Turnovers turn back Loyola, lead to 19-10 loss to Gonzaga Six first-half penalties, four fumbles hurt Dons

September 14, 1997|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Chalk it up to first-game jitters.

After sidestepping numerous fumbles, penalties and mental mistakes to remain in the game, No. 4 Loyola made one mistake too many in its season opener. Hitting Dons quarterback Brant Hall from the blind side, Gonzaga defensive lineman Mike Finnerty forced the ball loose, returning it 58 yards with 8 1/2 minutes left in the game to seal a 19-10 victory for the visiting Eagles yesterday.

The Dons (0-1) turned the ball over three times, committed six first-half penalties and fumbled four times. Gonzaga (2-1), which is ranked No. 10 by The Washington Post, extended its win streak to 10 games by scoring its touchdowns on a 26-yard run, an 89-yard pass and the fumble return.

"We made enough big plays to stay in the game," Gonzaga coach Maus Collins said. "I think Loyola did a job on our offense."

Loyola held the Eagles to 176 yards of total offense including just 27 yards and one first down in the second half.

"Our defense shut down the things they like to do," Loyola coach Joe Brune said.

After Gonzaga went ahead 7-0 in the first quarter on a 26-yard run by Seth Quimby, Loyola's defense got the Dons back into the game by forcing a fumble on the Eagles' 14-yard line. Three plays later, Hall eluded two tacklers and connected with a diving Matt Urlock for a 15-yard touchdown pass to give the Dons a 7-6 lead with 1: 50 left in the first quarter.

"Basically, we wanted to stop their roll-out passes," Loyola defensive end Keon Burley said. "I think we did that. Our only major flaw was the long passes for multiple yards.

"A lot of people were really nervous before the game."

Gonzaga went ahead for good at 12-7 when Curome Cox slipped behind Dons defensive back Dan Fink along the right sidelines on the last play of the first quarter and caught an 89-yard pass from Brian Gallagher.

The Dons answered with a 13-play, 49-yard drive which culminated with a 43-yard field goal by Matt Hart midway through the second quarter. However, Hall bruised his left shoulder from a hit on this possession and sat out the final seven minutes of the first half, putting sophomore Mike McKenna at quarterback.

Hall (77 yards rushing) returned at the beginning of the second half and combined with running back Kyle Bell (73 yards) to move Loyola to Gonzaga's 37-yard line in the fourth quarter before his costly fumble.

Loyola has now lost five straight times to the Eagles, with each margin of victory at two touchdowns or less.

"We have to look forward," said Hall, who expects to start next Saturday against Thomas Johnson. "It's a tough game to start off a season with."

Pub Date: 9/14/97

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