Rams tough defense takes show on road

September 23, 2002|by DAN KAUFFMAN

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - Most of the preseason talk surrounding Shepherd centered around the Rams' offense, what with seniors Joel Gordon and Travis Lynch returning. But it's the defense - specifically the secondary - putting up eye-popping numbers as Shepherd prepares to go on the road against East Stroudsburg today.

Matt Meadows' interception in the end zone preserved Shepherd's 17-10 victory in Week 1 at Shippensburg, before Freddie Del Villar - last week's national tri-defensive player of the week - picked off two passes and Ron Frazier added his own interception as the Rams held Virginia Union to 12 yards passing in a 26-9 victory.

"I was just really pleased with the defense. They answered the bell so many times," Rams coach Monte Cater - now three wins away from becoming the school's all-time leader - said. "They made the stops, got the turnovers and set us up for scores on offense."


Shepherd, ranked 21st in Division II, fumbled the ball five times against Virginia Union, losing three. But the exploits of the secondary, combined with a goal line stand in the third quarter and a blocked field goal by Frazier, more than made up for the Rams' own turnovers.

"You do what you have to do to win," Cater said. "Sometimes it takes a greater effort from one segment to do that."

Shepherd ranks 12th nationally in scoring defense - allowing 9.5 points per contest - and leads the nation in pass defense efficiency, allowing opponents to complete only 10 of 45 passes for 78 yards.

"All you can do is go out and defend what you see," Cater said. "So far, we've done an excellent job, but we've got a bigger challenge this week."

That challenge comes from an East Stroundsburg team that always plays Shepherd tough. The Rams have won three of four in the series, including a 33-26 victory at home last year, but three of those games were decided by a touchdown or less and two have gone into overtime.

The last time Shepherd traveled to East Stroudsburg, they came home with a 35-28 loss in OT two years back.

"It's just a physical contest," Cater said. "Both teams try to run the football and play good defense. We're very similar to one another. ... This is the best balanced and best throwing team we'll see so far this season.

"It's (East Stroudsburg's) first game at home, and you have to play excellent football on the road. ... Over the years, we've played some pretty good football on the road, and we need to start it up again this year."

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