Eagles prey on Knights’ mistakes

A dusting of snow at Clarion’s Memorial Stadium Saturday gave the illusion of a Christmas-like setting at Gannon University’s football game.

Unfortunately for Gannon, it was the Knights who were in a giving mood.

Gannon committed four turnovers, and gave up more than 400 yards in a 28-21 loss to Clarion University.

In front of 1,047 fans, Gannon passed for a school-record 390 yards, but was unable to convert when it counted.

Coach Jim Kiernan said the game represented the best and worst of the Knights.

“At times we played really well, but I feel we left the game out on the field,” Kiernan said.

Clarion, which entered the game at 1-7 overall and 1-4 in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference West, played rope-a-dope with the Knights throughout. Despite giving up nearly 400 yards through the air, the Golden Eagles picked off the Knights all four times in their own territory, including a pair in the end zone in the second half.

Gannon’s potent passing game was neutralized by Clarion’s read-option running game that produced 247 yards.

“We gave up too many points—28 points just puts too much pressure on our offense,” said senior defensive lineman Randy Colling, who registered one quarterback sack.

Clarion running back Patrick Graham Murphy generated the game’s first score just 54 seconds into the contest.

The Knights responded when redshirt freshman quarterback Daniel Tapscott found redshirt senior receiver Jerry Smith for 37 yards in the quarter’s final minute.

After Clarion scored another touchdown to retake a seven-point advantage, Gannon sent the game into the half tied at 14 with a hook-and-ladder play. On the final play of the half, Tapscott hit junior receiver Jonathon Jones for 12 yards, before lateralling to senior receiver Lawrence Coleman, who took it the rest of the way for a 45-yard touchdown.

Coleman, who had career-highs with seven receptions for 194 yards, said the team’s success is a glimpse of its talent.

“I wish we would have done it a lot sooner,” Coleman said. “Everybody knew that we were capable, but that we just needed to put it together.”

Whatever momentum that was formed in the passing game was given back on turnovers and missed opportunities in the second half.

After the Knights missed a 44-yard field goal on their opening possession of the second half, Clarion’s Brandon Akins broke free for a 32-yard touchdown run. The Eagles extended their lead to 28-14 8with an 18-play 80-yard touchdown drive that melted 8 minutes, 53 seconds off the clock. Quarterback Ben Fiscus capped off the drive with a 1-yard run on fourth down.

Following Tapscott’s third pick, redshirt freshman quarterback Ty Watson took the reins under center and threw an interception in the end zone before finding Smith for a touchdown with less than a minute left.

Kiernan said Tapscott’s job as starter is safe.

With the loss, Gannon dropped to 3-6 overall and 2-4 in PSAC play, and is assured of its first losing season since 2008. The Knights also dropped their second straight game, coinciding with a tumultuous two week span that resulted in the arrests of three assistant coaches, one of which resigned.

Kiernan said the situation should have minimal effect on his team’s play.

“It was over last Monday—it’s over for us,” Kiernan said. “Life has distractions, and if you’re using that as a crutch, you better find a different crutch.”

Coleman said the situation has no bearing once the game is underway.

“Of course in the locker room there’s talk about it—that’s just everyone’s nature, but between the lines it’s just football,” he said. “The coaches aren’t the ones making plays, it’s all about the people in shoulder pads and chin straps.”

Gannon will return home to take on Slippery Rock University at noon Saturday. The game will serve as senior day, and will be part of homecoming festivities.

For the Knights on the field, it will be a matter of putting together 60 minutes of consistency.

“When you look at our games, we’ve only beaten ourselves,” Coleman said. “If we were playing like we think we could, I don’t think anybody in the country can stop us.”


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