BY ZACH GILLELAND
In past memory, the Regent’s Cup had been a one-sided affair, with Salisbury winning 12 consecutive games from 2004 to 2015. But with Frostburg State Head Coach Delane Fitzgerald taking over the helm in 2014, the rivalry has seen more competitive, close contests.
Fans were treated to another instant classic in Sea Gull Stadium Saturday, with the Bobcats taking down the Sea Gulls in a defensive slugfest 14-7 in double-overtime.
The last time the two teams faced, it was Frostburg coming away with their first Regent’s Cup trophy since 2003, with quarterback Connor Cox connecting with Russell Neverdon on a 14-yard strike with a minute remaining to give FSU a 21-17 victory.
Two seasons ago it was the 51-yard completion to Isaiah Taylor on fourth-and-15 that set up the game-winning touchdown from Ryan Jones to Taylor that capped off a 20-point comeback in the fourth quarter.
Saturday’s match-up was a different game for the two teams. Both offenses came into the contest averaging over 30 points a game, with Frostburg hosting the NJAC’s top passing offense and Salisbury possessing the conference’s top rushing attack.
On a cold, cloudy Veteran’s Day, the final home game of the 2017 season offered a chance to reflect on the senior’s memories while wearing maroon and gold for one final time at Sea Gull Stadium.
“They definitely laid the foundation and continue to lay the foundation for what we are all about as a program,” SU Head Coach Sherman Wood said. “I told the young guys, ‘you will not know the moment until it happens.’ I just told them to know what they are filling.”
Senior super back Malique Pratt had one of his finest games of the season. The senior got Salisbury on the board early in the fourth quarter with a 47-yard touchdown run that tied the game and seemingly rejuvenated the SU faithful. Pratt, who took over the starting job earlier this season, led the Sea Gulls with 75 rushing yards on only nine carries.
“I just love my brothers man,” Pratt said. “I wouldn’t trade this team for anyone else, I just wish I had more time.”
The only score for SU in the game, the story on Saturday were the missed opportunities. Senior slot back Brady Curley all but tied the game in the third quarter with a 58-yard touchdown run, but an illegal shift negated the would be scoring play.
Frostburg found the end zone first early in the second quarter with a 21-yard touchdown pass from Cox to Sergio Andino, the wide out’s 10th receiving touchdown in six games. Salisbury’s Dakari Ellis looked to have a chance at an interception after undercutting the route, but the ball sailed over his head and was tipped by Andino, who made a one-handed diving catch.
The Bobcat defense swarmed the Sea Gull triple option offense, holding SU to 272 yards of total offense. Frostburg’s lethal pass rush was on display, allowing Salisbury’s Brandon Lewis to complete just two passes on eight attempts. Bobcat defensive lineman Zach Strand contributed three sacks and the team had seven tackles for loss.
Fumbles continued to be a problem for the Sea Gulls, who coughed up the ball seven times, losing three. A sloppy afternoon for both offenses, the two teams fumbled the ball a total of 10 times and threw two interceptions.
Salisbury had an opportunity late to put the game away. Driving deep into FSU territory with a minute remaining in regulation, the offense looked to get into field goal range for senior kicker Alex Potocko.
With 18 seconds left, Lewis rushed for a two-yard gain that put the ball on the Bobcat’s 20 yard-line, but an unsportsmanlike penalty from senior wide receiver Brad Rose pushed the Sea Gulls back 15 yards, turning the would be 35-yard field goal into a 50-yard attempt.
The field goal attempt was short, sending the game into overtime.
Missed chances highlighted the first overtime period. FSU’s Josh Washington intercepted a Lewis pass and gave the Bobcats a chance to win the game. Hassan Mostafa set up for a game-winning 34-yard field goal attempt, but was blocked by Ellis.
It was Cox, who led Frostburg on a game-winning drive a season ago, who would send the Bobcats to their second-straight Regent’s Cup win. The junior scrambled on third-down, evading the Salisbury pressure to find tight end Christian DiPaolo all alone for a 27-yard touchdown.
The Sea Gulls tried to answer, but a fumble by Pratt ended the SU attempt.
An emotional, intense game, both teams were flagged a total of 28 times for a combined 332 penalty yardage.
“We have a lot of young guys that just got caught up in the moment,” Wood said. “It’s an emotional game, both teams look forward to it and we just got the raw end of the stick.”
The win propels Frostburg to a possible at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament. Salisbury will wait and see as to whether their resume is good enough for a bowl bid.
“We hurt ourselves,” Wood said. “We took ourselves out of a victory.”