AMESVILLE - Mount Union took advantage of first-half turnovers Friday at the Moshannon Valley Athletic Complex, building a 12-0 lead on the host Black Knights.
But a dormant second-half offense cost the Trojans as Moshannon Valley rallied for a 14-12 victory in a battle of one-loss teams.
A short field after a Moshannon Valley fumble led to the first Mount Union score, while a 29-yard punt return from B.J. Loner and a 31-yard pass completion from Trevon Walker to Bryn "Boomer" Brown set up the other.
But after building the 12-0 lead, the Trojans were unable to move the ball in the second half.
Mount Union picked up just two first downs and 34 total yards over the final 24 minutes of play, and 20 yards and one of the first downs came with fewer than 30 seconds left to play.
"We needed to get something going offensively, and we didn't," Mount Union coach Corey Wertz said. "And that's my fault.
"I thought the defense did a whale of a job. But like I said, our offense killed us and that's on me. We go three-and-out and give them a short field, and you can't do that and expect the defense to stay on the field the whole second half."
The Mount Union defense came up big in the first half, holding Moshannon Valley to just one first down and negative-28 yards until the waning moments of the second quarter when the Black Knights picked up 62 yards and four first downs before Klayton Heffner intercepted Tanner Dipko at the Trojan 3-yard line.
Mount Union picked off Dipko four times in the game - twice in each half - and recovered a fumble, which led to its first score.
Mo Valley had the ball at the Trojan 42-yard line midway through the first quarter when a Mount Union defender sacked Dipko, who lost the ball going to the ground. Dylan Smith pounced on the ball at the Knight 31-yard line.
Mount Union ran the ball five straight times, moving to the Knight 1-yard line.
Smith carried the next play and was stood up at the line of scrimmage and lost the ball. But an alert Alex Varner jumped on the ball in the end zone to give the visitors a 6-0 lead.
Smith led the Trojans in rushing with 31 yards on 10 carries.
Later in the first quarter, the Black Knights punted back to Mount Union and Loner got loose for a 29-yard return.
On the first play of the second quarter, Walker connected on a swing pass to Brown, who made a couple Knight defenders miss and scampered 31 yards to the 3-yard line. Brown had two receptions for 51 yards in the contest.
After a loss on first down, Walker hit Jamal Smith for a 4-yard touchdown pass. The Trojans went for two, but were stopped.
Walker was 8-of-17 passing for 75 yards and a score and was also picked off once.
Neither team could get much going the remainder of the first half until the Knights gave a little preview of what was to come in the second.
The Knights moved the ball from their own 19 to the Trojan 19 as Dipko completed six passes in the two-minute drill. But a third-and 10 pass from the 19 ended up in Walker's hands and the Trojans preserved the 12-0 halftime lead.
Moshannon Valley opened the second half with an eight-play, 61-yard drive that culminated in a one-yard touchdown pass from Dipko to Jake Ludwig. A James Stodart PAT made the score 12-7 with 9:56 to play in the third quarter.
"We knew it was coming," Wertz said of the Knight passing game. "We had it scouted. We knew they were going to run the ball with (Caleb Campbell), and throw the short passes. They started to throw down the seam a little bit on us at the end of the first half. We tried to make an adjustment to it, and I thought we did a little bit."
But after every big defensive stop, the Trojans went three-and-out and punted the ball back to the Knights.
Eventually the change of possessions worked to Moshannon Valley's favor and the Knights put together a 13-play, 42-yard drive that ended with a Campbell 3-yard run with 5:32 left in the game.
"Maybe I hit the panic button a little too soon and called a couple plays trying to get the momentum back with a big play instead of just trying to chip away," Wertz said. "We had some opportunities in the first half with a couple interceptions and a fumble. And we took advantage. But it was a tale of two halves, and they won the second half and put more points on the board."
Mount Union drops to 2-2. The Trojans travel to Bellwood-Antis in Week 5.