The Gannon University football team dropped its season opener at home Thursday against Southern Connecticut State University in a shootout, 35-32.
A blocked field goal and two missed extra points proved to be an eventual key difference as Gannon once again tries to iron out its kicking difficulties from a year ago.
Preseason All-American Marcus Jones ran for 160 yards to tally his 11th 100-yard rushing game in his last 12 games, while Joey Cox led the receiving corps with 87 yards on seven catches and a score. On the defensive side, Geremy Paige recorded a game-high 11 tackles.
The Knights put the season’s first points on the board when Jones dove into the end zone from 1 yard out with 6 minutes, 14 seconds left in the first quarter.
The first drive of the year went 71 yards in 11 plays, but ended in a missed extra point – the first of two on the day.
Southern Connecticut State would take advantage of the missed PAT after a 27-yard touchdown run and converted extra point made the score 7-6.
A late second-quarter 67-yard run by Jones put the Knights in business as Jimmy Keefe connected with fellow redshirt sophomore Jordan Smith to retake the lead, and send it into the half at 13-7.
Eli Park’s second touchdown of the night from 1 yard out put the Owls up 14-13 going into the fourth quarter.
Gannon would answer with a long 35-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Cox with 12:07 left to play.
Gannon’s try for the two-point conversion to go up by seven failed and that left the score at 19-14.
A quick SCSU rushing touchdown saw the Owls back up on the scoreboard, 20-19.
Keefe would answer with a rushing touchdown of his own from a yard out on a read option with Jones that fooled the entire stadium.
Another failed two-point conversion put the Knights up 25-20 with 4:53 left to play.
An 80-yard Southern Connecticut drive highlighted by a pass interference call that saved a touchdown was capped off by Parks’ fourth and final rushing touchdown of the night.
Gannon’s final drive to win the game went south quickly as Keefe was sacked for a nine-yard loss on the opening play.
On the very next play, Keefe threw an interception that SCSU’s David Campbell returned 40 yards for a touchdown to ice the game.
Jacardi Brooks’ 34-yard touchdown pass from Keefe as time expired cemented the final score at 35-32.
Keefe finished the day with 212 passing yards and four total touchdowns.
Dontae Owens also ran for 38 yards on two receptions.
Up next, Gannon begins Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference play by traveling to West Chester for a noon kickoff Saturday.
West Chester opened the season with a 44-6 victory over Bentley University.