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Rams' tough 'D' answers call, dominates Va. Union

September 16, 2002|by DAN KAUFFMAN

kauffman@herald-mail.com

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - Shepherd College's offense didn't have to be perfect on Saturday. The defense more than made up for it.

The Rams turned two first-half interceptions into 14 points, and the defense finished with three interceptions, two sacks, a blocked field goal and a goal-line stand, helping make up for three lost fumbles and a safety on offense in Shepherd's 26-9 victory over Virginia Union in the Rams' home opener.

"Our defense just kept answering the bell," Shepherd coach Monte Cater said. "They saved the day. ... We left them out there on some situations, like on the 1-yard line, and they stepped up.

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"I couldn't get around to every player on defense to congratulate them, and that's what they deserve today."

Once again, the Rams (2-0) shut down an opponent's passing attack completely. Shepherd held Virginia Union (1-1) to 12 passing yards on an anemic 2-for-19 effort, a week after holding Shippensburg to 22 passing yards and 4 of 14 completions.

"All week, we talked about attacking them," Shepherd cornerback Freddie Del Villar, who had two interceptions, said. "We came out, just performed and that was it. When we execute, nobody can beat us."

Shepherd went 56 yards on 11 plays in its opening drive, taking a 3-0 lead on Kevin Burkey's 36-yard field goal with 7:55 left in the first quarter.

Interceptions by Del Villar later in the first quarter and Ron Frazier in the second quarter both led to scores - Michael Walker on a 7-yard touchdown run with 6:07 left in the first, and center Bryan Lutton when he recovered Alex Herbert's fumble in the end zone for a 14-0 lead with 4:43 left in the first half.

"Our defense stepped up to the challenge when we turned it over, and we took advantage when they turned it over," Cater said.

Virginia Union scored on its final drive of the first half, driving 48 yards on eight plays - including 35 rushing yards by quarterback Cordell Roane, whose 2-yard touchdown made it 17-7 at the half.

Frazier blocked Paul Drake's 24-yard field goal attempt early in the third quarter, before Burkey kicked a 31-yard field goal with 5:43 left in the third for a 20-7 lead.

The Shepherd defense held at the goal line with 10:57 left in the fourth quarter. A Virginia Union safety on the next play made it 20-9, but Shepherd went 53 yards on 11 plays for its final touchdown, with Walker scoring from the 1 with 3:45 left.

Filling in for injured tailback Travis Lynch, Walker rushed 24 times for 89 yards and Herbert added 62 yards on 17 carries as Shepherd's ground game performed surprisingly well despite fumbling problems.

"We knew Lynch was out, so me and Herbert had to step it up," Walker, a redshirt freshman who struggled at Shippensburg, said. "We had to step it up to win the football game. ... The whole line was taking (Virginia Union) to the woodshed. Last week we hadn't hit our stride, and this week we did."

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