Redshirt senior Tyler Johnson fell on teammate redshirt sophomore Zach Phillips’ fumble in the end zone in overtime Saturday, giving the Gannon University football team a wild 30-27 victory over Bloomsburg at McConnell Family Stadium.
Gannon improved to 3-0 with the win heading into Saturday’s PSAC Western Division opener at 6 p.m. at Slippery Rock.
After regulation ended in a 27-27 tie, Bloomsburg took possession first in the overtime period and wound up converting a 42-yard field goal after being hit with a holding penalty early in the extra session.
Gannon then moved to offense and ended up with three third-and-short situations.
Phillips picked up a pair of first downs on two 1-yard rushes. On the third attempt, from the 1-yard line, Phillips had the ball jarred loose and it rolled into the end zone.
The game was saved, though, when Johnson recovered the fumble, keeping the Knights’ record perfect.
“You just gotta trust in the system,” said Johnson, who earlier scored on runs of 5 and 2 yards, with the latter score tying the game at 24-24 with 9 minutes to play in the fourth quarter.
“We have the toughest schedule in the PSAC west and that’s how it’s going to stay. We just have to keep doing what we are doing now.”
Gannon entered Saturday’s game with momentum, coming off a big win the prior week against Shippensburg.
Bloomsburg also entered play undefeated, so a perfect record would be possible for only one team at the end of this one.
Though Gannon was able to pin Bloomsburg at the 2-yard line after the opening kickoff, the Huskies were able to put together a very impressive 11-play, 98-yard drive to get the first points on the board. The drive ended with a 7-yard run into the end zone by running back Lawrence Elliot Jr.
After each team had a turn with the ball and both teams went three-and-out, Gannon was able to put one in the end zone thanks to Phillips, who scored on a 4-yard run.
The following drive for Bloomsburg was well put-together, marching to the 25-yard line, but the Huskies’ drive was cut short thanks to an easily read and intercepted pass by Gannon senior Mike Zanders II.
Gannon took advantage of the takeaway and with the first play of the second quarter Johnson put one in the end zone with a 5-yard run off the inside handoff.
After the Knights’ defense held strong on the next drive, Gannon was able to make quick work of its possession. On third-and-3, the Knights pulled a play from their bag of tricks with a reverse run executed perfectly.
Johnson handed off to wide receiver Quad Law, who was able to pick up 50 yards on the play.
The drive ended with a Karch Holland 28-yard field goal. That would serve as the last points for Gannon in the half and Bloomsburg was able to tie it up at the end of 30 minutes with a 17-17 score.
The third quarter served to be a lot slower than the previous two. The only key moments came from a 1-yard TD rush by Elliot Jr. and a missed 45-yard field goal by Bloomsburg.
With the Huskies leading 24-17, Gannon’s defense came up with a big play when Nathan Adams picked off a Chris Palubinsky pass at the Bloomsburg 41 and returned it 16 yards.
The Huskies also were called for a personal foul, which moved the ball to the Bloomsburg 13-yard line.
Gannon needed five plays to reach the end zone, tying the score on Johnson’s second short touchdown run.
Johnson finished the game with 74 yards rushing on 18 carries while Phillips added 51 on 17 attempts. Phillips went 8-for-19 through the air for 60 yards and one interception. Tyler Palka finished 3-for-5 for 85 yards and an interception.
In addition to his 50-yard run, Law caught six passes for 48 yards while Johnson caught one for 59.
Up next, the Knights will travel to Slippery Rock to take on the defending conference champion at 6 p.m. Saturday at Mihalik-Thompson Stadium.