After falling behind in the fourth quarter, the Salisbury University football team rallied to force overtime before handing No. 6 St. John Fisher College its first loss of the season, 37-34.
Salisbury (2-2, 1-1 Empire 8 Athletic Conference) found itself trailing, 31-24, with just under six minutes to play, following a 21-yard field goal by St. John Fisher kicker Greg Lohrman.
The Sea Gulls would take over in good field position, at their own 35-yard line, with 5:48 on the clock, after sophomore Aarron Moore returned the ensuing kickoff 32 yards. Salisbury would go to work, grinding its offense down the field.
It took 14 plays to cover 65 yards, with only two of the plays going for more than nine yards – a 23 yard pass from junior quarterback John Dunbar to sophomore slot Ryan Kolb on third-and-11, and a 17-yard connection from Dunbar to junior slot Jerome Johnson. Both plays went for first downs as Salisbury had 22 on the day.
It was Dunbar who finished the drive, getting in from 3 yards out, and sophomore Zak Osborne’s point after tied the game at 31-31. Dunbar led Salisbury with 136 yards on the ground and two rushing touchdowns.
In the overtime, the Cardinals (3-1, 2-1 E8) had the first try, driving to the Salisbury 7-yard line, but the Sea Gull defense stalled the drive, and St. John Fisher settled for a 24-yard Lohrman field goal and the 34-31 lead.
Salisbury needed just a touchdown to win, and wasted no time. Kolb ran the ball on the right side, following a Cardinal offsides penalty, for four yards and on the second play from scrimmage senior super back J.D. Hook took a feed from Dunbar up the middle. Hook broke one tackle at the line of scrimmage and was through to the second level. The final Fisher would-be tackler, a defensive back, bounced off Hook at the 5-yard line, and the LaVale, Maryland native rumbled into the end zone for the game winner.
Hook had 10 carries in the game, for 53 yards, and found the end zone twice. The game-winning run was his longest of the day.
The victory is the sixth in as many tries for Salisbury in the all-time series against the Cardinals.
Despite receiving the opening kickoff in the game, the Sea Gulls would turn the ball over, but avoided falling behind when the Cardinals missed out on a 26-yard field goal attempt early in the contest.
The Sea Gulls took over at the 20-yard line and marched down the field, covering the 80 yards in nine plays, taking just under five minutes off the clock. The big play on the drive was a 36-yard romp by Dunbar to get the Gulls to the St. John Fisher 15-yard line, and two plays later Hook got in from 3 yards out for the 7-0 lead.
On the next Cardinal drive, the Sea Gull defense would bend, but not break. St. John Fisher got the ball to the Salisbury 36-yard line, but a strip sack by sophomore Zack Seifert, which was recovered by classmate Tyler Paradysz, gave Salisbury the ball.
Salisbury moved the ball, but a missed field goal attempt kept the score at 7-0. St. John Fisher tied the game before the Sea Gulls put together 10 points on an Osborne 28-yard field goal and a quick 52-yard drive, over 20 seconds, with a Dunbar 35-yard scoring pass to junior wide receiver Max Ehrsam.
Dunbar was 10-of-14 passing for the day, for 149 yards. All three numbers are career highs for the Point Pleasant, New Jersey native.
The Cardinals scored with less than 10 seconds remaining in the first half, and would receive the opening kick of the second half. But the SU defense forced a Cardinal three-and-out, with sophomore linebacker Shane Marvel and junior defensive back James Bryant stuffing Chris Smith’s carry on third-and-2, preserving the lead before the Salisbury offense methodically worked its way down the field.
The Sea Gulls went 59 yards on 14 plays, while taking 8:42 off the clock capping things with a 19-yard Dunbar touchdown run. On the drive, Salisbury converted a pair of fourth downs; the Sea Gulls were 4-for-4 on fourth-down conversions on the day. The drive was indicative of the Salisbury offense for the day, as the Gulls held the ball for 39:06 in the game.
The score put Salisbury up by 10, but it would only last so long as the Cardinals scored on three-consecutive possessions to grab the 31-24 lead.
The Salisbury defense, which held the Cardinals to just 2-for-9 on third-down conversions, was led by junior linebacker James Hall, who registered nine tackles. The Salisbury defense recorded seven tackles for loss in the game, paced by Marvel and senior lineman Nick Ochoa, who had 1.5 each.
Salisbury will look to get over .500 on the season on Saturday, hosting Utica College at Sea Gull Stadium.
It will mark just the second home game of the year for the Sea Gulls and is scheduled to kick off at noon.