In just four games, Salisbury is one of only two undefeated teams in the New Jersey Athletic Conference, has beaten two opponents who shared last year's league championship, and earned its first top-25 ranking of the season.
After upsetting then-No. 14 Rowan, 31-28, on Saturday, the Sea Gulls (3-1 overall and 3-0 in the NJAC) have enjoyed moving to No. 23 in the latest D3football.com poll. It's a position that coach Sherman Wood said the program has sought every year.
"Our plan is to always be a nationally recognized football program," Wood said Thursday morning. "We know we didn't get off to a great start with [the season-opening 24-23 loss to] Albright. Actually, we did get off to a great start. We were leading 23-3 against Albright and ended up losing that game in the second half. From that day on, our kids knew we were a quality football program. We just felt that we had to get back to the drawing board and take care of some things, polish our techniques, and understand our philosophy and what we're all about.
"And we wanted to be in that national light. So we just worked extremely hard, and we knew we had a great opportunity to let the country know what we're all about against Rowan and it worked out very well. We came out victorious and when we saw our name in the top 25, we weren't surprised. We felt we deserved it, and we felt that we should have been in that position all along."
With the victories over Rowan (4-1, 3-1) and Montclair State (2-3, 2-2) on Sept. 19, Salisbury has defeated two of the three teams that split last season's conference title. (Morrisville State, the other tri-champion, is no longer a member of the league.) Wood said he senses a newfound confidence in the players, but has made a habit out of warning them not to overlook future opponents -- beginning with Saturday's home game against William Paterson (1-4, 0-4).
"You think about those things all the time," Wood said. "You're dealing with young adults. You have to do everything you can to keep them afloat. We talked about those things. We said, 'OK, we defeated a quality program in Rowan, but who are we now? Are we just happy with that process or are we in a position to continue to get better and better and better?' Practice was just OK yesterday for example. I told them that wasn't a quality practice. So where are we? Are we complacent at this point in time? Are we satisfied? What kind of team do we have? I think we're still trying to figure that out. But we're not taking anyone for granted."