CHESTER, Pa. – The No. 11 Salisbury University football team's season came to an end with a 28-7 loss to ninth-ranked Widener University at Leslie C. Quick Jr. Stadium on Saturday.
Senior slot Ross Flanigan finished with a game-high 70 yards rushing yards on 10 carries, while wide receiver classmate Juma Richards caught a career-high five passes for 98 yards to lead the Salisbury (9-3) offense, which was bottled up by Widener (11-0). With the win, the Pride move onto the NCAA quarterfinals to play No. 1, the University of Mount Union, a 55-13 winner over No. 15 Johns Hopkins University.
Widener outgained Salisbury in total offensive yards, 445-230, and forced three turnovers to advance.
Salisbury took the opening kickoff to the Pride 23-yard line in 11 plays and five-and-a-half minutes, but Lonnie Liggins was one yard short of a first down on a forth-and-4 rush, turning the ball over on downs.
Widener drove to the Salisbury 39 but was stopped, when sophomore linebacker Steven Gamble sacked Chris Haupt for a six-yard loss at the 45-yard line.
On the next Widener drive, junior safety Greg Stanton picked off Haupt for his seventh interception of the season and ninth of his career, setting the Gulls up with good field position at the Pride 44. Flanigan took a pitch 15 yards to the 29 for a first down, but the drive stalled as Dan Griffin completed a pass on fourth and 6 to Michael Copenhaver a yard shy of the marker.
Salisbury had another chance to open the scoring on its next possession by Jamal Dorsey blocked a 32-yard field goal attempt by Eric Hart.
Widener got on the board following a Salisbury fumble at the Pride 47-yard line. Haupt found Anthony Davis for 12 yards for a first down. A personal foul put the ball on the Salisbury 26 and, two plays later, Davis took a reverse to the end zone for a touchdown 5:31 before the break.
SU fumbled again on its next possession and Stacey Sunnerville recovered, setting the pride up on the SU 14-yard line. Four plays later, Terrant Morrison extended the lead to 14-0 with a 1-yard plunge with 3:58 left in the half.
The Pride got the ball back, after a Kyle Hamby punt from his own end zone with 1:31 remaining, and marched to the Salisbury 8. Senior cornerback Paul Moore blocked James McFadden's 25-yard field-goal attempt at the gun, keeping it a two-score game.
The third quarter was scoreless, but Haupt found Davis on an 82-yard touchdown pass to make it a 21-0 game 3:52 into the fourth.
The Pride wore the clock down until the 1:52 mark, when Haupt found Connor Schlegel on a 64-yard bomb for a 28-0 lead.
The Sea Gulls responded with a quick strike to breakup the shutout bid. Griffin hit Richards for 35 yards, before he stepped out at the 2-yard line. Griffin followed with a short rushing TD to cut into the advantage.
SU recovered the ensuing onside kick, but was unable to get closer.
Haupt was 23-for-35 passing with 347 yards and one pick, while Davis caught 11 passes for 201 yards and a score; he also ran twice for 32 yards and a score.
Griffin threw for 109 and one interception on 8-of-14 passing; he added a TD on 25 carries.
Hamby punted seven times, averaging 45.3 yards. He boomed a school-record 84-yarder in the third quarter.
Defensively, Gamble finished with a team-high 12 tackles, two tackles for loss and one sack. Senior safety Chris Everett made eight stops to move into 10th all-time in Salisbury history with 239 career tackles. Stanton also made eight tackles. His interception put him into a tie for ninth all-time in career picks for the Gulls.
Sunnerville made a game-high 15 tackles, four for loss and three sacks for Widener.
The loss marks the final game for 17 seniors who combined for a 32-11 (.744) four-year record with three NCAA tournament appearances and two Empire 8 Athletic Comference championships.