Rowan Football struggles to win at home; loses to Salisbury

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Vincent Guarino lines up on defense. Guarino recorded 11 tackles and a forced fumble on Saturday. - Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021. - Photo via Lee Kotzen

The 2023 season has not played out the way head coach Jay Accorsi and the Rowan football team had envisioned at this point of the season. After going 4-1 at home in 2022, the team’s uncharacteristic trend this season has been their inability to win games in front of the home crowd.

That trend continued on Saturday, Oct. 21, as the Profs would put themselves in a hole that they weren’t able to dig out of and fell to the Salisbury Sea Gulls 35-20. This loss dropped the team’s home record to 0-5 and gave them their second consecutive New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) loss.

“We weren’t able to stop the run game and we struggled for the majority of the game to move the ball on offense,” Accorsi said.

The Profs’ defense continued their trend of forcing big turnovers though, as linebacker Nick Cerulli recorded his second touchdown of the season after he returned Vincent Guarino’s forced fumble 64 yards. Junior defensive back Eric Bryant also recorded his fifth interception of the campaign.

Unfortunately for the Profs, those defensive plays weren’t enough to completely shut down the Sea Gulls offensive game plan.

The Sea Gulls’ triple option offensive scheme hurt the Profs throughout the day, as they leaned heavily on their run game. Salisbury ran the ball 66 times in the game and averaged six yards per attempt for a grand total of 387 rushing yards.

The rushing attack was led by Salisbury running backs Joey Bildstein and David Fletcher, who each had over 100 yards rushing. All five of the Sea Gulls touchdowns were scored through the ground, as Bildstein had three touchdowns while Jayden Thomas recorded two touchdowns himself.

Salisbury quarterback Ben Hutchins added the trend on the ground, with 71 yards on 14 rushing attempts. He only attempted four passes all game and didn’t complete any.

Freshman defensive lineman Carter Williams gave his thoughts on what happened defensively. 

“We weren’t in the right places and weren’t making plays, with a team like that, there’s always a different option whether that’s the quarterback, the dive man, or the pitch man… we didn’t play our best game out there today,” Williams said.

Thomas Goldsborough returned from injury to start in this contest after missing last week’s game against Christopher Newport. It was a tough outing for Goldsborough as he would only complete two of his five passes for nine yards.

Goldsborough’s day was cut short in the second quarter after the ball slipped out of his hands when he winded up to throw. The play was ruled as a fumble which was recovered by Salisbury and set up the Sea Gulls drive to start on Rowan’s 14-yard line. The Sea Gulls took advantage of this mistake, as Thomas ripped off a 14-yard to put the Sea Gulls up 14-0.

“You can’t turn the ball over like we did,” Accorsi said. “Against good teams, you can’t give a team like Salisbury short-field advantages and expect to come out and win the game.”

From there, Accorsi decided to put in freshman quarterback Nate Maiers, who completed 21 of his 31 attempts for 213 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions.

The two touchdowns went to junior wide receiver Corey Gordon and senior wide receiver Jake Schicke. Junior Kevin Degnan also added a season-high 10 catches for 76 yards in the contest.

Rowan was able to thrive throughout the air due to the defensive game plan that Salisbury had, which was to limit the Profs rushing attack. Running back Nunes Bukula IV and backfield mate Tyshawn Bookman averaged just 2.2 yards per carry and only ran for a combined 60 yards.

Maiers described in his eyes what happened on the field. 

“We got down early, that makes it hard to win games when the offense doesn’t get it going until late in the game,” Maiers said. “We need to find a way to run the ball better and get better at not turning the ball over… we’re close to clicking, once we find that consistency we’ll win these next couple of games.” 

The Profs will look for that consistency when begin their two-game NJAC road trip on Saturday, Oct. 28, when they travel to Montclair to take on the 4-3 Montclair State University Red Hawks.

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