Knights rally, remain undefeated

The Gannon University football team hasn’t started a season 3-0 since Bill Clinton was in the White House in 1994.

The Knights were able to match the milestone and remain unbeaten with their 37-28 victory over Kutztown University – Gannon’s first true test of the season – Saturday at Gannon University Field.

Nearly five minutes into the game, junior wide receiver Jesstin Hamm helped the Knights jump out to an early 7-0 lead off a 66-yard touchdown reception from junior quarterback Liam Nadler.

Hamm said Kutztown was the highest caliber team the Knights faced so far this season, and that Gannon needed to get on the scoreboard early.

“It felt good to get the game started off against a big team that way,” Hamm said. “We came out ready to go.”

Despite the Knights’ strong start, the Golden Bears clawed their way back into the game.

Gannon’s defense struggled to keep Kutztown’s junior quarterback Chad Barton in check in the second half.

Following a Kutztown touchdown reception with only five seconds remaining in the second quarter, Gannon trailed 21-20 at halftime.

Momentum shifted back in Gannon’s favor a minute into the fourth quarter after a short slant route that led to a 70-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Justin Caliste.

Nadler said Caliste is a freak athlete, but he thinks that often overshadows other aspects of his game.

“He is probably the most cerebral and situationally aware of our wide receivers,” Nadler said.

Nadler sealed the game with four minutes remaining on a 4-yard screen pass to junior running back Brock Jones. Jones completed the game with 177 rushing yards, two rushing touchdowns and one receiving touchdown.

Nadler said the offensive line made the necessary adjustments to help the offense remain balanced.

“Kutztown wanted to man us up on the outside and send everybody and their brother on blitzes to try to pressure us into mistakes,” Nadler said, “but the offensive line picked up almost all of their blitzes and gave me enough time to get rid of the ball.”

Nadler finished the game completing 29-of-47 for 351 yards and three touchdowns.

The offensive line also carved out holes for Jones, who averaged 5.2 yards per carry on 34 attempts.

Gannon’s defense finished the game strong – holding the Golden Bears to seven points in the second half.

Sophomore defensive back Mike Zanders was named the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) Western Division Defensive Player of the Week.

He registered a team-high 10 tackles and one defensive pass breakup.

The Knights travel to Clarion to take on the Golden Eagles (2-1) at 2 p.m. Saturday in almost an identical situation to their 2013 matchup. Gannon would hope to replicate its 2013, 45-25 victory at Clarion.

Nadler said that Knights will face a strong Clarion team in its homecoming game for the second straight season.

“Our mindset is just repeating the same performance we had last year,” Nadler said. 

CONNOR SONDEL

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