ALFRED, NY – The Alfred University football team (7-4, Empire 8 4-3) won the 2018 Asa S. Bushnell Bowl over Salisbury 14-7 on the road on Saturday afternoon. Sophomore Nas Smith (Auburn, NY/Auburn) scored his third rushing touchdown from 60 yards or more in the last two games - earning the game's Most Valuable Player Award.
AU football is now 11-2 in Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) bowl games dating back to 1986. The Saxons defeated the Sea Gulls of Salisbury University for the third consecutive time since 2013. Head Coach Bob Rankl has now won 40 games in five years at AU (40-15 overall, .727), ranking fifth among all football coaches in AU history. He trails Sam Sanders who had 49 wins at the helm of the Saxons over the course of eight seasons (1977-84).
"Overall, I am really happy with how the team performed today," Rankl stated. "I thought we played very physical on both sides of the football. Today's game was a great way to send out a group of seniors that have set the all-time record for wins in a career at Alfred University," referring to the class of 2019 that finished its career with 35 total wins in four years.
The Saxons held Salisbury's top-ranked rushing offense in the nation to only 174 rush yards in the game. The Sea Gulls averaged 366.2 yards per game entering the matchup. Senior middle linebacker Cole Reed (Gratz, PA/Upper Dauphin Area) led the defense with 13 total tackles, bringing his season total to 130 tackles. He now ranks fifth all-time at AU for tackles in a season. John Hoosock '90 holds the record with 154 tackles in a single season (1990). Sophomore Raeqwon Greer (Buffalo, NY/Canisius) chipped in with nine tackles while Jeremy Turenne (Brooklyn, NY/Midwood), Leo Pamphile (Spring Valley, NY/Spring Valley) and Russell Kohler (Seaford, NY/St. Anthony's) had eight, seven and seven tackles, respectively.
AU opened the game with a touchdown on its opening drive, pushing 63 yards down the field on 10 plays. Finally, Ben Burk (Lakewood, NY/Southwestern) found E.J. Staniszewski (South Wales, NY/Holland) in the back of the end zone for a 22-yard touchdown – Staniszewski's first of his career. Burk finished the game with 118 yards on 10-of-16 (62.5%) passing with one touchdown.
The Saxons maintained the momentum on the very next drive when Pamphile jumped on top of a fumble at the Salisbury 42-yard line. However, the Saxons were unable to convert on the turnover, stalling out on the Sea Gull's 22-yard line. Kohler forced and recovered another fumble for the defense at the start of the second quarter, but once again the AU offense was denied a score.
Finally, Salisbury knotted the game up, 7-7, with 1:16 to go in the first half, throwing for a 33-yard touchdown on only it's third pass of the day. One pass had previously been intercepted by Kyle Moore (Roosevelt, NY/Roosevelt) earlier in the quarter. Heading into the locker room, the teams remained tied 7-7.
Smith scored the lone touchdown in the second half, rushing for a 61-yard TD at the start fourth quarter, lifting the Saxons to their fourth consecutive ECAC bowl championship.
Smith finished the game with 160 yards rushing and one touchdown. Over the course of the season, he accumulated 1,323 yards on the ground, ranking fifth all-time for rushing yards in a single season. Austin Dwyer '13 holds the record with 1,412 yards rushing in 2010.
AU held an advantage in net rush yards (237-172), pass yards (153-40) and total offense (390-212). Junior Aaron Griffin (Queens, NY/Holy Cross) rushed for 55 yards while Burk accumulated 24 yards on the ground.
The Saxon defense that entered the game as the nation-leading unit in turnovers gained forced three turnovers against (2 fumbles; 1 interception). AU finished the year with 36 total turnovers including 23 interceptions (#1 in the nation) and 13 fumble recoveries.
Overall, AU moves to 15-6 in postseason play, including a 4-4 record in NCAA playoff games and an 11-2 record in ECAC bowl games.