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Shepherd's secondary primarily responsible for win

October 02, 2006|by BOB PARASILITI

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - Shepherd University's defensive backfield was a lot like Tom Hanks in the movie, "Cast Away."

They were both left on an island and their best friend is "Wilson."

OK, maybe for the Rams it's Rawlings or Nike, but the secondary wouldn't have had any kind of success if it weren't for the ball ... or their nose for it.

Shepherd's secondary dictated - and maybe ultimately won - Saturday's game against Fairmont State with nifty deflections, timely interceptions and, perhaps most importantly, sure tackling.

It added up to a 20-0 victory in a game in which the ninth-ranked Rams had to rifle through the playbook to find things to work against a Fairmont defense that smothered the perimeter and choked off Shepherd's running game.

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With the Rams using a more pedestrian attack than usual, it made the defensive secondary all the more important.

The Rams' last line of defense stepped to the front.

"We run a 4-4 defense and it's like being on an island," said Shepherd defensive back Terrance Jenkins. "We choked up a little more than usual. We were running a lot more blitzes. We were forced to play up more on the passes."

Shepherd's defense recorded its third shutout in five games this season. Usually, the Rams grind opposing running games into the ground. Against Fairmont, it was more like they swatted the Fighting Falcons out of the air.

Fairmont quarterback John Rahl completed only 11 of 27 passes. Of the 16 misfires, the Rams batted away five and intercepted three others to limit some of the Falcons' options.

Pat McClintic caught six passes for 73 of Fairmont's 107 passing yards, but none went for more than 19 yards. On every catch, a Shepherd defender was there to make the hit and minimize any possible damage.

"Coach told us they were going to get their completions, but don't worry. Just tackle and make plays," said Shepherd strong safety Jerome Quinata. "We just got back and kept them in front of us. That's why we work on tackles and wrapping players up every Tuesday and Wednesday."

The secondary made its statement on the first two Fairmont possessions, slapping away three passes. The Rams' ability to read and react to the throws allowed the secondary to limit Fairmont's options by occupying passing lanes.

The Rams did it all with free safety Dan Peters forced into the background. Fairmont seemed to throw away from Peters, who led the nation with 12 interceptions last season. Still, he managed to break up two passes.

Quinata, Jenkins and Joey Hooks - with the help of a Quinata deflection - picked off passes on three consecutive Fairmont possessions in the fourth quarter. Jenkins' interception - which was almost caught in self-defense - set up Shepherd's final score.

Because of the secondary, the "castaways" came off the island to help the Rams be survivors for a 23rd straight regular-season win on a day when the offense was challenged.

"We dug in because we realized the game wasn't going to be over until the last whistle," Jenkins said. "Fairmont's defense played hard. We didn't want another defense to outdo us."

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