Knights share PSAC title

The Gannon University football team outscored Indiana (Pa.) 17-7 in the second half and fought its way to a 31-21 Senior Day win to claim a share of the school’s first Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Western Division championship at Gannon University Field Saturday before 1,001 fans.

The Knights (8-2, 7-2 PSAC) knew the Indiana run defense was one of the best in the nation, but that didn’t faze coach Brad Rzyczycki and his squad.

“We were going to dedicate to the run Saturday,” Rzyczycki said.

And that they did.

The Knights would rack up 150 yards on 39 carries, including two rushing touchdowns, on the third-best run defense in Division II.

Junior running back Brock Jones finished the game with 106 yards on 28 carries and two touchdowns in the win. Jones currently leads the PSAC in rushing average with 145.2 yards per game for a total of 1,307 yards gained over nine games.

Rzyczycki credited senior leadership on the offensive line for the success of the run game Saturday.

“It’s big to have seniors on the line,” Rzyczycki said. “I think we have the best offensive line in the PSAC.”

The run game enabled the Knights to open up the passing game, where junior quarterback Liam Nader threw for 304 yards and two touchdowns. The win clinched a share of the Western Division title but it won’t be enough for the Knights to reach the PSAC championship game. Gannon didn’t get the help from Slippery Rock that it was looking for.

The Rock held off Clarion to tie Gannon in the standings, but will play in the championship due to its 31-28 win over Gannon on Oct. 8.

Against IUP, the Knights got off to a sluggish start on the defensive side of the ball and gave up touchdowns on back-to-back drives in the first half.

A Chase Haslet 55-yard touchdown pass to C.J. Jackson knotted the game 7-7, then on the ensuing drive the Crimson Hawks (6-4, 5-4 PSAC) would take the lead on touchdown pass to Drew Carswell from Haslett.

Rzyczycki was worried his team might be a bit rusty after two weeks off between games after last Saturday’s forfeit victory against California.

“Our kids settled down and made adjustments on the outside run,” Rzyczycki said. “It was just a matter of kicking the rust off, but the energy was there.”

Gannon will now look forward to Saturday’s final home game of the year when the Knights host East Stroudsburg at noon at Gannon University Field

The Knights are now at the mercy of the NCAA committee and Saturday’s contest will be important to keep Gannon’s hopes of an NCAA Division II Tournament bid alive.

“We control only things we control,” Rzyczycki said. “It will be big to get to nine wins for this program.”

Rzyczycki said he was unsure if a win Saturday would be enough for the Knights to move on to the postseason, but he said a victory would propel the team and have people looking at Gannon on more of a national level.

DOMINIC SANSONE

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