BY ETHAN WILT
What: Salisbury Football (7-3) vs. Ithaca College (7-3)
Where: University of Delaware
When: 5 p.m.
How to Watch: ECAC All-Access
Salisbury (7-3) is coming off against a crushing overtime loss against now-NCAA Tournament team Frostburg State last Saturday in the Regents Cup, but lucked out Monday and earned a spot in the Scotty Whitelaw Bowl this Saturday against Ithaca College (7-3). The Sea Gulls look to finish their season out on a high note and head into next season with momentum.
Salisbury’s offense was largely held in check against Frostburg, being held to 272 yards on offense. Against the Bobcats, Salisbury’s explosive triple option, which has worked for the Sea Gulls all season, was shut down by Frostburg’s fast and aggressive front seven.
Salisbury’s super backs left a lot on the field last week and will look to step up their game against the Bombers this Saturday.
If they want to end the season on a high note, Salisbury needs to be somewhat effective in their passing game. Last weekend senior quarterback Brandon Lewis, completed 2 of 8 passes in the game, and there appeared to be a hesitancy to use their passing game. Lewis needs to be more effective throwing the ball in the game this weekend to take some of the load off the shoulders of his backs.
Even with a stout Frostburg defense keying in on them all game, super backs Malique Pratt and Dandre Dennis found space to run and did enough to keep the game tied up at seven all for most of the game.
They were just under their season average, so some action in the passing game could really open it up for these two players, and thus the game for the Sea Gulls
Salisbury’s defense this whole season, when facing a potent offense, has been “bend, but don’t break.” And they have become strong at displaying that motto. The Sea Gull secondary held the New Jersey Athletic Conference’s (NJAC) top passing offense to 188 yards last weekend.
That show of defense in the secondary bodes well for this weekend, where Salisbury is going up Ithaca’s freshman quarterback, Wahid Nabi, who was just named The Liberty League’s Rookie of the Year.
The Sea Gull’s front seven and run defense should continue to have success in the Scotty Whitelaw Bowl Saturday, continuing their solid play they have demonstrated all season.
Keys to the Game
Salisbury needs to mix up the play calling this weekend. Against less dominant defenses, the triple option works beautifully, and the offense can ride that consistently to over 30 points each game. However, with a somewhat dominant front seven, it has been seen that shutting down the Salisbury run game shuts down their entire offense.
A mix of well-timed, play-action passes, that are executed, could open up the game for the Sea Gulls this Saturday. Their run game is always a focus for opposing defenses, so throw them off at times. Some quick slants certainly couldn’t hurt either.
Player to Watch: Brandon Lewis
We said it last weekend, and we’ll say it again: Brandon Lewis is what opens up this game for Salisbury. The run game can’t be relied on completely, and at times proficiency in the passing game is a necessity. A poor showing for Lewis in the passing game again, and Salisbury is immediately put in a more difficult position to win.
At Thursday’s weekly Coaches Luncheon, SU Head Coach Sherman Wood noted that Lewis has been banged up the last few weeks. If Lewis cannot make the start on Saturday, freshman quarterback Jack Lanham will get it.
A member of the Liberty League, Ithaca comes into Saturday’s match-up with the same record as, and a somewhat familiarity with the Sea Gulls. Led by an experienced defense and an efficient offense, they have consistently kept themselves in the win column all season.
The Bomber’s offense is led by Wahid Nabi, their freshman quarterback. Nothing really jumps out at anyone when looking at their offense. They are remarkably average when compared to some of the explosive offense’s the Sea Gulls have played this year.
Their games are often kept close, so their offense doesn’t have to do too much, and they are comfortable with that. Surpassing 30 points just three times this season, their offense will be tested to see if they can keep up with Salisbury if needed.
While the offense is all about the future and youth, this defense is nothing if not experience. They are home to an all-conference defensive lineman, Brian Gill, linebackers Kenny Bradley and Dan Loizos as well as defensive back Jordan Schemm. They are stacked with talent at all levels of their defense.
Because of this, it is easy to see how they have been so effective all season, often holding opponents under 30 points.
This game, their top lineman and linebackers will have to be playing at the height of their games this Saturday in order to stop the triple option of the Sea Gulls.
Keys to the Game
Ithaca’s front seven holds their key to victory in this game. We saw what happened last weekend when Salisbury’s run game is shut down. If they can do the same thing this weekend, they could be well on their way to a bowl game victory.
Their offense often has not had to do a lot because of their defense this season. If they contain Salisbury’s super backs, what has often been just enough for the Bomber’s offense could be plenty enough to defeat Salisbury.
Player to Watch: Brian Gill
Their top player on the defensive line, Gill will look to set the mood for how the defense as a whole will play. Leading the point of attack against the run, Gill will play a large role in Ithaca’s defensive effort.
Not only stopping the run game, but also applying pressure on Lewis when Salisbury decides to pass will provide a large boost to Ithaca’s defensive effort.