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Efficient Rams blank Fairmont

October 01, 2006|by BOB PARASILITI

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - The Shepherd University football team has become used to a higher brand of excellence than most.

Long winning streaks, two straight West Virginia Conference titles and national playoff appearances always seem to raise expectations.

It was different on Saturday.

The Rams had to accept a different, garden-variety efficiency.

Fairmont State's blanket defense choked off Shepherd's bread-and-butter running game and kept explosive plays to a minimum. So the ninth-ranked Rams turned to Plan 'B' - a controlled passing game - to wear down the plucky Falcons for a 20-0 victory before a Hall of Fame weekend crowd at Ram Stadium.

"We took what they gave us," said Shepherd tailback Dervon Wallace. "We had to make ordinary plays and make them extraordinary."

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This time, it didn't come from Wallace, who has been a catalyst for the Rams through the last two years. On a day when former rushing phenom Damian Beane was introduced with Shepherd's 2006 induction class, Wallace had his cape ripped off his back. He had a touchdown, but only managed 29 yards on 17 carries.

Instead, the big plays came from the defense - particularly the secondary - while the passing attack provided a steady stream of offense, sending the Rams to their 23rd consecutive regular-season win and 17th straight conference triumph.

Shepherd threw for 202 yards - nearly three times its total rushing yardage - and a touchdown. Meanwhile, the Rams secondary held Fairmont quarterback John Rahl to 11 of 27 passing while batting down five passes and intercepting three others. Fairmont managed just 180 yards of offense.

"They committed to the run and that opened the passing game up," said Shepherd coach Monte Cater. "They had 8, 8 1/2 guys in the box. We were able to keep them off balance and probably passed the ball more than usual."

Shepherd chipped away at Fairmont's defense. The Falcons (1-4, 1-2) took away Shepherd's wide, sweeping plays on the run, but the Rams countered with short passes and screens to the wide receivers to grind out yardage. Fairmont contributed costly penalties to keep Shepherd's offense on the field.

Defensively, the secondary set the tone early against a Fairmont team which averaged 10 points per game until Saturday.

The Rams broke up three passes in the first two series. When the Falcons did catch a pass, the secondary closed quickly to make sure the gains were minimal.

"It was like we planned, but we thought they would run more," said Shepherd defensive back Jerome Quinata, who broke up one pass, intercepted another and tipped a throw that Joey Hooks picked off. "We knew they would have to go up top. Coach told us that they would get their completions, but don't worry. Just tackle and make plays."

It resulted in Shepherd's third shutout this season.

The Rams (5-0, 2-0) used the breaks to their advantage.

Shepherd took a 3-0 lead on a Ricky Schmitt 23-yard field goal with 5:12 remaining in the first quarter. The Rams drove 72 yards for the score, with the help of offsides and personal-foul calls on the Falcons.

Fairmont's 35-yard loss on a bad punt snap set up Shepherd on a 31-yard scoring drive in the second quarter. Chlebowski hit Mark Springirth with a 26-yard pass on the left sideline, followed by a 5-yard scoring run by Wallace for a 10-0 halftime lead.

After Fairmont's defense had an interception wiped out by a face-mask penalty, the Rams ended the third quarter with a 20-yard screen pass from backup quarterback Tyler Lazear to John Sheehan for a touchdown and a 17-0 lead.

The finishing touch came after a Terrance Jenkins interception, setting up another 23-yard field goal to close the scoring.

"This made us use the passing game more, but that may be a good thing," Cater said. "That's one of those things when you have to get the ball to more people. When you rely on one player, he gets doubled. We had to throw the ball more. We didn't look great all the time, but it kept them off balance."

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