The Salisbury University football team faced off against the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in its home opener on Saturday. The Sea Gulls survived a late comeback bid to secure a 24-19 win.
However, the win did not come without adding some fuel to the fire of Salisbury’s quarterback controversy.
Junior quarterback Jack Navitsky started the game under center. The two defenses kept both sides off the scoreboard for the entire first quarter.
With 29 seconds left in the opening period, the Sea Gulls (2-0) opted to put junior quarterback Jack Lanham into the game.
In his brief time in the game, Navitsky did not complete a pass and carried the ball five times for two total yards.
Lanham said his mindset has stayed the same throughout the offseason and will not change regardless of whether he is the starter or the backup.
“It doesn’t really matter for me. I’m just always gonna stay prepared and be ready to go in,” Lanham said. “My teammates are great, and they supported me, and Jack, too.”
After a few drives as the starter, Lanham led the Sea Gull offense on a five-play, 43-yard drive capped off with a five-yard touchdown run from senior slot receiver Michael Fowler. A successful extra point attempt from junior placekicker Bert Schrecongost gave the Gulls a 7-0 lead with 3:17 remaining in the first half.
Salisbury would grow its lead just two minutes later, as Lanham found junior slot receiver Damien King for a 15-yard touchdown pass. Another Schrecongost extra point grew the lead to 14-0, which stood going into the break.
The two defenses stole the spotlight again to start the second half, with junior inside linebacker Patrick Bernardo standing out for the Sea Gulls. Bernardo recorded nine total tackles, a half-sack and three pass breakups.
Bernardo said the ability of the Salisbury defense players to stay focused on the play in front of them helped them contain the offense of the Titans and come out with the win.
“You’re only as good as your next play,” Bernardo said. “It doesn’t matter what just happened, can’t control what’s gonna happen, so you just have to stay in it and play.”
The scoreless third quarter ended with just under two and a half minutes remaining, when Schrecongost connected on a 27-yard field goal attempt to grow the Sea Gull lead to 17-0.
With 13:26 remaining in the game, junior slotback Hopeton Mair scored a two-yard touchdown run. With a 24-0 lead, Salisbury looked to have control of the contest.
Titans wide receiver Riley Kallas scored on a 66-yard reverse just 24 seconds later. A failed two-point conversion attempt left the score at 24-6.
The Titans scored again four minutes later when freshman quarterback Kobe Berghammer found his tight end Justin Kasuboski wide open on the cut upfield. Kasuboski took the pass 49 yards for the touchdown, and a successful extra point from Peyton Peterson shrunk the Salisbury lead to eleven.
UW-Oshkosh stopped Salisbury and got the ball back with 6:13 remaining in the game. Berghammer drove the Titans 74 yards in seven plays, getting his team within seven yards of the end zone.
On second down and goal, strong safety Sean Carroll cut off an underthrown pass in the end zone for what appeared to be the game-sealing interception. Salisbury was set up with the ball at the 20-yard line, and UW-Oshkosh had just one timeout remaining.
Lanham said that at this point in the game, the Salisbury offense wanted to give the defense a break, as the defense was on the field for the majority of the second half.
“We were just thinking that we didn’t want to put any more pressure on the defense,” Lanham said. “As an offensive unit, we just want to move the ball, make first downs and run the clock.”
However, the Titan defense came through once again, forcing the Sea Gulls to punt with 2:19 remaining in the game. Berghammer then led his team on a five-play, 51-yard touchdown drive that lasted just 64 seconds.
This put the Titans’ comeback hopes on recovering an onside kick attempt. The try was unsuccessful, as sophomore wide receiver Lenard Prue fell on the ball for the recovery.
Lanham completed seven of his nine pass attempts for 51 yards and a touchdown, and junior slot receiver Chad Gleason led the Sea Gull ground attack with 113 rushing yards on just seven carries. The Salisbury defense held UW-Oshkosh to just 88 rushing yards on the afternoon.
The quarterback battle for Salisbury will be an interesting situation to follow throughout the season. For Lanham, though, it’s all about staying focused on the success of the team.
“I have a lot of respect for Jack, too,” Lanham said. “Whatever helps this team win, whatever it takes, I’ll do it.”
By NICK LEWIS
Featured photos: Brendan Link images.