Owls fall to Gannon University 26-22 in season opener
Aaron Johnson – Sports Editor
Redshirt freshman quarterback Robert Nittolo led a valiant comeback effort that came up just short in the season opener for the Southern Connecticut State football team, as the Owls fell to Gannon University 26-22 this past Saturday afternoon.
“All we have to do is lock in and focus,” Nittolo said. “Early we had a little bit of jitters but then we really started to lock in and that’s when we started to score.”
Despite trailing for the majority of the contest, Southern was able to score 19-straight second half points to pull within a touchdown of the Golden Knights, led by Nittolo and junior wide receiver Devante Jenkins, who finished with seven catches for 84 yards and a team-high three touchdowns.
“The first half we made a lot of plays (but) we just weren’t finishing,” said Jenkins, a transfer from El Camino College. “We went into halftime like let’s just finish these plays off and that’s exactly what we did in the second half. We just finished.”
The game was a tale of two halves as miscues and turnovers put the Owls behind early. Fumbles on back-to-back series by Nittolo gave the Golden Knights a short field and resulted in two Gannon touchdowns, which put the Owls in a 26-3 hole in the beginning of the second half.
“Well one just squirted out with some pressure,” said head coach Tom Godek. “The second one was a good call by coach (Brad) Rzyczycki on the Gannon defense. It was two of us and three for them and they made the right call on it.”
Nittolo, who finished 24 of 38 for 249 yards and three touchdowns, said that despite the heavy pressure he has to be able to have better ball security, especially when backed up in their own territory.
“It was really the majority my fault,” he said. “I just got to hold on to the ball. Our o-line played well. They bought a heavy blitz off the edge. But I just got to hold on to the ball that’s it really.”
On the ground, Southern outrushed the Golden Knights 171-114 as senior Donald Thomas ran for 98 yards on 24 carries. Senior Robert Thomas complimented his backfield mate with 50 yards on eight carries of his own.
Godek said that the biggest thing to take away from this game is going to be the matter in which the team dealt with the early game adversity and continued to play on.
“It was one of the best halftimes that we’ve ever had here in the past four years,” he said. “Our guys were looking around saying the scores the other way around. We regrouped quickly. Went to our positional coaches. Went over the stuff. Made a couple of adjustments and came back. Unfortunately came up a little short.”
The Owls will try to regroup next week against NE-10 rival American International College on the road in Springfield, Mass. Nittolo said that Southern will continue to have this intensity throughout the rest of the season.
“We got a lot of new guys that work really hard and have athletic ability so as long as we know what we’re doing mentally and execute I think it’s going to be a good year for us.”
Southern played with an attitude in the second half that Jenkins said going into week two they will continue to have, something that was not seen in the team a year ago.
“It’s a big step from last year,” he said. “We got great leaders and we just refuse to lose and give up and tuck our tails in. As long as we keep that. We’re going to win a lot of games this year.”
Photo Credit: Tyler Korponai – Photo Editor