The pocket began to collapse around Tyler Jenny. Calm as could be, the Lycoming quarterback took two steps toward the line of scrimmage as the pass rushers collapsed behind him.
With no hesitation, Jenny took off up the middle. He bent his run toward the right, first down in hand, but looking for more. After being tackled, Jenny jumped to his feet, pumping his fist, echoing the excitement his teammates showed as the Warriors showed their first signs of life offensively during Saturday's game against Wilkes.
It was the jump-start to a career day for the junior quarterback. Jenny completed 20 of 21 passes for a career-high 305 yards and three touchdowns as Lycoming picked up its first win of the season, 34-18, over Wilkes. Jenny became the first quarterback to throw for 300 yards in a game since Colin Dwyer did it on Oct. 3, 2009 against King's.
It was a brilliant effort from a quarterback who struggled unexpectedly in last week's thrashing at the hands of Brockport. Saturday's performance was the kind the Warriors' coaching staff knew Jenny was capable of after a sophomore season when Lycoming was five points short of a MAC title.
"Last week was not what we wanted and not what I wanted from a performance standpoint," said Jenny, who helped lead Lycoming to 459 yards of offense. "We got everybody focused during the week and decided to put it behind us, and I think we came out and put on a better performance (Saturday)."
"We think he has a chance to be very good," Lycoming head coach Mike Clark said. "(Saturday) was a display of that. I don't know the last time we had a kid go 20 for 21, but it might be never."
Lycoming doesn't have records for individual game completion percentage in its record book, but Jenny is the most accurate passer Lycoming has ever had. His performance Saturday put his career completion percentage at 60.8. He's the only quarterback in school history to have a career completion percentage of at least 60 percent with a minimum of 150 career attempts.
His only incompletion yesterday came as he scrambled late in the first quarter. After that pass, he ran off 14 consecutive completions for 239 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The 305 passing yards for Jenny bested his previous career best of 239 in last year's win over Wilkes.
And it wasn't as if Jenny had clean pockets to throw from much of the day. He was constantly moving his feet, fleeing from pressure from both the front side and blind side as his receivers worked to get open.
"He did some great things with keeping plays alive," Wilkes head coach Frank Sheptock said. "I thought we played extremely well on the line of scrimmage and I was pleased how we were getting pressure on the quarterback in the first half. But you have to tip your hat to a young man that's able to make those plays."
"We watched a lot of tape on their blitzes and where they were coming from," Jenny said. "That was an issue for us last week. We spent a lot of time on it during the week. It's nice when you come out and know where it's coming from."
Jenny picked apart the Wilkes defense despite not having much semblance of the dominating running game which has been a staple of the Lycoming offense in Clark's tenure. The Warriors had just 55 yards on 23 carries through three quarters, but it was enough to give Lycoming's receivers room to run.
Jenny completed passes to eight receivers, including fullback Nick Mongiello and tight ends Greg Kovacs and Jeremy Rosborough. Ryan Umpleby finished with a career-high 115 yards receiving and a touchdown. Matt Atkinson finished with a career-high 91 yards and two touchdowns.
"By them being so aggressive against the run, we showed our willingness to throw the ball to the tight end, and willingness to throw the ball to the fullback," Clark said. "It's not just one guy. I think we're balanced and more deep and it will hopefully make us really tough to defend."
Jenny helped put Lycoming ahead for good in the first quarter with his 20-yard scramble on third-and-9. Four plays later he found Atkinson on a slant for an 11-yard touchdown pass to give Lycoming a 7-0 lead.
He pushed the Warriors to their second score of the first half with completions of 30 yards to Atkinson and 27 to Umpleby to set up Craig Needhammer's (27 carries, 130 yards) 1-yard scoring run.
Jenny was 4 for 4 on the opening drive of the third quarter, connecting with Atkinson again for a 13-yard scoring strike.
"He didn't play very well last week. He missed some things he knew he shouldn't have. We thought he'd play well last week and he didn't," Clark said. "But it wasn't going to happen two weeks in a row. I think we saw what he's capable of."
And as the offense began to roll, the defense made the knockout blow when safety C.J. Arhontakis intercepted a Tyler Berntsen pass and returned it 91 yards for a touchdown. It was the third-longest interception return in Lycoming history, and was a fitting play as the Warriors really dictated what Wilkes could do offensively for much of the game.
The Warriors allowed 52 yards on 30 snaps in the first half to the Colonels. And they likely would have been pitching a shutout at the half if not for a fumble which gave Wilkes the ball at the Lycoming 10-yard line and allowed Williamsport graduate Jordan Fredo to connect on a 27-yard field goal.
"We knew if we made them one-dimensional it was our game," Arhontakis said. "They wanted to establish the run and we took that away. They tried to get the play-action game working. But with the line and linebackers taking away the run, I was able to slow-play that play-action and that's how I got the interception."
"That was big not only for points, but for morale," said Lycoming defensive lineman Braden Zeiner, who had a career-high two sacks. "Our offense struggled a bit early on, but to have (the interception) happen, it gives everyone that spark of life and I feel like our offense worked even better after that."