SALISBURY -- Coming into yesterday's annual cross-state clash at Salisbury State, Frostburg State packed the credentials of a team that should have won with relative ease.
The Sea Gulls, however, weren't buying it. First, they played the bigger, quicker Bobcats to a draw in the first half by attacking them with gang-tackling defense, while the Bobcats compounded their frustration with a rash of penalties. Then, Salisbury State stunned the Bobcats by taking a 14-7 lead early in the third period, when Randall Owens caught a deflected pass from Len Annetta (24-for-48, 252 yards) and sprinted untouched for a 58-yard score.
But reality took over. Led by sophomore quarterback Gil Telleria and senior running back Kevin Bellamy, Frostburg State awakened to score four second-half touchdowns and put away the Sea Gulls, 34-21, before 1,285 at Sea Gull Stadium.
It marked the fifth straight victory for the Bobcats (3-0) over Salisbury State (1-2) in an East-West rivalry that goes back 21 years. Salisbury State leads the series, 13-8.
"When our offense starts rolling, it's like a domino effect. We can't be stopped," said Telleria, who backed up his words by completing five of 11 passes for 167 yards and a touchdown and rushing 11 times for 40 yards and another score. "The offensive line really stepped up. We don't score four touchdowns in the second half without them."
The offensive line was practically nonexistent in the first half. The Sea Gulls forced four punts, held Frostburg State to 115 yards and watched the Bobcats kill their momentum with six penalties. The other Frostburg State team -- the one averaging 400 yards and 34 points a game -- showed up after intermission and piled up 242 yards.
"It wasn't a lack of intensity," Telleria said. "We came out really hyped up, and we let them play at our level. We could see from the beginning that they're not at our level."
Frostburg State coach Mike McGlinchey knew it wasn't going to be easy, though.
"We knew they were going to play hard," he said of Salisbury State. "But in the first half, we were playing not to lose instead of playing to win."
The Bobcats adjusted swiftly. After the big play by Owens (four catches, 74 yards), Telleria hit Bellamy (135 all-purpose yards) with a 48-yard pass. Bellamy then scored his second of three touchdowns from 10 yards out to complete a three-play, 58-yard march that pulled Frostburg State to within 14-13. The Bobcats quickly forced a punt, and Telleria found a wide-open Ariel Bell down the middle for a 40-yard score. With five plays -- including Bellamy's two-point conversion run -- the Bobcats had taken a 21-14 lead midway through the third period.
Frostburg State then turned to its bruising ground game, behind Bellamy and Andre Lofton. Taking advantage of great field position, the Bobcats drove 30 yards in seven running plays. Telleria then fooled the Sea Gulls defense with a fake handoff and trotted around right end for a 3-yard score to open the fourth quarter. That made it 27-14.
But Salisbury State wasn't done yet. With nine minutes left, the Sea Gulls recovered a fumble and drove 57 yards for the score that cut the Bobcats' lead to an uncomfortable 27-21. During that drive, senior Charlie Whalen caught his sixth pass of the afternoon, and it gave him the school record for career receptions with 98.
However, the Sea Gulls' defense, worn down by the fourth period, could not prevent Frostburg State from clinching the victory with a 10-play, 80-yard drive. The big play came on a 42-yard pass from Telleria to Bell that put the ball on the Sea Gulls' 37. Eight running plays later, Bellamy swept around the left end for a 15-yard touchdown that finished the scoring with 2:36 to go.
Both offenses struggled early. Frostburg, which recorded only 14 first downs, would have been shut out in the first half had the Sea Gulls not botched a punt snap that gave Frostburg the ball at the Salisbury 14 on its first possession. Bellamy finished that drive with a 2-yard run.
In the second quarter, Annetta began carving up the Bobcats' secondary with short passes. He connected on six of eight attempts during a 50-yard drive that ended with Whalen scoring on a 2-yard end-around play that tied the game at 7-7 midway through the quarter.