Rams hope their momentum sinks Ship

September 03, 2005|By BOB PARASILITI


If a team is only as good as its last game, Shepherd University is great.

At least that is the feeling the Rams were carrying around on the practice field after last Saturday's 24-6 win over Virginia State in the season opener at Ram Stadium.

Winning is always better than losing.

"It's a lot easier to work when you have a win under your belt," said Shepherd coach Monte Cater.

It's a good time to at least feel a little invincible for the Rams. Regional rival Shippensburg is coming to town today in a game which might end up meaning a lot more than a little added giddiness by the end of the day.

The Shippensburg-Shepherd battles have that "feel good" effect on the winner. Not only is it bragging rights between neighbors, but the game has a habit of laying the foundation to the NCAA Division II playoffs.


"I think a lot of it is about proximity," Cater said. "We don't recruit a lot in Pennsylvania and they don't come down here, but there is a plaque they hand out and a traveling trophy. I don't know much about that, but I know it's a physical game and the winner usually has a chance to have a pretty good season."

It's one time that both teams come in feeling pretty sure of themselves. Both come in with 1-0 records - Shippensburg collected a 10-3 win over Kutztown last Saturday. That's a rarity because this has been the season-opening game for both teams in six of the last seven years.

"We haven't been 1-0 heading into this one for a long time," Cater said.

But more importantly, especially for Shepherd, the Shippensburg game could hold the key for playoff considerations. The Rams usually do well in West Virginia Conference games but have struggled against non-conference opponents.

The Rams went 7-0 in winning the WVC title last season, but were 0-3 in the independent games, which left them on the sidelines for the playoffs.

"All region games are important," Cater said. "We don't play out of the region except for the continuous state deal which allows us to play Virginia. But you try to beat the region teams and hope they go on to have a good year because that is more points for you for the playoffs."

Shippensburg enters the game riding a defense which set the tone for a victory over highly regarded Kutztown. The Red Raiders are rebuilding after the loss of many players to graduation - mainly on the offensive side of the ball - making the defensive stand much more important.

The Rams, meanwhile, showed a little more offense but was really bolstered by their defense in knocking off Virginia State.

"When the defense plays as well as it did, it can cover over some deficiencies," Cater said. "The key thing was we didn't have any glaring errors. There was an interception we should have had, and we had a fumble that was caused when there was a hit on the ball, but it was an excellent first game. We didn't make too many mistakes or commit too many penalties."

The Rams held Virginia State to 195 yards, including 55 rushing. Linebacker Todd Edmondson shared WVC defensive player of the week honors for his 6 1/2-tackle day, two for losses, and a forced fumble.

Shepherd's offense did enough to get the win, but it was saved by special teams play. Cater was satisfied with the play of quarterback Dan Chlebowski and the debut of running backs Bryan Wright and Dervon Wallace, but wants to see the Rams run the ball more effectively.

"Dan Gallagher made a big block of an extra point," Cater said. "Right away, it changes the way (Virginia State) had to play and go for two scores. We are worried about the lulls we have on offense and defense in the third quarter. We make the adjustments, but it takes time for them to get going coming out of the lockerroom. We haven't been able to figure that one out."

But if the two defenses take hold, Shepherd and Shippensburg could be in store for a low-scoring game. That means both teams will be looking to take advantage of whatever breaks they get while guarding against mistakes because everything is magnified.

"It could be one of those kinds of struggles," Cater said. "We want to run the ball to keep them honest. We only see the Wing-T (Shippensburg's offensive set) once a year and we don't run it well enough to give the defense true looks. We can't be going out there and helping anyone by making silly mistakes. We had a good start and we have got confidence and momentum."

Shippensburg (1-0)

at Shepherd (1-0)

Today, 1 p.m.

Shepherdstown, W.Va.

Ram Stadium (5,000, natural turf)

Broadcast on the Web:


Head Coach: Rocky Rees (94-73-1, 14th season at SU; 130-88-2, 22nd season)

Formations: Offense - Wing T; Defense - 4-3

Stat Leaders

Rushing: Chris Lynch (13 for 50 yds)

Passing: Tony Gomez (12-27-1, 81 yds)

Receptions: RB Walter Crump (4 for 16 yds)

Tackles: DB Jonathan Aldridge (9)

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