Maybe it was because Connor Bruns, a recent transfer from South High in Fargo, N.D., didn't know what all the hype was about, or maybe Loyola's new starting quarterback is just good.
No matter what the bottom line, Bruns, a junior, stepped into the job for the No. 2 Dons yesterday and made quite a first impression.
Playing in the absence of senior Leon Kinnard, who is out for the rest of the season with a broken leg, Bruns connected on 14 of 19 passes for 274 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Dons to a 31-20 victory over No. 5 Gilman.
"I was pretty nervous," said Bruns, who didn't play like it. "It was my first career start. I really didn't know much about this game with Gilman, but all the fans have been saying what a big game it is. I just tried to do my best to help us win. My line did a great job, and my wide receivers did a great job getting open."
Bruns threw touchdown passes of 47 and 27 yards to Brandon Floyd in the first half to wipe out Gilman's stunning opening play of the game - a 79-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by sophomore Darius Jennings.
Loyola increased its overall record to 8-0, while Gilman dropped to 6-2. Gilman's only other loss came to Bergen Catholic, from New Jersey.
Gilman's 6-0 lead lasted a little more than three minutes, as Bruns led his team on a 10-play scoring drive that covered 77 yards and followed that with another strike to Floyd, who made a beautiful over-the-shoulder catch.
"So far, this has been our toughest opponent," Floyd said. "It was great to see us come together as a team. The game was amazing. I knew [Bruns] had a strong arm, and he was able to sling the ball. He was really patient in the backfield and stepped up."
Bruns and Floyd were helped by the play of the veteran offensive line and running backs, who held their positions and made their blocks. The defense, anchored by seniors Doug Shaw, Matt Heacock and Charley Jones, also pitched in.
When it was over, Gilman senior quarterback Davey Emala said the game between these teams is becoming "more of a rivalry" each year, and looking around the stadium - where Gilman fans filled their bleachers and sideline and Loyola fans filled the visitors' side and spilled around both end zones - it was apparent
"Loyola is a great team," said Emala, who led his team on two long scoring drives, handing off to Woody Williams for a 1-yard touchdown and running it in himself for another. "Their new quarterback, I don't know if he'd be a backup on many teams. But we played hard, and at times, our offense executed well. I'm proud of our offensive line."
Loyola coach Brian Abbott said, "I'd never think we'd score 31 on Gilman." But he added he couldn't have asked for a better player than Bruns at the controls.
"By nature, he's calm," Abbott said. "We knew we wanted Connor to throw the ball because he's very accurate. He was composed, and his offensive line gave him time. I'm proud we didn't give up after the opening kickoff return. That was a difficult position from which to start."