Knights rout Southern Connecticut

The Gannon University football team’s defense nearly shut out Southern Connecticut State University in its 23-7 season-opening victory Saturday at Gannon University Field.

The Owls were held scoreless until the final two minutes of the contest. Coach Brad Rzyczycki said the Knights defense has a great deal of experience despite being young.

“Mentally they made a huge leap forward,” he said. “They played a full football game.”

Gannon’s offense was more a story of two halves. Junior quarterback Liam Nadler started to put on a show during a drive that ended the first quarter.

He put the Knights on the board first with an 8-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Jesstin Hamm. Hamm said Nadler is the catalyst of the offense, and added that he puts in the work to be successful.

“Since day one it has been Nadler’s offense and our players know that,” he said. “He is our leader and he shows that with his play.”

Nadler continued to spread the ball around and got junior running back Brock Jones involved through the air. Jones took a 26-yard pass to the end zone with only 35 seconds remaining before halftime.

Jones was handed the reins of the Knights backfield by Gannon graduate and first-team All-Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference tailback Jansen Jones. Nadler said the two running backs have contrasting running styles.

“Jansen was a fantastic athlete, but I think Brock is right there next to him,” Nadler said. “Jansen was more a shifty back and Brock is more of a bruiser.

“Brock is not afraid to run over a few safeties and it helps with the physical aspect of the offense.”

The offense didn’t look as sharp in the second half. The Knights were held to two field goals for the remainder of the game. Jones finished with 150 yards rushing and two receptions for 26 yards. He also had a 58-yard run, which showed he has some speed to go along with his 5-10, 210 pound frame.

Nadler said the result Saturday was due to the team’s grueling offseason. Fifty Gannon players stayed in Erie for the summer to hone their skills.

“Usually at the Division II level, teams get 10 to 15 guys to stay for the summer,” Nadler said. “That’s a big deal.”

The dividends of a long offseason were evident against the Owls and will be on display when the Knights travel to take on Cheyney University of Pennsylvania Saturday.

Cheyney currently sits at 0-1 following a 30-18 loss to Lincoln University Saturday. The Wolves are known for a dynamic running attack, which will be a solid test for the stingy Knights defense.

Nadler said he is looking forward to the matchup between the Knights’ offensive line and the Wolves’ experienced line backing core. He said he is excited about the possibilities for this team in 2014.

“We have the complete package with the offense and defense coming together,” he said. “This could be a special year for Gannon University football.”

CONNOR SONDEL

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