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Momentum gone

October 14, 2000

Momentum gone



Shepherd loses lead, game against Falcons

By DAN SPEARS / Staff Writer


SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - The Shepherd football team continued a disturbing trend against Fairmont State in Saturday's Homecoming game, allowing another team to open the second half with a score and regain some momentum.

This time, though, the Rams never got it back.

Fairmont scored the first 19 points of the second half thanks to ball-control offense and pinpoint passing from Bryan Harman, then survived a two-point conversion to tie the game to shock the nationally ranked Rams, 25-23.

"We didn't stay out there," Shepherd coach Monte Cater said. "At critical times in the second half, you've got to do that. We couldn't."

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Like every game this year, Shepherd (4-2, 2-1 West Virginia Conference) took control in the first half despite the loss of tailback Dalevon Smith. The senior, sixth in the nation in rushing, did not play becuase of injury, but backups Travis Lynch and Jerit Seidor combined for 140 yards on 22 carries and Lynch scored twice on the way to a 17-6 halftime lead.

Like every game this year, the opposition got back into it quickly. The Falcons took the second-half kickoff and marched 80 yards in seven plays, capped by a 40-yard touchdown pass from Harman to Todd Anderson after his line picked up a Shepherd blitz.

On the ensuing kickoff, James Rooths made a nice 25-yard return, but fumbled the ball and the Falcons recovered. Shepherd held Fairmont to a 28-yard field goal by Nathan White - his third of four on the day - but the damage was done.

"Instead of getting the momentum back, we fumbled the kickoff," Cater said. "You can't inflict those wounds to yourself, and it's more glaring because of when it happened. We have to do a better job."

Fairmont did a great job with the ball in the second half. Harman hit plenty of receiver screen plays and Khalil Anthony got the draw call more times than an Atlantic City blackjack dealer on his way to a season-high 105 yards.

The Falcons finished with 19 first downs in the second half and had the ball for over 20 minutes over the same time frame.

It all meant Shepherd's offense vanished until it was almost too late. Its first three drives in the second half gained just three first downs. Down 19-17 with 9 minutes 44 seconds to play, the Rams went for it on fourth-and-6 at the Fairmont 24 instead of going for a field goal. Joel Gordon was blitzed and his pass fell incomplete.

"They weren't doing anything different, we just couldn't get anything started," Lynch said. "We let the little mistakes bring us down."

Fairmont responded with a 76-yard touchdown drive and an eight-point lead with 4:08 to go, only to see Shepherd find its offense, nearly just in time.

Gordon completed three passes and Lynch ran for 13 yards on a draw to get into Falcons territory before Lynch bounced out to the left, broke two tackles and raced down the left sideline to pull the Rams within two.

That, however, was the last spark the offense had left. Gordon's pass on the conversion was short of tight end Rob Cunningham, and, even though they got the ball back with just under a minute to play, went nowhere on their final drive.

"It just wasn't meant to be," said Lynch, who finished with 174 yards on 23 carries. "For me to come in for Dalevon - and that's big shoes to just try and fill ... I guess it just wasn't supposed to be us today."

And likely, it means it wasn't meant to be for the Rams this season either. A second loss devastated the hopes for a third straight trip to the NCAA Division II playoffs; Shepherd was only fifth in the Northeast Region heading into Saturday's game.

"That," Cater said. "I'd say we won't have to talk about that anymore."

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