Story and photo courtesy of California (Pa.) Athletics
ERIE, Pa. – The No. 14 Vulcans posted their second-straight shutout and rushed for four touchdowns on Saturday afternoon, registering a 41-0 victory at Gannon in Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) West play.
With the win, the California University of Pennsylvania football team improves to 7-1 overall and 5-0 in divisional play. The Vulcans now hold sole possession of first place in the PSAC West standings after Mercyhurst loss to IUP on Saturday. Meanwhile, Gannon suffered its seventh-straight loss to fall to 1-7 this season and 0-5 in league action.
The Vulcans rushed for 200 yards for the second-straight game, finishing with a season-high 226 yards and four touchdowns. Senior Lamont Smith (Penn Hills, Pa./Central Catholic) led the team with 96 rushing yards on 19 attempts and sophomore Cody Cook (Beaver Falls, Pa./Beaver Falls) added 74 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries. Fellow sophomore Jeff Knox, Jr. (Pittsburgh, Pa./DeMatha Catholic (Md.)) finished with 40 rushing yards and two scores, while redshirt freshman Jake Forsythe (New Salem, Pa./Uniontown) posted 30 yards and one touchdown.
The Cal U defense allowed just 164 yards of total offense on Saturday. The Vulcans yielded only 11 rushing yards on 29 attempts after registering six sacks, which ties a season high. Cal U also forced four turnovers in the victory, as the Golden Knights managed just 10 first downs on 63 plays.
Midway through the first quarter, the Vulcans took a 3-0 lead on a career-long 46-yard field goal by sophomore Cody Nuzzo (Bradford, Pa./Bradford). Knox blocked a punt on the next Gannon possession that led to a 26-yard field goal by Nuzzo with 6:43 left in the first. The Golden Knights mounted their deepest drive of the game later in the quarter before senior defensive back Greg Cochrane (Chandler, Ariz./Chandler) recorded an interception in the end zone.
Gannon looked to cut into the deficit midway through the second quarter before junior Darnell Harding (McKeesport, Pa./McKeesport) blocked a 35-yield goal. The Vulcans ended the next Golden Knights' possession with an interception by senior defensive back Rontez Miles (Braddock, Pa./Woodland Hills), who returned the turnover deep into Gannon territory. Knox then posted a three-yard touchdown run to stretch the lead to 13-0 with 3:24 left in the first half. On the ensuing Gannon possession, Harding posted a 32-yard fumble return for a touchdown after registering a sack and forced fumble to give the Vulcans a 20-0 lead with 2:48 left before the break.
On the first possession of the second half, Knox capped an 11-play drive with a 23-yard touchdown run to stretch the lead to 27-0. The Vulcans then mounted a 13-play scoring drive late in the third that resulted in a two-yard touchdown run by Cook with 12:26 left in the game. Late in the fourth, junior Trey Johnson (Rochester, Pa./Rochester) posted a season-long 34-yard punt return that set-up a 14-yard score by Forsythe with 2:08 remaining.
Senior BJ Stevens (Monroeville, Pa./Gateway) anchored the defense with a career-high nine tackles (two solo), including 3.5 TFL and 1.5 sacks. Redshirt junior defensive lineman Noah Taylor (Pittsburgh, Pa./Woodland Hills) added seven stops (two solo), 2.5 TFL and 1.5 sacks, while Harding made six tackles (five solo), 1.0 TFL, 1.0 sack, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.
Cal U returns to action on Saturday, Oct. 27, when it hosts Slippery Rock at 3:30 p.m.