four minutes left in the second, Griffin dropped back, escaped a sack on two occasions and hit junior wide out Juma Richards down to the sideline for a 67-yard touchdown reception.
SJFC rebounded with an impressive drive, but a phenomenal open-field tackle by sophomore defensive back Greg Stanton on fourth-and-short thwarted the Cardinal rally.
SU moved its lead to 21-0 early in the third quarter when senior slot Tyler Curley hit pay dirt on a 14-yard run. SJFC would score on the next drive before the Sea Gulls posted rushing touchdowns on their next two possessions. Senior superback Randal Smedley scored on a 4-yard run at the 6:18 mark of the third quarter and Griffin began the fourth quarter with a 4-yard touchdown run of his own. Despite the score being 35-7, the Cardinals came storming back.
The Cardinals scored on their next two drives, as Ryan Kramer hit Ryan Francis on a 33-yard aerial touchdown hookup and Cody Miller raced in from 5 yards out. The scores brought the game to within two touchdowns, 35-21, but that was as close as the Cardinals would get.
Smedley capped the scoring with his second score of the day, a 41-yard touchdown run with just under three minutes left.
The Sea Gulls saw six different players collect rushing attempts and were led by the efforts of Smedley (118 yards), Griffin (84 yards) and Flanigan (35 yards) on the ground. Richards caught two passes for 82 yards and one score.
Freshman punter Kyle Hamby was exceptional for SU, as he posted two punts for 103 yards, including a 69-yard bomb in the second quarter. Both his punts landed within SJFC's 20-yard line.
The SU defensive unit was led by senior linebacker Jamey McClendon, who had the best game of his collegiate career. McClendon made a career-high 17 tackles (three solo), posted one sack for 8 yards and had one quarterback hurry. Junior linebacker Matt McMurdo posted a career-high 15 tackles, while junior defensive back Chris Everett had 12. Stanton and junior linebacker Kevin Costello paced SU with nine tackles each.
SJFC benefitted from the solid performances of Miller and Kramer, who ran for 126 and 96 yards, respectively. Kramer was 10-for-26 through the air with one touchdown, as well. The defense was propelled by Dave Vosburgh's 13 tackles. Travis Jones and Mason Judd each had eight tackles, while Tyler Schier had seven.
Salisbury looks to continue its winning ways when the Sea Gulls host Frostburg State University on Saturday, Nov. 12, in the 13th annual Regents' Cup game. The Sea Gulls hold a 22-16 edge in the all-time series against the Bobcats and have won the last seven meetings.