IUP FOOTBALL: Hawks set for test vs. Gannon
Gannon doesn’t have much to speak of in terms of football history. Yet IUP head coach Curt Cignetti knows what the Golden Knights are capable of.
For evidence, he can just point to Sept. 21 on the calendar. While the Crimson Hawks struggled with Seton Hill, a team that is now 0-9 and going nowhere, Gannon was beating Slippery Rock, 38-27.
Yeah, the same Slippery Rock team that embarrassed IUP, 42-16, on Oct. 12.
Gannon hasn’t been the same team since, though. The Golden Knights enter Saturday’s game at IUP with just a 5-4 overall record, having lost three of their past six games.
“They’re a dangerous team,” Cignetti said. “They beat Slippery Rock. They have a potentially explosive offense. … The last two weeks they haven’t quite been clicking, and hopefully they don’t put it all together this week.”
Come Saturday, IUP (7-2) will face a high-powered Gannon offense, one that’s capable of putting up some big numbers. It’s certainly a better offense than the ones IUP has faced the past two weeks, against Mercyhurst and Clarion, which struggled to pass the ball.
The Golden Knights haven’t had troubles throwing the ball, and quarterback Liam Nadler is among the best in the conference at extending drives with his arm and legs.
In last year’s meeting, a 38-35 IUP?win that clinched the PSAC West title, Nadler passed for 238 yards and four touchdowns, but he was picked off three times, including the final play.
Gannon finished the year with just two wins, but Cignetti remembers the scare the Golden Knights threw into IUP, and that’s why he’s made sure his team is focused this week.
“They played well and we didn’t play very well,” he said, recalling last year’s game. “Their players stepped up and made plays, but we overcame that. They’re a dangerous team.”
The Crimson Hawks can’t afford a letdown if they are to somehow back into an NCAA Division II playoff berth — a goal which seems rather unlikely considering IUP isn’t even ranked in the top 10 in the region, and the top six get playoff spots. And with only two games left on the schedule, that’s quite a mountain to climb, and there’s little time to do it.
“Our guys know there are potential possibilities out there,” Cignetti said, “and that there’s hope. … I still think if we take care of business that we have a legit shot.”
And that shot won’t exist for the Crimson Hawks if they don’t beat Gannon on Saturday.
“The guys have been really focused,” Cignetti said. “They know what’s in front of them here. They’re focused in on Gannon.”