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Rams claim first victory

September 26, 2004|by RYAN ALLEN/Staff Writer

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - Shepherd University intercepted four passes in the game's final four minutes as the Rams held on for a 40-24 victory over visiting Fairmont State to claim their first win of the season in the West Virginia Conference opener for both teams Saturday.

The game was closer than the final score indicated, as the Fighting Falcons (1-3, 0-1 WVIAC) had the ball twice in the fourth quarter facing only a 27-24 deficit.

Shepherd cornerback Dustin Dudinski ended both of those drives, however, intercepting Fairmont quarterback Marlon Burnette in a span of 37 seconds.

The second pick came at the Fairmont 12-yard line and led to Alex Herbert's 2-yard touchdown run - his third of the game - to give the Rams a 10-point cushion with 1:28 to go.

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Ron Frazier removed any doubt in the game when he intercepted a Burnette pass and raced 50 yards for a score with 35 seconds remaining.

"Our defense really stepped it up," said Rams coach Monte Cater. "This was one of those games that could have gone either way."

Shepherd (1-3, 1-0) took the opening kickoff and drove 66 yards to take the lead 3:39 into the game on a 1-yard plunge by Herbert. The Rams never relinquished the lead.

Herbert added his second touchdown three minutes later on a 5-yard pitch to the left side. Shepherd began the drive on the Fairmont 40 after Frazier blocked Tyler Bailey's punt.

"The way our offense has been going, it was huge to (take the lead early) and have some success running the ball," Cater said. "Nobody's really good if you can only do one thing."

Fairmont also had success on the ground as Wendell Johnson amassed 201 yards on 39 carries, with 155 of those yards coming in the first half.

The Falcons cut the lead in half early in the second quarter on a 28-yard pass from Burnette to Kyle Scherlich.

Fairmont drove inside the Shepherd 5 on its next possession, but safety Dan Peters - who also had two interceptions - forced a fumble and recovered the ball on the Rams 1-yard line.

On the next play, Len Ferguson connected with Jesse Correll on a play-action post pattern and Correll outran all defenders for a 99-yard touchdown, the longest in Shepherd history.

Cater said he called the pass play because teams had been stacking defenders on the line in similar situations.

"This was something we had planned on doing coming into the game," said Cater.

Fairmont cut the lead to 21-16 at the half on a 5-yard touchdown run by Johnson and a 27-yard field goal by Bailey.

Ricky Schmitt added two field goals for Shepherd and the Rams led 27-16 in the fourth quarter.

The Falcons trimmed the lead to 27-24 when Khalid Dover made a one-handed grab in the corner of the end zone on a fade pattern and Burnette again connected with Dover for the two-point conversion.

Burnette passed for 143 yards and two scores, but also threw five interceptions.

Ferguson passed for 223 yards, 156 of them going to Correll. Herbert finished with 108 yards on 32 rushing attempts.

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