North Xtra: Northgate's Girvin ignites Edinboro


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As a quarterback at Edinboro University, Jon Girvin is helping to prove that size really doesn't matter.

Northgate is a tiny high school located on Union Avenue in Bellevue, just north of Pittsburgh off Ohio River Boulevard, not exactly a hotbed of collegiate football talent being bombarded by salivating college coaches.

"We're not a big school, but there are some good players coming out of there," Girvin said. "I guess since it's a small school, Northgate doesn't get looked at very much.

"It is different playing in a little Single-A school against a bunch of Single-A football teams then coming here and playing against huge people. The PSAC has a lot of Division I dropouts."

Edinboro coach Scott Browning was able to look past the level of competition Girvin grew up in and see the potential in the talented quarterback.

"Jon was not a highly recruited athlete coming out of high school probably because of the size of the school," Browning said. "We liked Jon. We felt that he had the tools we could develop into a pretty good PSAC quarterback. Fortunately, not a lot of other people thought that."

At 6 feet 5, 231 pounds, Girvin graduated a two-sport standout in football and basketball at Northgate in 2012 and redshirted last season to study under the tutelage of talented Edinboro quarterback Cody Harris.

Harris, a senior, is a two-time All-PSAC West selection who started all 31 games in his career with the Fighting Scots. Last season Harris had one of the finest in Edinboro history, completing 245 of 368 passes for 2,823 yards with 20 touchdowns while rushing for a quarterback school-record nine touchdowns.

That all changed, however, in the team's second game Sept. 14 when Harris sustained broken ribs against Bloomsburg and was lost for the season. Girvin, a redshirt freshman from Avalon with no college snaps under his belt, was all of a sudden the Edinboro starting quarterback.

"Cody brought a wealth of experience," said Browning, in his eighth year as coach at Edinboro. "When we went into the Cal game the third week of the season, Jon Girvin had never taken a snap at the collegiate level. You still like to do some of the things you were doing but you trim the package a little bit to try to bring him along.

"We were nervous, but on the same token that's athletics. You can't be nervous, you have to move forward. You have to prepare the guy who is going to take the reins."

In his first start against the Vulcans, Girvin completed 13 of 34 passes for 120 yards, but threw three interceptions and no touchdowns in a 20-7 loss ... a loss he probably won't soon forget.

"I remember the whole game," he said with a laugh when asked if he could recall his first start. "That was my first college game ever so I was a little nervous for that one. It was against a really good team."

That experience helped to prepare him for an even better team ... and with much better results.

On Oct. 19 Edinboro took on heavily favored IUP, a team that was at one-time ranked No. 7 in NCAA Division II and stood at No. 22. It had been three years since the Fighting Scots had beaten the Crimson Hawks and IUP had not lost at home in almost two years.

"I don't know if we were nervous, but we were anxious when we went to IUP," Browning said. "I felt like we were getting better as a football team. That's all you can concern yourself about."

Girvin led an offensive attack against IUP with three touchdown passes and the Fighting Scots defense forced five turnovers and blocked a punt as Edinboro posted a 36-30 victory, one of the biggest wins in Browning's eight seasons as head coach.

"It felt really good," said Girvin, who completed 14 of 27 passes for 262 yards with no interceptions. "The seniors had never beaten IUP and to be a freshman coming in playing quarterback and get them their first win against IUP meant a lot. It felt really good.

"IUP is a really good football team. I prepared pretty good for that game, we all did. The defense played super good. If we put all the pieces together, we're a pretty good football team."

Since that first game against Cal, Girvin slowly has been putting the pieces together in his own game. In the past four starts, he has just one interception and five touchdown passes, and for the season has completed 64 of 141 passes for 815 yards and has carried the ball 53 times for an additional 87 yards with four touchdowns.

Girvin has helped Edinboro to a 4-4 record, 2-3 in the PSAC West after last week's 44-20 loss to Slippery Rock, a game which saw Girvin attempt 51 passes, completing 20 for 214 yards.

"Jon is a big, strong guy," Browning said. "He throws a nice ball, he has a live arm. There's nothing but upside from the physical to the mental standpoint with Jon. Every time he takes a snap he gets better, and that's the upside -- he's only going to get better with time."

Girvin knows his team is counting on him and he understands the pressure to step up and improve his game.

"I feel that way a little bit because Cody was a really good ballplayer. He had a big role on this team, he's the smartest quarterback I've ever met. To go in there and do what he did is kind of hard, but he has helped me out a lot on the sidelines.

"I knew if I came to Edinboro I could learn off Cody. I'm really happy with my choice to come to Edinboro."


Rick Davis: rdavis@post-gazette.com or 412-263-3789.

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