Rowan football blown out by Salisbury University

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Imagine winning by 38, let alone one, without completing a single pass.

Salisbury University’s football team did just that.

On a rain-soaked field, the Rowan football team lost at home Saturday to New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) rival Salisbury, 45-7.

It wasn’t a close game from the get-go.

While the brown and gold averaged -0.3 yards per-carry, they totaled -7 yards on 23 carries.

Sea Gulls’ starting quarterback Jack Navitsky didn’t complete a single pass for the day, only attempting a mere two passes. One of these found its way into Prof hands, courtesy of junior defensive back Nate Lanier. It was his third pick of the season and second in as many games. Besides this, there was nothing in favor of the Profs. 

Salisbury pushed their way through the Rowan defensive line and found space in the open field to the tune of 496 rushing yards, averaging 7.9 yards per carry. Two different Sea Gulls had more than 100 rushing yards; slotback Kadarrius Campbell ran 17 times for 149 yards and a score with Navitsky notching a scoring hat trick, finding pay dirt three times on 15 carries for 113 yards, including a 49-yard rush on their first drive. Salisbury had 15 plays of 10-plus yards, featuring 10 different players getting carries.

No matter the quarter, down, yardage-to-go or score, Rowan’s defense found no cure for slowing down the triple option offense.

On his first score, Navitsky faked a handoff to slotback Mike-Ryan Mofor and raced through the C-gap for six. He’d find the end zone once more before halftime from 11 yards out, helping the Sea Gulls solidify a 24-0 lead at the break. 

Meanwhile, Rowan alternated quarterbacks in hopes of lighting a spark. Sophomore Riley Giles was named the starter earlier in the week. However, last week’s winner, freshman transfer Nick Couzzi was given the role prior to kickoff. After Couzzi couldn’t get in rhythm in the first half, Giles replaced him 5:36 into the third quarter. While Couzzi did return multiple times, Giles played well in relief.

Giles went 6/7, throwing a touchdown pass to junior receiver Nick Grosso with under two minutes remaining, putting Rowan on the scoreboard at 45-7. Giles escaped pressure from defensive lineman Noah Zentz, as pass protection broke down. Giles threw to the far right of the end zone, where Grosso was nearly out of bounds, for the score.

Afterwards, Grosso had this to say about the late score that broke the 76-minute, 23-second Rowan scoreless drought [combined through two games]. He also spoke about his in-game rhythm with both Profs’ quarterbacks.

“It’s just simple,” Grosso said. “Somebody’s in the front, somebody’s in the back of each other. The corner, he does what he does, and it’s up to the quarterback [Giles] to read it and make the right decision.

“It’s just about everyday practice,” Grosso said. “Just working with both of them [Giles and Couzzi], it’s all the same thing [with both QBs], the same concepts. It’s just about making the right reads and throwing the ball.”

Rowan head coach Jay Accorsi didn’t see the late-game Rowan touchdown as a positive for moving forward.

“Well, [Salisbury] had their second-team defense in there,” he said.

Accorsi also weighed in on the quarterback situation and both of their efforts on the day.

“I think early on, Nick missed some throws and was off,” Accorsi said. “So, again, we tried to mix and match both of those guys. Riley came in, did some things, [then] Nick came back. You know, when you’re struggling offensively, it’s easy to look at the quarterback spot, right? It’s easy to criticize that spot, but I’m sure there are a lot of other things we did wrong offensively. But again, those are the things you work through as best you can, you go with the hot hand and see what you can do. Riley, I thought, threw the ball well there at the end, but again, it’s against their second-team defense.”

Senior halfback John Mannion went from a fantastic performance against Wesley College last week to a less-than-stellar day versus Salisbury on Saturday afternoon, as the whole running committee did as a whole. Mannion ran for -3 yards on nine carries. Only sophomore running back Messiah Divine produced positive yardage on the ground, having 15 yards in nine attempts. 

Neither team did well on third down, as Salisbury was 2/8 and the brown and gold went 3/15, accumulating seven three-and-outs. This was mainly a product of the Sea Gulls gaining significant yardage on first down and building a big lead.

Perhaps the best thing Rowan did, as it’s done for good stretches of the season, was leg out their kick returns. Between Elijah Rehm and Mannion, they combined for 236 total yards, averaging 33.7 yards per-return. On a 69-yard return in the third quarter, Rehm nearly took it to the house, but was tripped up by Salisbury’s Xavier Harkum.

In the last two seasons, Rowan is just 1-7 versus Salisbury, Wesley, Frostburg State and Christopher Newport. The Profs’ inability to beat these dominate teams in the NJAC has hampered their chances of making the NCAA Tournament.

Salisbury is now 8-0, while Rowan is 5-3 and falls to sixth in the conference.

Next up, Rowan travels for their last road game to take on 6-2 NJAC rival Montclair, who is third in the conference. Kickoff is Saturday, Nov. 3 at 1 p.m.

No starting quarterback has been named as of yet.

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