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(Photo by Nikki Lepore - Used with permission)

Montclair State drops NJAC opener to 14th-ranked Salisbury, 27-7

After picking up their first win of the 2021 season against WPI, Montclair State welcomed 14th-ranked Salisbury to Sprague Field on Saturday afternoon. Heading into the game, the Red Hawks was looking to snap a five-game losing streak against Salisbury as Montclair State last defeated the Sea Gulls in 2014. The game was also the conference opener for both teams, so the game was important for momentum at the start of league play.

In the NJAC opener for both teams, Salisbury defeated Montclair State, 27-7, on Saturday in Montclair.

Salisbury started fast as the Sea Gulls scored on its first possession. Quarterback Jack Lanham’s 44-yard run capped a quick three-play drive as Salisbury struck first. Montclair State drove down the field behind an efficient drive from Ja’Quill Burch at the helm on their first drive. After a 13-play drive that ate up over eight minutes and put the Red Hawks at the Sea Gulls ten-yard line, miscommunication resulted in an interception by Salisbury’s A.J. Butler in the end zone for a touchback.

After holding Salisbury to a punt, Burch picked up his second interception after a bobbled catch ended with a pick from Sean Carroll. The Sea Gulls capitalized on the turnover as Joey Bildstein ran it in from seven yards out to make the Salisbury lead 14-0. Montclair State got a break as Jake Colon recovered a muffed punt to get the ball back, but they could not convert on a fourth and five to turn the ball over on downs.

Salisbury (3-1, 1-0 NJAC) capped off their impressive offensive first half with a Marcus Wilson touchdown and a Lanham 24-yard touchdown pass to Hunter Cleaver with 58 seconds left in the half to go up 27-0. Salisbury, who came in averaging 329 yards rushing, picked up an impressive 191 yards on the ground in the first 30 minutes of play.

Montclair State got on the scoreboard after a 17-yard touchdown run from junior running back Abellany Mendez with 1:24 left in the third quarter. Mendez picked up 41 rushing yards on the drive as the Red Hawks finally moved the ball downfield.

Montclair State’s defense caught up to the vaunted Salisbury running game holding the Sea Gulls scoreless in the second half. The Red Hawks allowed just 69 yards of total offense and forced a turnover in the second half.

Montclair State (1-4. 0-1 NJAC) continued to move the ball in the fourth quarter as a drive that started their own 1-yard line matriculated to the Sea Gulls’ 23-yard line. Like three other drives before, it ended with a Burch interception.

Burch finished with 216 yards passing while Mendez tallied 54 total yards. Linebacker Omarie Wilmore led the Montclair State defense with 11 total tackles.

Lanham finished with 145 total yards (71 passing, 74, rushing) and two total touchdowns for Salisbury.

What’s Next For Montclair State

The Red Hawks welcome TCNJ to Sprague Field next Saturday for Homecoming at Montclair State. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m.

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