Heavy rain and strong winds didn’t stop the Gannon University football team’s offense from lighting up the scoreboard on Saturday.
If there were any worries that the Golden Knights’ offense was going to have trouble in tough conditions, Brock Jones washed them away.
Jones ran for 143 yards on 13 carries to lead Gannon to a 44-6 rout of Cheyney in front of 1,003 rain-soaked fans at the newly named McConnell Family Stadium.
Below-average temperatures in the low 60s, along with heavy rain and wind gusts up to 35 miles per hour, didn’t stop Jones from recording his 10th career 100-yard rushing game.
“It wasn’t very tough,” Jones said about running the offense in the inclement weather.
“We kept stopping ourselves – it was extremely frustrating, but we overcame them. We made adjustments at halftime and got the job done.”
Gannon jumped out to a 7-0 lead when senior quarterback Liam Nadler connected with Jesstin Hamm for a 14-yard touchdown on the first drive of the game.
However, Cheyney controlled the ball for 20 minutes, 19 seconds of the final 28:54 of the first half, but the Knight defense made sure the Wolves wouldn’t capitalize on it.
Twice Gannon stopped the Wolves with first-and-goal opportunities at the Gannon 5-yard line.
On Cheyney’s first drive of the day, the Wolves chewed up 7:01 on 15 plays, driving 65 yards to the Gannon 5.
On first-and-goal, Tim Petro forced quarterback Dominic Trautz to fumble on the 1-yard line, where Trenton Donald recovered it for the Knights.
Two drives later Gannon would find itself pinned against its own end zone and once again the defense prevailed.
Cheyney marched 69 yards to set up first-and-goal at the Gannon 5.
On fourth down, Brandon French was tackled by Max Onyenwe for a loss to give the Knights another goal-line stand.
Coach Brad Rzyczycki said despite struggling against the Cheyney run in the early stages of the game, he credited his defense for making big plays.
“I thought we lacked a little bit of focus earlier on,” Rzyczycki said. “I don’t know whether we played our best football – (the defense) did a great job once they settled in.”
The fact that the Gannon defense made stops deep in its own territory didn’t surprise Jones.
“I love our defense; our defense is great,” Jones said. “I honestly think we have the top defense in the PSAC. I wasn’t shocked at the end of those drives.”
Sandwiched between the two Gannon stops, Cheyney found the end zone when Jalen Jana ran 29 yards for the Wolves’ first and last score of the day.
It was all Gannon after that.
The Knights tacked on another score before half when Nadler found Brendon Klemensic from 36 yards out for the TD.
It wouldn’t take Gannon long to get on the board in the second half thanks to the Gannon defense.
On the first play from scrimmage in the third quarter, Donald sacked Trautz to force a fumble at the Cheyney 17, allowing Matthew Gawilk to scoop up the ball and trot in for the score.
Gannon followed with another score, this time on Jones’ 23-yard TD run.
Nadler found Hamm two more times for scores, before the Gannon defense ended its stellar play with a safety with 2:42 remaining.
The Wolves had the ball for 12:28 longer than the Knights, but Gannon was able to make use of its time when on offense.
“When we have the ball we are a really good offense,” Jones said. “We just don’t always go out and play to our full potential, which we still have to work on.
“But we’ll get the adjustments made in practice and we’ll be ready for next week.”
Despite big plays from the Gannon offense, losing in the time of possession stat by 10:19 was something Rzyczycki didn’t want.
“We wanted to win the time of possession in the first half – it’s not the way we wanted it to go,” Rzyczycki said.
“We couldn’t sustain drives and we couldn’t get off the field on third down on defense — it was an issue for us.”