Score: Southern Connecticut State 35, at Gannon 32
Records: Gannon (0-1), Southern Connecticut State (1-0)
Location: Erie, Pa. – McConnell Family Stadium
The Short Story: The Gannon and Southern Connecticut State football teams exploded for 40 combined points during the fourth quarter as the visiting Owls rallied for a 35-32 victory Thursday night in the season opener for both teams at McConnell Family Stadium.
HOW IT HAPPENED
Gannon put the season’s first points on the board when senior Marcus Jones scored on a one-yard plunge with 6:14 left in the first quarter, ending the Golden Knights’ first drive that went 71 yards in 11 plays. However, a missed extra point left the lead at 6-0.
Southern Connecticut State took its first lead with 16 seconds left in the opening stanza. Eli Parks’ 27-yard touchdown run capped a five-play, 70-yard drive to give the visitors a 7-6 edge.
Gannon regained the lead late in the second quarter. Sparked by a 67-yard run by Jones, the Golden Knights went back ahead 13-7 on redshirt sophomore Jimmy Keefe’s five-yard touchdown pass to fellow redshirt sophomore Jordan Smith with 4:43 showing on the clock. That was the eventual halftime score.
The lead swings continued into the third quarter when Southern Connecticut State raced back ahead on Parks’ one-yard score with 2:40 left in the third quarter.
Gannon sandwiched a Parks’ 33-yard touchdown run with two more scores to assume a 25-20 advantage with 4:53 to play. Keefe hit redshirt junior Joey Cox for a 35-yard touchdown pass, before scoring from one-yard out for the second score.
Similar to the entire night, Southern Connecticut State responded with a nine-play, 80-yard scoring drive. The big play was a 13-yard completion to convert a third-and-six from its own 24-yard line. Parks’ fourth touchdown run of the night gave the Owls the lead for good at 28-25 with 55 seconds remaining.
A 40-yard interception return provided Southern Connecticut State with insurance, before Keefe connected with redshirt sophomore Jacardi Brooks as time expired to account for the final 35-32 score.
Thursday’s contest was the season opener for both programs.
Gannon finished with advantages in first downs (20-19), rushing yards (185-169), passing yards (212-195), total yards (397-364) and time of possession (31:35-28:25).
The two teams combined for 27 penalties that took away 230 yards away.
Gannon converted 9-of-16 third downs compared to Southern Connecticut State’s 4-of-13 chart.
Jones picked up where he stopped last year, rushing for 160 yards and one touchdown on 29 carries.
Keefe finished with 212 passing yards and four total touchdowns.
Cox led all receivers on both sides with a career-high seven catches for a career-high 87 yards and one score.
Redshirt senior Geremy Paige recorded a game-high 11 tackles on the defensive end.
Sophomore Tre McNeill and redshirt junior Dorian Jones added eight and seven tackles, respectively.
BEYOND THE BOX SCORE
Gannon dropped its season opener for the first time since 2012, ending a streak of six consecutive season-opening victories.
Jones recorded his 11th 100-yard rushing performance in his last 12 games dating back to last season.
Gannon scored at least 22 points for the 11th time in the last 12 games.
Jones jumped into fourth place all-time at Gannon with 2,791 career rushing yards, passing Jon Richardson (2006-09) and Brock Jones (2012-15).
Gannon begins Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) crossover action Saturday, September 8 at West Chester.
Game time is scheduled for 12 noon.
West Chester was listed among others receiving votes in the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Preseason Top 25 Poll. The Golden Rams were the second-highest team outside the top 25.
Gannon and West Chester will meet for the first time since 2013 when the Golden Rams posted a 56-41 shoot-out victory at McConnell Family Stadium.
The Golden Knights are 0-2 in the all-time series, dropping a 21-17 road decision during the first match-up in 2012.