The nationally-ranked St. John Fisher College team dropped its first contest of the season Saturday, 42-35 to host Salisbury University on Saturday. In the loss, Kevin Francis set the school-record for receiving touchdowns in a game, hauling in four, including three in the first half. Francis finished the day with seven catches for 143 yards.
The Cardinals and the Sea Gulls came into the contest as the lone unbeaten teams in the Empire 8 Conference at 2-0. With the loss Fisher falls to 5-1 and 2-1 in the Empire 8, while Salisbury improves to 4-2 and 3-0 respectively, sitting alone at the top of the conference standings.
Trailing 42-28 with 1:33 remaining in the game, Fisher cut the deficit in half as Tyler Fenti ran for 21 yards with :27 seconds remaining. The Cardinals failed to recover an onside kick attempt and Salisbury was able to kneel down to solidify the 42-35 victory.
With the score tied at 21 apiece after a back and forth first half, Fisher opened up with the first possession of the second half, but Fenti was intercepted by Andre Carter, who advanced it to the Fisher 21-yard line. Joey Jones gave Salisbury the 28-21 lead on a one-yard touchdown run.
The score would stay that way going into the fourth quarter. After a three-and-out following a Mike Guinta interception, Salisbury made Fisher pay scoring on just two plays, with an 82-yard touchdown run from Brandon Norwood early in the fourth quarter to take a 35-21 lead.
With just under five minutes to play, the Fisher defense came up with a huge turnover as Mike Donitzen recovered a fumble by Jones.
The Cardinals drove 65 yards in under two minutes, ending with Francis catching his fourth touchdown of the day from seven yards out to set the school record.
Fisher attempted an onside kick that was unsuccessful and Salisbury converted a huge fourth-and-six with with under three minutes to play to keep the clock running. Jones found the endzone three plays later for the fourth time on the day, in what would prove to be the game-winning touchdown.
The first half of play was an offensive shooutout. Salisbury got on the board first nine minutes into the opening quarter. The Gulls started out with great field possession from the Fisher 35-yard line. Five plays later Salisbury found the endzone on a one-yard run from Jones.
The Cardinals answered right back scoring less than two minutes later. Fenti found Francis for a 51-yard hookup to tie the score at seven apiece. It was the third time this season Francis has scored a touchdown of 50 yards or more.
On the ensuing possession the Cardinals forced their second turnover of the game, with Cody Foster causing the fumble and Kris Jones scooping it up at the Gulls 46 yard line. Five plays later, Fenti found Francis again in the back of the endzone for the 27-yard touchdown.
The Gulls responded marching right down the field on their next possession capped off by a Lonnie Liggins one-yard touchdown run halfway through the second quarter. The big play of the drive came from Liggins, a 44-yard run down to the Fisher two yard line.
The unbelievable first half for Francis continued on the next possession, with Fenti finding his go-to man for the third time of the day on a 30-yard back shoulder pass. Cody Miller had 30 yards on the drive on the six-play, 68-yard drive.
On the next possession the Gulls marched 91 yards, with Jones finding the endzone for his second rushing touchdown of the game with just 30 seconds remaining to make in 21-21 going into halftime.
Fenti finished the day 28 of 43 for 311 yards and two interceptions. Nathan Nigolian caught nine passes for 103 yards.
Fisher will close out its three-game road trip at 1 p.m next Saturday against the Ithaca College Bombers.