Cal U finds finds offensive balance in win over Clarion
Anytime his team wins, Cal U coach Mike Kellar can usually be found with a smile on his face.
When the Vulcans win the way they did Saturday, the smile lased a little longer than usual.
The Vulcans, to many, were considered decent sized favorites to beat Clarion. Yes, the final score was 35-7. But it was the stat sheet that caught Kellar's attention.
“We want to be a more balanced team,” Kellar said after the win. “We've been striving to do that for years and the fact is that we haven't been.
“Today, it was nice to see we were able to have the type of success running the ball that we've been wanting to have. It's something we're going to look to continue this week.”
Cal U (4-2, 2-1) gained 230 yards on the ground Saturday and finished with 244 yards through the air.
The Vulcans' stable of running backs showed that together, they could shoulder the load. Three running backs carried the ball on Saturday, led by Jeff Knox Jr., who finished with 89 yards on 15 carries and two touchdowns. Receiver Trey Johnson also finished with two rushing attempts.
“Sometimes we know that one guy can do one thing better than the others, or someone is better suited for the situation we're in,” Kellar said. “They all do a great job.”
Freshman Nick Grissom finished behind Knox with 63 yards on 12 carries and a score, while former Ringgold Ram, Derrick Fiore, carried the ball 10 times for 42 yards.
Johnson raced 61 yards on a reverse early in the game and finished with 49 yards total after taking a loss on a fumble.
“Clarion is a much improved team and they have a unique offense,” Kellar said of the Vulcans' homecoming opponents. “Part of what we wanted to do was control the ball.”
The Vulcans, led by quarterback James Harris, a transfer from Wake Forest making only his second start, got on the board with 3:44 left in the first quarter on a 1-yard touchdown run by Knox. The score capped off an eight-play, 87 yard drive that was highlighted by Johnson's long run on the reverse.
Cal U made it 14-0 just two minutes into the second quarter with a 52-yard touchdown pass from Harris to senior Mike Williams.
“There's been a little bit of a difference between James and Cody (Schroeder),” Williams said. “But I think it was just a matter of James getting comfortable in the offense.
“I think we opened it up a little bit more for him today and I think that's something we'll continue to do.”
The game remained 14-0 until the Vulcans exploded for 21 points in the fourth quarter.
Knox scored his second touchdown, followed by Grissom's 7-yard scoring run halfway through the frame.
Up 28-0, Schroeder came into the game and completed both of his passes, the second a 23-yard strike to Garry Brown.
“I give Cody a lot of credit,” Kellar said of the team's opening day starter. “He's handled the quarterback situation like a pro, and I really admire him as a player.”
Clarion (3-3, 1-2) got on the board to avoid the shutout when redshirt-freshman quarterback Darelle Carson plunged in from the 1-yard line with 2:49 left in the game.
“Our defense played a great game, as great as our offense was, our defense was just as good,” Kellar said. “We were coming off losses to two good offenses in IUP and West Chester, it was nice to see them have the game they did.”
Cal U returns to action Saturday when they travel to Greensburg to visit PSAC West newcomer and winless, Seton Hill.
Jeremy Sellew is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 724-684-2667.