The Gannon University football team will begin its 2019 season when it visits the Southern Connecticut State Owls at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in New Haven, Conn.
Gannon and Southern Connecticut State met at the beginning of the 2018 season, when the Owls topped the Knights, 35-32.
The two teams combined for 761 total yards of offense. Gannon alone gained 397 yards of offense to SCSU’s 364, beating the Owls in the rush and pass game.
Brad Rzyczycki returns for his eighth season as Gannon’s head coach, along with 16 players who started last year.
The Knights will be without All-American running back Marcus Jones, who rushed for 167 yards against the Owls last year and 1,708 yards over his senior season.
Quarterback Jimmy Keefe, who started in last season’s opener, begins the year as a redshirt sophomore.
Gannon welcomes four freshman quarterbacks to the team. Kam Snell, Sean Reim, Rashad McKee and Jack McGinty are all on the roster for this season.
The Knights return 16 players with starting experience, including seven who started all 11 games a year ago.
Included in that group are defensive lineman Andrew Berger and linebacker Jay Bullock, each of whom was named All-PSAC West last year.
Defensive lineman Malachi Woody and defensive back A.J. Satcher also started every game last year, and eight returning defensive players started at least five games.
The offense features two veteran linemen in Aaron Britton and Mac Chambers.
Rzyczycki’s team looks to bounce back from its 2-9 record last season, which included a 2-5 mark in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference West.
During that stretch of the season, the Knights lost four one-possession games that could have brought them up in the standings.
Gannon will open PSAC play against the returning Eastern Conference champion, West Chester, in its home opener on Sept. 14 at noon at McConnell Family Stadium.
West Chester was picked to defend the PSAC East in the preseason poll.
In their meeting last year, West Chester beat Gannon, 31-7. Gannon’s only touchdown came in the first quarter, when Keefe scored on a 1-yard run.
Offensive yards for Gannon totaled 259, compared to West Chester’s 351. Penalties contributed to the loss, with Gannon giving up 108 yards on eight penalties.
West Chester had seven penalties for 71 yards.
Gannon was picked to finish sixth in the PSAC West in the preseason coaches poll, falling behind both Mercyhurst and Edinboro.
Returning PSAC West champ, Slippery Rock, collected six out of seven votes to finish first in the poll.