Rams use off week to make changes

September 30, 2002|by DAN KAUFFMAN

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - In three hours last Saturday, East Stroudsburg quarterback Jeremy Palm shot down both Shepherd's nationally top-ranked pass defense and the Rams' undefeated season, using a 368-yard, three-touchdown day for a 35-23 victory that bounced Shepherd out of the NCAA Division II Top 25.

Still reeling from the loss, combined with the suspension of starting cornerback Freddie Del Villar for the rest of the season due to disciplinary reasons, Shepherd (2-1) has an extra week to prepare its suddenly-vulnerable secondary for the passing attack of West Virginia University-Tech in both teams' West Virginia Conference opener next Saturday.

"Part of (last week) is we hadn't been challenged by a good senior quarterback and good receivers," Shepherd coach Monte Cater said. "We got caught on screen passes, and we missed a tackle on a long pass play, and all that adds to the yardage.


"We have the off week to look at film and move people around if we have to, but there's not a lot we can do. It's not like we can check the waiver wire. ... It's hard to get experience in practice, but that's what we have to do."

Freshman Dustin Dudinski took the place of Del Villar last week and was often the target of Palm and his receivers, specifically John Jeffries, whose touchdown receptions of 32 and 46 yards in the fourth quarter were the difference in the game.

Matt Meadows - an All-Conference first team selection at safety last year - could conceivably make the move to corner if need be, but Cater downplayed that possibility.

"You make a change like that, then you have to make two changes," Cater said. "We've got another week of practice to iron things out. ... We've got some new personnel back there, and we're gonna see just as good a passing attack against West Virginia Tech, because that's what they do."

Aside from concerns in the secondary, the Rams have been plagued by penalties on the road. Shepherd was whistled for 16 penalties for 145 yards against east Stroudsburg, two weeks after having a touchdown pass called back on holding in the first half of a 17-10 victory at Shippensburg.

"We have more problems with penalties than anything else," Cater said. "I've never seen so many penalties and holding (calls).

"(But) the bottom line is we did have our chance (last week). We were up with eight minutes to go and couldn't hold the lead ... and none of that has anything to do with the officials."

Meanwhile, the Rams' offense has yet to click consistently for 60 minutes. The rushing game has been solid the last two weeks, as redshirt freshman Michael Walker and sophomore Alex Herbert have combined for 373 yards in those games. Walker had 144 yards on 24 carries against East Stroudsburg.

But the passing game - usually solid and sometimes spectacular - has been off. Joel Gordon has completed 25 of 56 passes for 368 yards the last two weeks, and threw two interceptions against East Stroudsburg.

"(If) we get a matchup we want, we've got to throw it and catch it when it's there," Cater said. "I'm looking at (the stats) as a glitch, because I know we can go to our passing game more than we did last week.

"Our offense isn't scoring a lot of points. We're putting field goals on the board, and that's good, but we've got to go ahead and get touchdowns."

The Herald-Mail Articles