Montclair State Red Hawks Dismantled By Salisbury Sea Gulls


Published October 3, 2021
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The Montclarion
Captains Seamus Nelson (#4), Dominick Ferrara (#44), Matt Schnoll (#76) and Ja'Quill Burch (#12) walk towards the middle of the field for the coin toss. Photo courtesy of David Venezia

No. 14 ranked Salisbury University flexed its muscles and made a case for an even higher ranking with a physical 27-7 win over the Montclair State University football team. The Sea Gulls moved to 3-1 and have now won six straight games against the Red Hawks.

The Sea Gulls did enough damage in the first half alone as they led 27-0 at the break.

After an inspiring Week 3 performance, the Red Hawks were beaten soundly by a strong Salisbury team. The Sea Gulls posted 249 yards rushing and dominated the contest from the very beginning. The Salisbury ground game once again seemed to be impossible to stop as their triple-option attack gashed the Red Hawk defense.

Defending the triple-option is not easy. It offers up multiple ways for a team to move the ball as it utilizes multiple running backs in the formation. The best way to defend it is by eliminating something that the offense does.

Senior defensive back Brennan Ray wraps up a Salisbury ballcarrier. Photo courtesy of David Venezia

Senior defensive back Brennan Ray wraps up a Salisbury University ballcarrier.
Photo courtesy of David Venezia

When you can limit the number of things an offense is doing, it makes it much easier to anticipate what they are doing and where it might be. The focus should be on taking away either the dive or the pitch.

Head coach Rick Giancola spoke about the difficulty of defending the triple-option offense.

“It’s a tough offense especially when you’ve got a quarterback like they have who can throw the football,” Giancola said. “Usually, those kids who play quarterback in the wish-bone-type offense don’t throw the ball very well, they run the ball very well. This young man is very good and can run the offense.”

Salisbury’s Jack Lanham gives the Sea Gulls’ offense another dimension, as the senior quarterback is great on his feet and has a fantastic arm. Lanham was the engine for his team as he combined for 145 yards of total offense and scored twice (one rushing and passing).

Senior quarterback Ja'Quill Burch hands the ball off to sophomore running back Makai Mickens. Photo courtesy of David Venezia

Senior quarterback Ja’Quill Burch hands the ball off to sophomore running back Makai Mickens.
Photo courtesy of David Venezia

The Red Hawk defense would have liked to do better against the run throughout the game, but they did perform much better as the game went on, not allowing a single point in the second half. Give this group credit, they got punched in the mouth early but responded in the second half with a shutout.

Once again, the Montclair State offense struggled to put points on the board early in the game. Slow starts on offense have become the Achilles’ heel for the team this season.

“We’re not mature enough to go 90 yards, 80 yards, we’re young and prone to mistakes,” Giancola said. “We’re inexperienced and we play like we are young. That’s what we are.”

At the halfway point of the season, the Red Hawks are only averaging 12 points per game. If they want to turn this season around, they have to find an identity on offense. Whether that is changing the play-caller, personnel or scheme, it is clear there needs to be some experimenting on that side of the ball.

A Salisbury player leaps over a Montclair State defender.

A Salisbury player leaps over a Montclair State defender.
Photo courtesy of David Venezia

With the loss, Montclair State begins conference play 0-1 and the season is slowly starting to slip out of the Red Hawks’ grasp. With their next five games being all New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) opponents, they will most likely need to win out to have any chance of qualifying for the NCAA Tournament.

The light on this season is starting to dim and players know it. Junior running back Abellany Mendez reflected on the loss post-game.

“It’s a super tough loss man, it is heartbreaking,” Mendez said. “That game was win it or go home, that was the season for us.”

Mendez finished the game with five carries for 47 yards along with a touchdown and two receptions.

After a physically demanding and painful loss, the Red Hawks will look to get back in the win column as they host The College of New Jersey on Oct. 9 for their homecoming game.

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