January 26, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 30°F


Zeroing In: Previewing Bombers football vs. Salisbury University

The football team (4–3 overall, 2–3 Empire 8) hosts the 7th-ranked Salisbury University Sea Gulls (6–1 overall, 4–0 Empire 8), looking to play the Empire 8 spoiler and make a late run at the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference playoffs.

Stopping the run

It sounds like a broken record, but stopping the run is paramount for the Bombers to have a chance to cause the upset. They have lost their last three games and have given up more than 150 rushing yards in each game. Last week, the Blue and Gold gave up 254 yards rushing to St. John Fisher College in a 21-17 loss, and now they go up against one of the best rushing attacks in Salisbury. The Sea Gulls average just under 270 yards rushing a game.

Playing the spoiler

With last week’s loss, the Bombers are eliminated from Empire 8 consideration. This game represents Ithaca’s last chance to impact the race for the conference crown. Next week the Bombers will host last place Hartwick College, which means the impact of the game will be minimal. However, if the South Hill squad can cause an upset tomorrow, there will be a tie atop the Empire 8 between the Sea Gulls and the winner of the Alfred University-Utica College game this Saturday.

ECAC hopes

The Bombers’ elimination from Empire 8 title contention means a likely elimination from the NCAA Tournament. Because the Empire 8 — along with 23 other conferences — rewards its champion with an automatic berth to the tournament, the Bombers will battle with schools from those 24 conferences for only seven at-large bids. With three losses, the Bombers are far from contention for that bid.

The Blue and Gold are looking at the ECAC as a possible opportunity for postseason play. Last year, Alfred finished third in the conference and eventually won the Northeast Bowl. A win against Salisbury and/or a win in Cortaca would put the Bombers in consideration for a bowl bid.

Empire 8 elimination game

Only three teams have a shot at the Empire 8 Conference title: Salisbury, Alfred and Utica. After Saturday, there may be two. The Alfred Saxons (4–2 overall, 3–1 Empire 8) travel to the Pioneers (5–2 overall, 3–1 Empire 8) knowing that a loss will likely eliminate them from conference contention. The Pioneers will not be eliminated with a loss, and they control their own destiny with two out of the next three games at home. With the Saxon offense and Pioneer defense both ranked in the middle of the road, it will be either the Saxon defense or Pioneer offense that wins this game. If that is the case, the edge goes to Alfred.