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Rams win home-opener

September 16, 2000

Rams win home-opener



By BOB PARASILITI / Staff Writer


SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - Like all football coaches, Shepherd's Monte Cater comes equipped with a short memory.

Most the time, it comes in handy for forgetting tough losses and retrying plays that failed the first times they were tried. But on Saturday, that selective recall ability took away from the moment.

Cater was somber, almost unhappy, Saturday. And that was after No. 16-ranked Shepherd laid a 34-10 lashing on St. Joseph's (Ind.). The Rams did it in their home opener during the opening of refurbished Ram Stadium and scored all of their points in the first half.

But it was a little lost on Cater. It was too long ago. He remembered the scoreless second half.

"I think I will feel better about things tomorrow," Cater said. "I'll see the films and remember the first half. I've been saying all along that we are not a deep football team. We have a few guys on this team that we can't lose and we lost one of them today. We can't make a lot of mistakes."

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In the shuffle, Cater forgot about the 201-yard, two-touchdown performance by senior tailback Dalevon Smith. Somewhere back in the haze was James Rooth's 38-yard interception return for a touchdown, all building to a 34-3 halftime lead.

Shepherd decided to take off the gloves in the second half and St. Joseph's kept fighting. The Rams got only 110 yards and no scores in the second half. Also, Shepherd lost starting strong safety Keith Jefferson, an almost irreplaceable cog in Shepherd's defense - with a broken wrist.

That's what Cater remembered.

"We tried to run the football and run the clock in the second half," Cater said. "(St. Joseph's) came out and continued to run blitzes the whole second half. We let our starters in for one series in the second half and took them out. It was our decision to change things, but when they started to blitz and they said 'we are still playing,' and we didn't have anything to make them pay."

But Shepherd bankrolled enough in the first half, scoring on its first two possessions while the defense shut down the Pumas' option-styled attack. The Rams opened the game with a disadvantage with only two running backs dressed for action.

Smith capped the first drive off the opening kickoff with a 15-yard scoring run off a draw play. Travis Lynch, the other runner, highlighted the second drive with a 3-yard run. Placekicker Kevin Burkey missed the second extra point, ending his school-record string at 33 straight.

St. Joseph's baffled the Rams on their next drive, but sputtered at the 8 and settled for an Adam Wyman 25-yard field goal to get on the board. The Rams lost Jefferson, their strong safety, on the drive with the broken wrist.

Shepherd pulled out the stops from there.

Smith capped a two-play, 47-yard drive - which started when Burkey flubbed a punt but kicked into the back of a St. Joseph's blocker to cause a free ball - with a 17-yard TD run.

Then, 23 seconds later, Rooths intercepted a Justin Slais pass, taking it right out of the arms of the Pumas' receiver and returning it 38 yards for a touchdown and a 27-3 lead.

"It was a three-step drop," Rooths said. "I knew it was coming. We work against it in practice all the time. In the first half, we handled their offense well ... bent but didn't break."

Shepherd capped its half and its game with a 16-yard scoring pass from quarterback Joel Gordon with 2 minutes, 51 seconds left in the first half for the 31-point halftime lead.

Despite pulling out the stops on defense in the second half, St. Joseph's offense never got near the goal line offensively. The Pumas' only score was a touchdown by cornerback James Perkins, who returned a Lynch fumble 22 yards for the final score.

Even with the diverse offense, St. Joseph's managed only 198 yards against Shepherd.

"It's hard to be happy with the second half, but I understand that those things happen," Cater said. "We aren't deep enough where we can make a lot of mistakes and win. From here on out, we play for nine straight weeks. Things aren't going to get any easier for us. They will be getting a lot tougher."

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