Costly turnovers played a major role as Gannon University dropped its home football opener to 19th-ranked West Chester Saturday, 48-14, at McConnell Family Stadium.
The loss evened the Knights’ overall record at 1-1 going into Saturday’s 12:05 p.m. kickoff at Kutztown’s Andre Reed Stadium.
Saturday’s game will be Gannon’s final nonconference matchup before starting Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference action Sept. 28 in the annual Homecoming game against Clarion at McConnell Family Stadium.
In the loss to West Chester, the Rams picked off Gannon quarterback Jimmy Keefe five times, as the sophomore managed to complete only 11 of 31 passes for 183 yards and one touchdown.
West Chester’s Sterlen Barr accounted for the first turnover on the Knights’ opening drive as he intercepted a Keefe pass and returned it 61 yards for the pick six to open the scoring action.
Gannon’s defense could not contain the Rams’ offense, allowing them to score on both of their possessions in the first quarter to make the score 21-0 entering the second quarter.
Gannon began the second quarter with a 44-yard Keefe to Nico Law completion to the 8-yard line. Keefe then found Joey Cox for the touchdown to trim West Chester’s lead to 21-7.
But the Rams responded with drives of 60 and 66 yards to build the lead to 35-7 at halftime.
West Chester picked up where it left off at half, putting together a 75-yard, eight-play drive to open the third quarter and make the score 41-7.
Gannon was able to find the end zone once more on a 51-yard run from Melvin Blanks at the start of the fourth quarter, setting the score at 41-14.
Ja’Den McKenzie responded for West Chester, collecting 51 of the 59 yards the Rams needed to score a touchdown on the next drive. McKenzie led the Rams backfield with 87 yards and two touchdowns.
Redshirt junior Jason Dambach stepped in for Keefe as the Knights’ quarterback in the fourth quarter, completing 3 of 5 passes for 33 yards.
West Chester quarterback Paul Dooley went 17 for 25 for 248 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Dooley also ran for 73 yards and two touchdowns.
Blanks led the Gannon rushing attack, gaining 94 yards on 16 carries. Zevin Holley added 14 yards on eight attempts.
Cox led the Knights receivers with three grabs for 38 yards and his second touchdown of the year. Law had 61 yards on his two receptions.
On defense, A.J. Satcher led the way with nine total tackles while Aaron Webb contributed eight.
Looking ahead, the Knights’ opponent Saturday put up 21 points in the fourth quarter to help get by California, 35-28, and move to a 2-0 record.
The Gannon-Kutztown series is tied at two wins each. The Bears picked up the win in 2018 in a 48-33 offensive showdown at McConnell Family Stadium.
Kutztown came into the fourth quarter trailing 33-22 in last year’s matchup, but reeled off 26 unanswered points to capture the win.