SU falls to Muhlenberg in football playoffs, 24-8

The big crowd of Salisbury fans works to urge on the Sea Gulls. (Joey Gardner Photo.)

The sixth-ranked Salisbury University football team’s historic 2019 campaign came to an end in the NCAA Elite Eight as they dropped a 24-8 decision to the fourth-ranked Muhlenberg Mules on Saturday.

Muhlenberg, with a 13-0 record, will continue on in the playoffs; Salisbury ends its season with an 11-1 record.

In the first quarter, after Salisbury forced a Muhlenberg three-and-out to start the game, Salisbury drove down to the red zone in three plays highlighted by a 22-yard Jack Lanham completion to Chad Gleason, a Lanham 17-yard keeper and a Shamar Gray five-yard rush. Gleason, however, fumbled a toss play at the 13-yard line and Muhlenberg recovered the ball to keep the game scoreless.

On the ensuing drive, Muhlenberg drove down the field and scored on a 23-yard pass from Mike Hnatkowsky to Max Kirin to give the Mules an early 7-0 lead.

Muhlenberg scored again on their next drive on a nine-yard touchdown reception by Kirin from Hnatkowsky.

Salisbury was driving to start the second quarter. Facing a 4th-and-2 on the Muhlenberg 27. Lanham took a shot to the end zone to Octavion Wilson but John Washington broke up the pass at the goal line to keep Salisbury off the board.

Muhlenberg added points with 6:54 left in the half on a Todd Spirt 34-yard field goal to give the Mules a 17-0 lead.

In the third quarter, Muhlenberg made it a 24-0 game when Hnatkowsky found Mitch Daniel in the middle of the field for a 22-yard touchdown pass.

In the final quarter, Salisbury got some momentum going their way when Hnatkowsky was intercepted by Troy Garrett at the Salisbury 34 in the early moments of the fourth.

Quarterback Jack Lanham sends a pass airborne against the No. 4 Mules.

Salisbury got down into Muhlenberg territory but their drive stalled at the Muhlenberg 34-yard line.

The defense stepped up and forced a three-and-out on Muhlenberg’s next possession. Gleason took a punt back 44 yards to the Muhlenberg territory.

After a Michael Fowler 14-yard run and a Damien King 11-yard run put Salisbury with a goal-to-go, Lanham took it himself and powered across the goal line to put points on the board. Lanham also converted the two-point try to cut the Muhlenberg lead to 24-8.

Bert Schrecongost’s onside kick was recovered by Muhlenberg.

Salisbury got the ball back with four minutes left in the game but Muhlenberg’s Joseph O’Hagan intercepted the fourth-down play to seal the win.

Salisbury was making its first NCAA Quarterfinal appearance since 2011.

Patrick Bernardo moved to fifth all-time in career tackles in Salisbury history with 283 tackles.

Salisbury had qualified for its 11th NCAA Tournament in program history.

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