Noah Mitchell threw for four touchdowns and ran for another to help California University of Pennsylvania hand Gannon University its third straight loss, 54-14, Saturday at McConnell Family Stadium.
The Knights started the day with a quick four-play drive to jump to a seven-point lead in under two minutes on a Jimmy Keefe-to-Branson Stanley 13-yard grab.
But that would be the last time that Gannon – now 2-5 overall and 1-3 in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference – would hold the lead, as the Vulcans responded with their own seven play, 58-yard drive to even the score five minutes into the game.
After a Keefe pass was picked by Noah Dillow, the Gannon defense held Cal U to a three-and-out at midfield before the Knights went three-and-out themselves.
That would be the last time that Cal U’s offense would sputter for a while, as the Vulcans scored on four straight possessions to build a 26-7 lead. The visitors used two successful 29-yard field goals from Keaton Heir and two more touchdown passes from Mitchell to increase their lead.
The second half began with a Zevin Holley fumble forced by former Gannon linebacker Geremy Paige, placing the ball at the Knights’ 18-yard line for the Vulcans.
It took six plays for Mitchell to throw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Tyson Hill. The pass was Mitchell’s fourth touchdown and Hill’s third scoring reception of the afternoon, and it put California up 33-7.
On the ensuing possession Gannon marched 83 yards behind Jason Dambach, who replaced Keefe in the second half.
Dambach picked up his first touchdown on a 1-yard run to reduce the Vulcans’ lead to 19.
But Cal U responded with three more unanswered touchdowns to close out the game at 54-14 and improve to 5-2 on the season. Saturday was the third time this season the Vulcans scored more than 50 points.
Keefe only threw 14 passes and completed seven for 94 yards and a touchdown.
Dambach went 5 for 9 for 92 yards and added a rushing touchdown. Keefe has thrown a touchdown in six of the seven games this year.
California held Gannon to 85 yards rushing. Melvin Blanks led the backfield with 11 carries for 54 yards.
Nelson Brown rushed 19 times for 83 of the Vulcans’ 113 total yards on the ground.
Gannon’s Aaron Webb grabbed an interception right before halftime to extend an eight-game streak with a forced turnover from the defense.
Tre Mitchell topped the tackle chart with 11 while Russell Cooper had four unassisted stops, and Jacob Petit had 2½ tackles-for-loss.
The Knights will travel to meet the No. 22 Indiana (Pa.) Crimson Hawks Saturday for a 1:30 p.m. kickoff. IUP sits at 6-1, losing only to No. 9 Slippery Rock.