By Duane Cochran
Times West Virginian
A funny thing happened here in the second half Thursday evening in the football game between Fairmont State University and Glenville State at Morris Stadium.
The Falcons’ offense forgot to show up for the final 30 minutes.
As a result, GSC erased a 14-13 halftime deficit with 18 unanswered points and cruised to a 31-14 victory in the annual “Battle for the Bit.”
The win, Glenville State’s first of the season, improved the Pioneers to 1-2 overall and to 1-1 in the Mountain East Conference. It also allowed Glenville to continue its recent dominance over FSU on the gridiron. The victory was the seventh in the last eight meetings for GSC over Fairmont and the Pioneers’ fourth in a row in the series.
Fairmont State, on the other hand, fell to 1-2 overall and to 0-2 in the league.
Just like five days earlier in a loss to Shepherd, turnovers proved costly for the Falcons Thursday night. On the second offensive play of the final half, FSU senior running back Dawrence Roberts couldn’t secure a handoff from quarterback Cooper Hibbs and fumbled the ball backward for a loss of 13 yards. GSC linebacker Ben Watts was there for the recovery, and three plays later standout sophomore tailback Rahmann Lee rambled in from five yards out to give the Pioneers the lead for good at 20-14 less than two minutes into the half.
The turnover set the tone for a dismal second-half offensive performance by FSU which was limited to just 19 total yards and a mere one first down in the last 30 minutes.
“You know I’m really speechless. I honestly don’t know what to say,” said a disappointed first-year FSU head coach Jason Woodman. “Our intensity was not there and our guys were not ready to play at all tonight and it showed.
“To even think we had a shot to be in the game playing as bad as we played in the second half was something. It was still 20-14 late in the third or early in the fourth. We missed a lot of tackles on defense and we absolutely couldn’t execute anything on offense. I don’t know. I’m just speechless.”
A lot of Fairmont’s problems on offense can be attributed to a stellar performance by the Pioneers’ defense, which was relentless in its pass rush in the second half and almost completely shut down the Falcons’ running game. Fairmont State had just nine rushing yards in the second half and 10 passing yards.
Glenville, on the other hand, put on an offensive clinic against Fairmont’s defense, which found itself in bad situations the entire second half thanks to its anemic offense. The Pioneers finished with 511 yards of total offense, including 302 on the ground and 209 through the air.
Lee, last year’s offensive freshman of the year in the old WVIAC, finished with 164 yards rushing and two touchdown on 28 carries, while freshman quarterback Sean Steele completed 14-of-29 passes for 209 yards and one TD.
Six of GSC’s eight second-half offensive possessions started on Fairmont’s half of the field and another began at the Pioneers’ 49. Despite that fact, FSU’s defense was able to hold the Pioneers to just two TDs and a 23-yard field goal late in the fourth. The Falcons held Glenville twice on downs, including once at the Fairmont two-yard line, and also blocked a 41-yard field goal attempt in the second half.
“Give credit to Glenville and give credit to Lee; he’s a great player,” said FSU junior defensive lineman Jephte Leveille. “We didn’t come up tonight and make plays like we should have. We honestly didn’t play with the same intensity that we played with last week and I can’t say why.
“We just have to go back to the drawing board and get ready to play our next game. This one’s in the books and there’s nothing we can do about it now. All we can do is watch film, learn from our mistakes and try to get better.”
After a 24-yard touchdown run from Lee on its first possession of the game gave Glenville an early 6-0 lead, Fairmont responded immediately with a seven-play, 60-yard scoring march capped by a 17-yard scoring strike from Hibbs to tight end Brandon Ashenfelter. Johnny Dearstine’s PAT gave FSU a 7-6 advantage.
On its next drive Fairmont appeared poised to strike again, but senior quarterback C.J. Hopson fumbled scrambling for yards at the Pioneers’ 13 after a nifty 17-yard run and GSC took possession on Devin Cain’s recovery.
The Pioneers then took advantage of the miscue, marching 86 yards in 11 plays to take a 13-7 advantage early in the second quarter on a 24-yard bubble screen pass from Steele to Seth Jordan.
One drive later GSC was looking to add to its lead when Lee was stuffed for a three-yard loss and fumbled at the FSU 15. Falcon linebacker Garrett Davis recovered the ball and rambled 85 yards to the end zone thanks to some nice blocks from teammate Bryan Wilson. The score gave Fairmont a 14-13 lead at the break.
“I just saw the ball lying on the ground and the whistle hadn’t blown so I just picked it up and ran,” said Davis. “I ran like Forrest Gump I guess.
“We didn’t play our best game tonight, and when that happens you’ve got to dig deep and find it within yourself to make plays. At times tonight we did that, but on other occasions we weren’t playing up to par. We know that. We’ve just got to come back strong in our next outing.”
The Falcons will be back in action Saturday, Sept. 28 when they host West Virginia State at 1 p.m. at Duvall-Rosier Field.
GSC, on the other hand, will visit Urbana that same day for a noon contest.