By Maximillian C. Burgos | Staff Writer
EWING — The College of New Jersey Lions’ football team dropped their fourth straight game to the Salisbury University Sea Gulls. The Lions fell 27-7 to the Sea Gulls on Saturday afternoon at Lions Stadium.
The Lions fell to 0-4 on the season. The Sea Gulls improved to 3-1 on the season.
The Lions felt prepared coming into the game. Senior linebacker Kevin Hennelly talked about the Lions preparation before the game.
“Defensively this week, our focus is to do our job,” he explained. “Salisbury runs the triple-option and the only way to stop them is to play responsible football. Coach [Casey] Goff has done a great job preparing us for the game and we are confident in his game plan.”
The Sea Gulls received the ball to start the game. After a decent return on the kickoff, the Lions defense punished the Sea Gulls misdirection offense. Junior linebacker Jesse Streb came in and scooped up a fumble that was caused by Lions pressure and penetration into the backfield. The crowd erupted into a roaring cheer as the momentum clearly started in favor of the Lions.
The crowd erupted into a roaring cheer as the momentum clearly started in favor of the Lions.
The defense was undeniably solid the entire game. Both linebackers Hennelly and Junior Max Busca had seven tackles a piece on the day. Jesse Streb had a fumble recovery, along with three tackles for a loss and five tackles. Senior linebacker Troy Domenick also made the backfield feel his presence with a sack, two tackles for losses and five tackles in all.
Senior linebacker Troy Domenick also made the backfield feel his presence with a sack, two tackles for losses and five tackles in all.
Senior quarterback Trevor Osler threw a dart to senior wide receiver Thomas Koenig for a Lions go-ahead touchdown with less than a minute elapsing in the game. The crowd continued to cheer as the pep-band played a merry tune.
After the electric start and score, the Lions struggled to score for the rest of the game. The Sea Gulls are known for their heavy running game that is known to misdirect and confuse defenses, but the defense stood strong. It was the offensive struggles that hurt the Lions in this game.
Defensive line coach Marcel Wynychuk commented on the offensive struggles after the game and the overall vibe of the team afterward.
“The team is progressing,” Wynychuk said. “This was a tough loss but they’ll keep their heads up. Effort is never a question with this group, but learning new systems is not an easy process. There are a lot of new things going in. The offense is almost completely new from last year. Learning takes time.”
The offense for yet another game showed the ability to move the ball, but showed an inability to score points and finish drives. The rushing attack also struggled this week. At the end of the game, the Lions has -21 yards on the day.
Head coach Casey Goff talked about the offensive rushing struggles after the game.
“We played three really good teams in a row,” Goff explained. “When you can’t run the ball, you put a lot of pressure on the quarterback and the passing game. Their defenses were solid. The offense made some mistakes, but they are getting better.”
There was indeed a lot of pressure during the game of the quarterback both physically and mentally. The Lions’ offensive line struggled for the second week in a row, allowing nine sacks and many more quarterback pressures. Osler and freshman quarterback Andrew Donoghue both had a tough day behind center.
Donoghue was utilized more for his ability to rush the ball, but Osler was also used in an attempt to kindle some kind of rushing attack. Both quarterbacks had a tough day. When asked about the gameplan about utilizing both quarterbacks, Goff expressed confidence in both of his signal callers.
“We will put in the right guy for the right situation,” Goff commented. “They both have skills that we want to use in certain situations and utilize them for the best results. We are not moving away from Osler or anything like that. We just want to use each of their strengths in the right places.”
Osler had a decent day through the air. He threw 12 completions for 192-yards and a touchdown, but his two interceptions really hurt the Lions. Both interceptions were unlucky deflections that just happened to land in defenders hands, but they hurt the Lions just the same.
Koenig had a very exceptional game through the air with six receptions for 142 yards receiving and a touchdown. The leading rusher on the team this week was Donoghue with 11 yards.
After this loss, the Lions fall to 0-4 on the season. The struggles seem to be compounding as the Lions compete with teams in their conference early in each game, only to lose in the second half.
At halftime, the score was tied at seven and the Lions were in a good position to win. After watching the first half, the Lions looked primed to win it, but as the game wore on, the defense was on the field longer and longer and the Sea Gulls put up 20 unanswered points.
After what can be perceived as a crushing loss against a very good football team that the Lions could have beaten, Goff commented on the morale of the players.
“I don’t think that morale will be a problem,” Goff said. “These guys put in work day-in and day-out. Effort is never a question with them. They are learning [a] new system and are getting better. If you look back, we played three really good teams and we competed with them. I don’t believe in moral victories but we are getting better.”
As the Lions keep their heads up for their next game, they will have an extra week to prepare since they have a bye week next week. The Lions return home to play Montclair State University on Oct. 7th, at 12 p.m. The Lions will still be looking for their first win coming into the game. With the optimism that the coaches have shown, maybe they can pull it off against Montclair.