Story and photo courtesy of Widener Athletics
No. 9 Widener used short fields to score a pair of second-quarter touchdowns before pulling away early in the fourth for a 28-7 victory over 11th-ranked Salisbury in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Widener, now 11-0 for the fourth time in school history (1980, 1981, 2001), advances to the quarterfinals next Saturday against top-ranked Mount Union. Game time is noon.
It is Widener’s first trip to the quarterfinals since 2001 and the team looks to improve on its 17-10 NCAA Tournament record.
The Pride, playing at home for a third straight week, also tied the school record with their 14th consecutive victory at Leslie C. Quick Jr. Stadium (2000-02). The squad is 9-1 in home NCAA Tournament games and 5-0 in such contests at Quick Stadium.
Widener got the first of multiple breaks in the second quarter when a fumbled snap from Salisbury quarterback Dan Griffin was recovered by senior Jamal Dorsey (Mount Holly, NJ) at the Pride 47 yard line.
Both teams’ offenses had been stagnant at this point, but the Pride took advantage of the fumble to gain a 7-0. Following a 12-yard pass from senior Chris Haupt (Bloomsburg, PA) to sophomore Anthony Davis (Upland, PA) and a 15-yard personal foul penalty, Davis took a reverse and scampered 26 yards for a touchdown with 5:31 left in the half.
Salisbury’s next drive lasted two plays as Griffin’s pitch back in the triple option was fumbled and Widener freshman Stacey Sunnerville (Freehold, NJ) recovered at the Sea Gulls 14 yard line.
The four-play march ended in just 51 seconds as junior Terrant Morrison (Smyrna, DE) barreled up the middle from one yard with 3:58 to play for a 14-0 margin.
The Sea Gulls were still hanging around in the fourth quarter when Nick Ochoa blocked a 30-yard field goal attempt from senior James McFadden (Warminster, PA). They were able to march 38 yards to the Pride 45 yard line looking to do some damage.
But that drive ended when Griffin’s fade pass toward the end zone was intercepted by sophomore Nick Rodriguez (Haddonfield, NJ), who returned it to the 18 yard line. Haupt on the drive’s second play hooked up with a wide-open Davis, who darted 82 yards up the middle for a 21-0 cushion with 11:08 to play.
Widener ended its scoring with 1:52 left when Haupt found freshman Connor Schlegel (Denver, PA) on a 64-yard touchdown strike with 1:33 remaining. McFadden added his fourth extra point to extend his streak of consecutive makes to 51.
The Pride’s attempt for their third NCAA Tournament shutout and first since 1994 came up 93 seconds short. Griffin found Juma Richards on a 35-yard pass to the two yard line and then ran it into the end zone himself on a quarterback keeper the next play.
Davis had 11 receptions for 201 yards, both team records in an NCAA Tournament game and both career highs, to go with 273 all-purpose yards. Haupt completed 23-of-35 passes for 347 yards and two touchdowns with sophomore Couve LaFate (Wilmington, DE) getting 14 carries for 62 yards.
Widener closed with a 445-230 edge in total offense.
Sunnerville had 15 tackles to tie a team season high and added four tackles for a loss, three sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery for the Pride, who had eight sacks and 16 tackles for a loss. Junior Dylan Ditmer (Exton, PA) and freshman Travon Barnes (Randallstown, MD) each totaled seven tackles.
Salisbury (9-3) was limited 121 yards rushing, 4-of-17 on third-down conversions and only had the ball 14 minutes in the second half after possessing it 21 minutes in the first.
Richards had five catches for 98 yards and Ross Flanigan amassed 10 carries for 70 yards for the Sea Gulls.