SALISBURY, Md. – The Wesley College Football team entered Saturday's game in control of their own destiny. With two wins to finish the regular season the Wolverines would earn their first New Jersey Athletic Conference crown and their 12th consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament. The Navy and White are halfway there.
Wesley earned a win over No. 18 Salisbury on Saturday, beating the Sea Gulls 44-27 to take a firm grasp of the NJAC race.
Nick Falkenberg had a career day, throwing 16-for-26 for 311 yards and four touchdowns. The junior quarterback also rushed for 44 yards and a score to lead the Wesley offense to victory. Jamar Baynard added 93 yards on 21 carries and a touchdown. Bryce Shade led the receiving corps with 172 yards and two touchdowns while Alex Kemp also snagged a pair of touchdown passes.
The Wesley defense held the Sea Gulls without a rushing score for most of the game, despite allowing 311 rushing yards to the home team. The key to the game for the Wesley defense was causing turnovers. The squad forced five fumbles, and scooped up three of them while recording three sacks. Ben Robinson led Wesley with 12 tackles and a forced fumble. Roderick Caine had five tackles with two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries Cappadonna Miller notched a career high 11 tackles, including 10 solo in his first ever appearance on defense.
In the first half, the Wolverines' offense got off to a slow start, coming away without a score on their first two offensive drives. In the meantime, Salisbury took a 6-0 lead on two drives that the Navy and White stopped in the red zone, holding the home team to field goals.
Wesley finally generated some points when Nick Falkenberg delivered a strike to Alex Kemp for a 26-yard score to make it 7-6. Salisbury responded with a touchdown pass of their own to regain the lead, but the Wolverines tied it when Falkenberg and Kemp connected again early in the second quarter. A blocked extra point made it 13-13.
On the Sea Gulls' next possession Wesley forced a fumble and Nmandi Njoku scooped it up at midfield, setting up the Wesley offense with great field position. Jamar Baynard punctuated the drive with a 10-yard touchdown run, giving the Wolverines their first lead of the day at 20-13.
The final three minutes of the first half swung the momentum heavily in Wesley's favor. After a long sustained drive by the Sea Gulls down to the Wesley nine-yard line, the Wolverines defense came away with a huge stop on 4th-and-3 to create a turnover on downs. The Wesley offense took over, driving 91 yards for a score just before the half. Nick Falkenberg finished the drive with a 10-yard touchdown run, escaping a collapsed pocket and diving into the end zone to put Wesley ahead 27-13 just before the half.
Wesley kept the ball rolling on the opening drive of the second half. The Wolverines worked the football down the field and finished the drive with a 15-yard connection from Falkenberg to Shade, extending the lead to 34-13.
The Wesley defense continued to perform in the second half, keeping the Sea Gulls off the board in the third quarter. The offense turned a Salisbury turnover into three points after the Wolverines forced a fumble. Speidel drilled a 28-yarder to make it 37-13.
Wesley added another score to their lead when Bryce Shade burned a defensive back down the sideline and caught a 58-yard streak for a touchdown. The score made it 44-13 and put Wesley ahead for good.
Salisbury finished the game with two consecutive scores but the offensive surge came too late as the Wolverines earned the 44-27 victory over the No. 18 Sea Gulls.
Wesley improves to 7-2 on the year with a 7-1 mark in conference play and remain atop the NJAC standings with the victory. The squad will take on William Paterson on Saturday, October 12 with a win granting them their first NJAC Championship and NCAA Tournament Automatic Qualifying bid.