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Shepherd blanks Bowie State

September 07, 2008|By BOB PARASILITI

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. -- Weather has a way of making offensive game plans less than foolproof.

So when it's raining, you had better have a few pages in the playbook that are waterproof.

Shepherd University went tropical (storm) on Saturday, relying on its underlying trademarks of solid running and strong defense to backstroke to a 14-0 victory over Bowie State in a constant driving rain at Ram Stadium.

Tropical Storm Hanna's humidity and hydration reduced a game which would have been predicated on speed to the old-time football standards of blocking and tackling, laced with three yards and a splash of mud offense.

"We've always predicated our offense on that," Shepherd coach Monte Cater said. "When the weather isn't good, we always want to be able to run to have a chance. And the defense was good.

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"Both teams made mistakes in the weather. We just made a couple less."

Shepherd won the game on a pair of bookend touchdowns. The Rams made a statement by taking their first drive of the game 53 yards, culminating with an 8-yard touchdown pass from Tyler Lazear to tight end Ryan Lavin.

Shepherd pulled off the seven-play march early before the constant rain turned the footballs into medicine balls. In fact, the drive accounted for 53 of the Rams' 65 first-half yards.

The second touchdown came with 6:37 remaining in the game as the Rams finally capitalized on one of the many opportunities Bowie State provided.

A.J. Brown broke a tackle and cut back behind a seal block over the left side for a 10-yard scoring run on the first play after an errant punt snap gave the Rams the ball on Bowie State's doorstep.

Eric Dobratz hit his second of two extra points to give the Rams a cushion to their rather precarious lead.

The Bulldogs' offense had a herky-jerky feel as it moved some, but was stymied on most occasions by Shepherd's strong defensive play or their own mistakes. Bowie put itself in trouble with three fumbles, two interceptions, a partially blocked punt and the errant snap.

Shepherd's defense had to make a stand, especially since the Rams had both a 29-yard touchdown pass from Lazear to Nasser Muhammad in the second quarter and an 89-yard interception return by Deante Steele in the fourth called back because of penalties.

"We wasted a couple of opportunities," Cater said. "We weren't as consistent doing what we wanted on offense. They were a big, physical team that played a lot of players in the box."

But Shepherd matched Bowie State on that front.

The Rams' defensive line was able to harass Bulldogs quarterback Jason Scott while the linebackers and secondary -- along with the rain -- made passing unproductive. Bowie State only hit on 12 of 33 passes for 59 yards as Scott had trouble handling the ball with the longest completion going for 17 yards.

"We just went out there and played hard," said Shepherd defensive end Michael Spiegelberg, who finished with five tackles and two fumble recoveries. "We watched the films and saw they had fumbled the ball three times last week in a dry game, so we knew if we kept playing hard, we would get chances."

Shepherd held Bowie State to 123 yards of offense, while the Rams gained 157 yards.

Jimmy Sutch, the Saint James graduate who was the West Virginia Conference and D2Football's offensive player of the week after his 201-yard performance at Shippensburg, rushed for 77 yards while Lazear passed for 88 more.

It was just enough to pull off an important regional victory in Division II.

"(Bowie State) were picked to finish third in their conference," Cater said. "If that's true, I don't want to play the top two. Every game we play gives our young line more time to work and jell, our defensive front played well all across the line and our linebackers made plays."

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