Lions pecked by reigning NJAC champs

By Connor Smith
News Editor

TCNJ Football
Ragab shines on defense with 12 tackles. (Courtesy of Sports Information Desk)

The Lions could not contain the No. 11 Salisbury University Seagulls on Saturday, Oct. 1. The College fell to the reigning New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) champs, 41-6.

“We gave up a handful of big plays on defense,” interim head coach Rocky Hager said. “Some came on a new play that we haven’t seen them use before, so I think we did much better in the second half.”

The Lions came off a strong defensive effort against Christopher Newport University last week, but Salisbury’s option-heavy offense was an unwelcomed change of pace.

Salisbury won the opening coin toss and elected to receive, but the Lions defense had other plans. Junior defensive lineman Shane Kelley stripped a third down rush attempt and the Lions recovered the ball at the Seagulls 24-yard line.

Junior quarterback Trevor Osler threw his first passing touchdown of the year on 3rd and 12, as senior receiver Jeff Mattonelli caught a 16-yard pass to put the Lions up, 6-0.

After a blocked extra-point, the Lions seemed poised to upset the Seagulls.

Then, Salisbury showed why they’re a conference favorite, as the team ran an 80-yard kick return to the Lions 15-yard line. The first snap of the drive was a touchdown run, and the Seagulls took a 7-6 lead.

From there on out, it was all Seagulls. The Salisbury defense stuffed the College in the following drive and the Seagulls received a punt at the 32-yard line.

It took just eight plays and 2:50 minutes off the clock for Salisbury to score a second touchdown.

The second quarter wasn’t much better, as the Seagulls extended their lead to 24-6.

According to Hager, the defense needed to adjust to a creative Seagulls playbook. These adjustments characterized the third quarter, where neither team managed to score a single point.

The fourth quarter opened with a Salisbury field goal, and brought the score to 26-6. The College responded with a first down, but couldn’t convert on the second set of downs.

With the ball at the Salisbury 33-yard line, the Lions allowed a 67-yard pass to blow the game open at 34-6.

The Lions offense would not score again, and Salisbury tacked on insurance points to end the game with a 41-6 win.

The Lions, now 0-4, battled three top-ranked opponents in four weeks. Next week’s game against the Wesley College Wolverines on Saturday, Oct. 8, will be another tough matchup. Still, there are six conference opponents to go, so there is room for another Lions turnaround.