At the beginning of the season, Rowan football had their game versus Salisbury circled on their calendars. Unfortunately, the result did not go as planned, with the Profs losing the conference battle against the Seagulls by a final score of 28-23 on Saturday, Oct. 29.
The loss was a stinger for Head Coach Jay Accorsi, who feels as though his team left some meat on the bone in this one.
“I thought we had some missed opportunities,” Coach Accorsi said. “I thought we had a really good chance to win the game. We haven’t played that well in a long time, and we haven’t played that well against them in a long time. We’re all really disappointed, I thought we had our chances, and we let it slip away. Obviously they’re a good team, but I thought we played really well.”
Although the final result was a number added to the loss column, there were many positive signs to come out of this game.
For starters, the passing offense finally got back on track after about a month of inconsistencies. Quarterback Mike Husni threw for 212 yards and three touchdowns, and wide receiver John Maldonado returned to his dominant form, catching 11 passes for 120 yards and two touchdowns.
“We were just moving pieces around, guys stepping up,” Husni said. “Terry [Carlstrom] stepped up. I mean, a majority of those plays were broken plays, guys getting open, guys getting lost. That’s a big emphasis on us, because if the defense sees me moving around, then they’re more worried about trying to stop me running… When you play teams like Salisbury who run a triple, you have to play a little more aggressive, so we were definitely taking our shots.”
Maldonado has had a roller coaster of a season so far, but the passing game’s overall adjustments contributed to the star wide receiver getting back on track this week.
“We got back to who we were,” Maldonado said. “I’m not saying we played tight in the prior three, four weeks, but I think we were kinda just getting away from who we think we are as an offense. This week we got back to that like the first couple games of the season, where we were getting the ball all over the place.”
The offense played one of their best games in weeks, but it was the defense who really stepped up to the plate. The defense held Salisbury, a team who came into this one averaging over 40 points per game in their wins this season, to just 28 points all afternoon.
“They played awesome,” Coach Accorsi said. “The couple of fullback traps were deceiving, because those are big long runs. Yes, their running back had 190, on one play it was almost 90, but I thought we contained them in those other areas, especially third and medium. We made them turn the ball over, we stifled them… That’s a really tough offense to slow down and stop, and I thought we did a good job of it for the most part.”
Defensive lineman Ahmad Gantt, who led the Profs with nine tackles against Salisbury, spoke about how the defense adopted a mindset from a previous game to help them stop one of the top offenses in the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC).
“It was a long week of preparation,” Gantt said. “We had the mindset from Springfield, we knew that we matched up with them perfectly, we just had to go out there and execute and do what we were told to do. We did our thing.”
Although there were positive signs overall, Salisbury’s potent rushing offense rumbled for 328 yards on the day. Gantt pointed out why their running game is so hard to stop.
“It’s the way they get off the ball,” Gantt said. “Everything is fast, everything is smooth. They’ve been doing that triple option offense for a pretty long time, and that’s why it’s so difficult for other teams to stop. But once you get that preparation that we had, it just comes to you faster.”
Shifting gears back to the offensive side of the ball, it’s no secret that the Profs’ offense has seen inconsistent results this season. With just two games remaining on the regular season schedule, Husni spoke about what the offense needs to do in these final two weeks to make sure they’re in top form heading into the playoffs.
“I don’t think we’ve reached our full potential yet,” Husni said. “It’s kind of hard, it seems like one week we’re good at passing and our run game’s a little off. Then the next week, vice versa. If we can just get them both on track, I think we’ll be good. It’s just frustrating it’s taken this long to get all the pieces together.”
Following a tough season last year, the Profs have been doubted on whether they can compete with the top dogs for a conference title. After their game against Salisbury on Saturday, Accorsi feels as though his team put the rest of the conference on notice.
“[in-conference teams] understand if we put it all together how well we play, and that we can be one of the echelon teams again,” Accorsi said. “I was talking to the three captains, Mike [Husni], John [Maldonado], and [Mike] Mascioli that we had to really rebuild last year… We’re back playing Rowan football, and that’s all I think we all wanted to do. That was a huge statement game Saturday, and it’s a shame, because we had a chance to win.”
Coach Accorsi and company will look to bounce back from their loss to the Seagulls on Saturday, Nov. 5, when conference rival Montclair State comes to town.
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