The Gannon University football team won a nail-biter Saturday against Clarion, 38-28, behind four touchdowns from sensational junior running back Marc Jones.
The Knights, who improved their overall record to 4-6 and raised their Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference mark to 3-4, played their last game at McConnell Family Stadium for 2017 and honored eight seniors before the matchup.
Karch Holland, Denis Gallagher, Brendan Klemensic, Charlie Long, Brandon Mansell, Max Onyenwe, Andrew Peirson and Foster Reznor and their loved ones were all recognized for their last season in the maroon and gold.
The game started on a high note for Gannon as redshirt freshman quarterback Jimmy Keefe handed one off to the record-setting Jones at Gannon’s 43-yard-line, and Jones showed why he’s leading the NCAA in rushing yards with 1,982 on the season.
The 5-foot-11, 225-pounder, who will look to go over the 2,000-yard mark in the Knights’ season finale Saturday at Millersville, bobbed and weaved his way all the way to the end zone to put Gannon up 6-0. Holland then drilled one through the uprights for a 7-0 Gannon lead.
Clarion answered three minutes later with nearly an identical touchdown. This time, quarterback Jeff Clemens handed one off to running back Mylique McGriff for a 48-yard rushing touchdown, which tied the game 7-7.
Jones then had the opportunity for a 78-yard rushing touchdown, but it was called back due to a Gannon penalty with three minutes left in the first quarter.
After an attempted field goal that was thwarted by Gannon’s defense, Clarion had one last trick up its sleeve and ended the first quarter with a touchdown at the 40-second mark as Clemens hit Cameron Jefferies on a 20-yard scoring pass to move the Golden Eagles ahead, 14-7.
Redshirt senior Brandon Mansell catalyzed the next touchdown for Gannon on a 30-yard kickoff return to Gannon’s 45-yard line.
Jones helped advance the Knights with a few runs, and a couple of passes from Keefe to Joey Cox and Tyler Palka helped set up Jones for a 13-yard scoring run. Holland’s PAT made it 14-14.
Clarion’s next possession was fruitless and ended in a punt, which sophomore Nico Law returned 66 yards for a touchdown. Holland’s third extra point of the afternoon put the Knights ahead, 21-14.
But Clarion would not go away, and the Eagles tied it at 21-21 with 2:15 left in the second quarter on Clemens’ 13-yard touchdown pass to Mason Standard.
Although the game was even at halftime, the Knights were not discouraged. Holland said through the season Gannon has been a good second-half team.
“We find a way to come out of the locker room, and that’s when we win,” Holland said.
The third quarter was uneventful offensively for both teams, and it wasn’t until the fourth quarter that Jones was able to break the tie, as his 5-yard touchdown run with 13 minutes, 11 seconds to play in the game put Gannon in front, and Holland’s PAT made it 28-21.
Clarion answered on Kyle Evans’ 1-yard run less than five minutes later, but the Knights responded as redshirt freshman Jason Dambach made his first career appearance as a Knight after Keefe was taken out because his broken throwing hand was bothering him. Dambach made a 39-yard completion to Palka to set up Jones for a 10-yard rushing touchdown that made it 35-28 with 6:59 to play.
As the clock wound down, the Knights had the opportunity to make one last dent in the score sheet. Holland trotted out for one last field goal attempt at McConnell Family Stadium, and his 34-yard field goal attempt was good. Holland was greeted with cheers and appreciation from his team and fans as Gannon closed out its 38-28 win.
Holland said it was fantastic to hit his last field goal at home.
“After somewhat of a rough season, knowing that the team had my back going out there to put the game out of reach was great,” Holland said.
Holland said it was bittersweet playing his last game on Gannon’s gridiron.
“It’s kind of unfortunate that it’s all going to be over, but it was great going out with the team, especially with a win,” Holland said. “It’s great to go out with a win here as our last home game.”
Sophomore Andrew Berger led the way defensively for Gannon with 13 tackles, one tackle for loss, a half a sack and a fumble recovery. Noah Harris-Lyles added 10, three for a loss, two sacks and a forced fumble.
Other defensive contributors included Martell Davis with nine stops, including three for a loss, and Onyenwe, who had six stops, a sack and 2.5 for a loss.
The Knights will cap their season on the road against Millersville at 1 p.m. Saturday.