BUFFALO, N.Y. – The Salisbury University football team started Empire 8 Athletic Conference play at Buffalo State College on Saturday afternoon, falling 32-28 to the Bengals.
Salisbury (1-2) received the opening kickoff but a quick turnover, on a fumble, gave the ball back to the Bengals. The Salisbury defense stood strong with the early test, as Buffalo State started with the ball at the 25-yard line.
The Bengals (3-1) went three-and-out, settling for a 37-yard field goal for an early 3-0 lead. But the Sea Gulls would respond quickly.
Sophomore Aarron Moore returned the ensuing kickoff 33 yards to set up the Sea Gulls in good field position and junior slot Jerome Johnson, seeing his first game action this season, ran 60 yards down to the Buffalo State 2-yard line.
Three plays later, after a Salisbury penalty, junior quarterback John Dunbar connected with Moore on a 3-yard touchdown pass, for a 7-0 lead.
The Salisbury defense would stand strong again, allowing just one Bengal first down on the next drive before forcing a punt, and the Sea Gull offense went on a sustained drive.
Salisbury drove 85 yards on 14 plays, highlighted by 16-yard run by senior J.D. Hook and capped by Moore's second score of a day, an 8-yard run for a 14-3 lead.
The Bengals would score midway through the second quarter, and again, the Sea Gulls would have an answer, needing just two plays to cover 75 yards thanks to a 72-yard pass connection from Dunbar to sophomore Ryan Kolb pushing the lead back to 11 points, 21-10, which they would take into halftime.
Buffalo State would cut into the lead on the first drive of the second half, scoring on a 1-yard touchdown run by Rich Pete, cutting the Salisbury lead to 21-17.
A fumble on the next Salisbury possession would threaten the lead as the Bengals moved the ball inside the Sea Gull 5-yard line, but a fumble by Pete, recovered by junior Nick Anzallo, gave the Sea Gulls possession, setting off the longest drive of the year.
Hook carried the ball six times on the drive, as Salisbury marched 95 yards in 13 plays, taking 6:15 off the clock, before Moore got in the end zone again, from 8 yards out, to stretch the Salisbury lead to 28-17.
Moore finished with the three touchdowns to go with 35 yards on the ground, on five carries. Hook paced the offense with 140 yards on the ground, on 24 attempts.
Junior Michael Landry picked off Buffalo State quarterback Kyle Hoppy on one of the first plays of the fourth quarter, allowing Salisbury to take control and work some more time off the clock. Dunbar ran the ball six times on the drive, which covered 52 yards and burned another six and a half minutes off the clock. Salisbury got the ball to the Buffalo State 1-yard line, but could not punch the ball in the end zone, turning it over on downs.
The Bengals took over with 8:22 left in the game, and took advantage of the chance, covering 99 yards in less than two minutes, as Pete scored from 20 yards out, and a two-point conversion run by Hoppy made it a 28-25 game.
Buffalo State would cause a turnover in the closing minutes of the game, and turn that into its final touchdown of the day, to grab the 32-28 lead, and Salisbury would see two drives stall inside its own territory.
Junior linebacker James Hall and Anzallo led the Salisbury defense, with nine tackles each, while Hall also had a fumble recovery.
Salisbury will be back in action next Saturday, October 4, traveling to No. 7 St. John Fisher College; that game is scheduled to kickoff at noon.