The win is the sixth season-opening victory for the Colonels in the last seven years. The lone loss came last year in overtime against Hanover at home.
The Panthers struck first using a 14-play 76-yard drive to take a 7-0 lead as quarterback C.J. Croft capped the scoring drive on a two-yard rush.
Centre scored its first points of 2011 on a safety. The Colonels forced Croft into an intentional grounding penalty in the end zone to make it a 7-2 game.
Gay kicked his first of five field goals in the second half, a 46-yarder to cut the lead to 7-5.
After forcing the Panthers to go three-and-out on their next possession, Centre took over on its own 41-yard line. Ten plays and 54 yards later, Gay hit his second field, a 23-yarder to give the Colonels their first lead of the season at 8-7.
Senior quarterback Tyler Osterman (Monroe, Ohio) found senior running back Jonathan Pinque (Athens, Ala.) for a 23-yard scoring strike with 57 seconds left in the first half for Centre's first touchdown of 2011 and a 15-7 lead.
Following two penalties on the ensuing kick-off, Croft's pass on first and 35 from the Hanover 23 was intercepted by senior Kent Crick (Evansville, Ind.) and returned to the Panther nine-yard line, where Gay drilled a 25-yard field goal with time expiring for an 18-7 halftime lead.
Gay, the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference (SCAC) Newcomer of the Year a year ago, hit two more field goals (34 yards and 29 yards) in the third quarter, while Pinque scored his first rushing touchdown of the year on a one-yard plunge to give the Colonels a 31-7 lead after three quarters.
Hanover added a touchdown at the beginning of the fourth quarter, but Centre answered with junior running back Monte Scotton (Cleveland, Tenn.) crossing the goal line from one yard out. Senior defensive end Cooper McGuire (Danville, Ky.) set up the score by recovering a fumble and returning it to the Hanover six-yard line.
The Panthers added a late touchdown for the 38-21 tally, but it would not be enough.
Osterman finished the day 20 of 28 for 163 yards with a touchdown pass and an interception. Pinque carried the ball 24 times for 52 yards with a score, while also catching five passes for 55 yards and another score.
McGuire led the defense with five tackles with a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Crick added another interception to pick off two passes on the day and break up two more, while senior defensive end Javod Sewell (Duluth, Ga.) had four tackles, including three for a loss.
Centre will take a week off and then return home for its 2011 home-opener against Washington & Lee University, Saturday, Sept. 17. Kick-off is set for 7:30 p.m. at Farris Stadium in Danville, Ky.