Montclair State Red Hawks dismantled by Salisbury Seagulls

14th-ranked Salisbury University demonstrated strength training and argued for an even higher ranking with a 27-7 physical victory over the State University football team. Montclair. The Sea Gulls have gone 3-1 and have now won six straight games against the Red Hawks.

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

After an inspiring performance in Week 3, the Red Hawks were beaten hard by a strong Salisbury side. The Sea Gulls rushed for 249 yards and dominated the competition from the start. Salisbury’s ground match once again looked unstoppable as their triple-option attack slashed Red Hawk’s defense.

Defending the triple option is not easy. It offers several ways for a team to move the ball as they use multiple ball carriers in the formation. The best way to defend it is to eliminate something the offense does.

Senior defensive back Brennan Ray finishes off a Salisbury University ball carrier.
Photo courtesy of David Venezia

When you can limit the number of things an offense does, it is much easier to anticipate what it is doing and where it might be. Emphasis should be placed on eliminating the dive or throw.

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

“It’s a tough attack, especially when you have a quarterback like them who can kick the game off,” Giancola said. “Usually these kids who play the quarterback in the wish-bone type offense don’t throw the ball very well, they lead it very well. This young man is very good and can execute the offense.

Salisbury’s Jack Lanham takes the Sea Gulls offense to another level as the senior quarterback is excellent on his feet and has a fantastic arm. Lanham was the driving force behind his team as he combined for 145 total attacking yards and scored twice (one rushing and one pass).

Senior quarterback Ja'Quill Burch hands the ball over to sophomore runner Makai Mickens.  Photo courtesy of David Venezia

Senior quarterback Ja’Quill Burch hands the ball over to sophomore runner Makai Mickens.
Photo courtesy of David Venezia

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

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

“We’re not mature enough to go 90 yards, 80 yards, we’re young and error prone,” said Giancola. “We are inexperienced and we play like we are young. This is who we are.

Mid-season, the Red Hawks are averaging just 12 points per game. If they want to change this season, they have to find an identity in attack. Whether it’s changing the player, the staff or the scheme, it’s clear that there has to be some experimentation on this side of the ball.

A Salisbury player jumps over a Montclair State defender.

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

With the loss, Montclair State begins the conference game 0-1 and the season slowly begins to elude the Red Hawks. With their next five games all being New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) opponents, they will likely have to win to have any chance of qualifying for the NCAA tournament.

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

“He’s a super tough loss man, it’s heartbreaking,” Mendez said. “This game was about winning it or coming home, it was the season for us.”

Mendez finished the game with five carries for 47 yards as well as one touchdown and two receptions.

After a physically demanding and painful loss, the Red Hawks will look to return to the winning column by hosting the College of New Jersey on October 9 for their return game.