Pioneers Football Shutout by Salisbury

Photo+Credit%3A+www.wpupioneers.com

Photo Credit: www.wpupioneers.com

Justin Valentovic , Staff Writer

The William Paterson University football team (0-4, 0-3 NJAC) dropped their fourth consecutive game after being shutout by Salisbury University (4-0, 3-0 NJAC) 42-0 on Saturday as the run heavy Sea Gulls offense was too much for the Pioneers to handle.

Offense

Coming into the game the biggest question for the Pioneers was who was going to get the starting nod under center. The question was answered shortly after the Pioneers received the game’s opening kickoff as junior Tracy Fudge Jr., took the field with the offensive unit for their first possesion.

With this being Fudge Jr.’s third consecutive start, WPU head coach Dustin Johnson confirmed postgame that he will be the guy going forward.

“We like the things he does with the football,” Johnson said. “He can help us get more of a vertical mid-range passing game. So right now he is the guy making more of the reads in practice, putting us in a positive position. So right now he seems like the guy we stick with.”

Fudge Jr. showed good poise in the pocket and appeared comfortable taking chances down the field  completing 20 of 29 pass attempts for 174 yards, while throwing one interception. In three games as the Pioneer starting quarterback, Fudge Jr. has been able to improve his pocket awareness, and even taking the occasional necessary sack rather than forcing something downfield.

Fudge Jr., has also been able to grow and develop chemistry with his wide receivers, completing passes to seven different Pioneers, with four recording double digit yards.

The leading receivers on the afternoon for the Pioneers were sophomore Siraj Abdul-Malik who caught six passes for 84 yards and junior RaeQuawn Bridgeman who hauled in five passes for 42 yards.

In the opening weeks of the season it seemed Bridgeman was going to be the clear number one target for the Pioneers, but Abdul-Malik among other targets have shown they are equally capable.

“I think all of our receivers are all dynamic,” Johnson said. “We just got to find a better way to protect and be able to get these guys in space and more one on one. I think that as we grow as a team and our guys start to become more familiar with the concepts we are trying to accomplish. I think the passing game can really open up, and I think there will be more guys that will emerge.”

Defense

The biggest challenge the Pioneers had to face was limiting the Seagull run-heavy offense that ran the triple option zone run to near perfection.

The Sea Gulls ground attack was so efficient on Saturday afternoon that quarterback Jack Navitsky attempted just one pass, running the option with ease down the gut of the Pioneer defense 56 times for 490 yards and five touchdowns.

Navitsky accounted for 19 rushes for 145 yards, while running backs De’John Broadwater and Kadarrius Campbell combined for 21 carries for 176 yards and four touchdowns.

“It’s the toughest offense to have to deal with, because as you know you don’t see it all season but one time,” Johnson said. “Its really hard in practice to emulate the game speed. We can’t cut like they do in practice, we don’t get the motions, the way their o-line fires off the ball. Its just a big time hard offense to deal with. We kind of slowed it down in the second quarter, but I think our guys got a feel for it.”

Despite the overwhelming rushing numbers posted by the Sea Gulls the WPU defense had three tackles for a loss, a forced fumble and a pair of sacks by freshman Chozen Davis who earned NJAC Defensive Rookie of the Week honors.

Looking Ahead

The Pioneers will resume their quest for their first win of the season on Saturday, Oct., 6 at 1:00 as they host NJAC rival Kean University Cougars (0-4, 0-3 NJAC) for their homecoming weekend contest.

This key to a Pioneers win this week will be consistency on both sides of the ball.

“Consistency, you know you can see we will go out, and throw two or three first downs, and we’ll stall out down in the redzone,” Johnson said. “So just becoming consistent at all levels on offense would be huge for us. Defensively we’re pretty strong, we’re pretty fast but you know we have mental lapses, where we lose a guy, or breakdown in coverage, and we miss a tackle. So it’s just consistency across the board.