By Duane Cochran
Times West Virginian
In the annual “Battle for the Bit” Fairmont State University’s football team got drilled.
Glenville State’s high-powered offense scored on six of its seven possessions in the first half, while the Pioneers’ stingy and swarming defense smothered the Falcons’ offense the entire first 30 minutes en route to an impressive 41-21 victory in the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference opener for both schools here Thursday evening at Morris Stadium.
The loss drops Fairmont State to 0-2 overall and to 0-1 in the league. The Pioneers, on the other hand, improved to 1-1 overall and to 1-1 in the WVIAC.
Glenville wasted little time last night asserting itself offensively both on the ground and through the air. The Pioneers first drive ended with a 37-yard field goal by Colston Bayless and on their second possession tailback Rahmann Lee ripped off a nifty 84-yard scoring run to give his team a 10-0 lead just over six minutes into the contest. Lee finished with a game-high 146 yards rushing on just 10 carries.
Fairmont’s defense finally got a stop on GSC’s third drive, but on the Pioneers’ next possession quarterback Darold Hughes connected with Robert Jiles on a 41-yard scoring strike to make it 17-0 in the waning seconds of the opening quarter.
“They absolutely dominated us and kicked our tails tonight,” said FSU coach Mike Lopez. “They hit the long run on us early and then play-actioned passed us for scores and plain and simple gave us a good old fashioned butt whipping.
“But you know what? I’ve got a great group of guys win, lose or draw. We’ll wake up tomorrow and the sun will rise and we will get better as a football team. Honestly I thought we had a great week of practice. I think it was the best week we’ve had since camp opened. But give Glenville credit. They’re a very good football team, they’re in good form right now and they showed that tonight.”
With the Falcons obviously reeling, senior Matt Wilmer provided what Fairmont hoped would be the spark it needed to claw its way back into the game. The standout receiver/return man fielded a kickoff two yards deep in his own end zone and returned it 100 yards for a touchdown on the last play of the first quarter to make it 17-7.
By NCAA Division II rules, Wilmer could only be credited with a 100-yard return. Had it been different he would have broken Jerome Hoes’ 34-year old record for the longest kickoff return in school history. Hoes brought one back 101 yards against Bluefield in 1978, but the Falcons played in the NAIA ranks at that time.
“I know how big kick returns and punt returns are in a game and how they can change momentum,” said Wilmer, who previously in his career had returned a pair of punts for scores but hadn’t returned a kickoff for one until last night. “We didn’t consider ourselves out tonight. We were down 17-0 and we’ve been down plenty of times in the past and have come back. I just tried to do my part and provide us with a spark.
“I give credit to God always for allowing me to be successful and of course to my blockers because without them I wouldn’t be able to do anything. They gave me a seam and I hit it. I was a little tired to be honest, but I knew we had to have that and to be honest with it being my first kickoff return for a touchdown I really wanted it. I said just this week that I needed to get one.”
Fairmont’s spark, however, was quickly extinguished as Glenville scored on its final three possessions of the half to take a 34-7 lead at the break.
As noted, the Pioneers throughly dominated the first 30 minutes of action. Glenville rolled up 384 yards of offense and had 16 first downs in the first half, while limiting Fairmont to just 20 yards of total offense and a paltry two first downs.
Glenville finished the game with 527 yards of total offense, including 254 on the ground and 273 through the air. Hughes finished 13-of-20 passing for 258 yards and three touchdowns two of which went to Jiles, who ended up with five catches for 142 yards.
After Glenville opened a 41-7 advantage on the second TD pass from Hughes to Jiles late in the third quarter Fairmont got on track a bit on offense and put a pair of TDs on the board to make it a bit more respectable.
FSU quarterback Bobby Vega, who threw for over 300 yards last week in his Falcon debut, suffered a rough outing last night. He was sacked four times and connected on just 13-of-27 passes for 87 yards, but did throw a pair of fourth quarter TDs. He hooked up with Mark Sampson on a four-yard score and later found Chris St. Hilaire for a seven-yard touchdown.
The Falcons, who didn’t get their first offensive touchdown of the season until the fourth quarter last night, finished with just 196 yards of total offense, 109 of which came on the ground. FSU got 53 yards rushing from true freshman Shad Alexander on 10 carries, 49 yards from Daniel Monroe on 13 attempts and 43 yards from Collin Alford on three carries.
“Offensively we’re still trying to get clicking,” said Lopez. “I believe we’re very talented on offense, but we’ve got to find a way to get it to click and I think we can do that.
“Defensively we’ve got to get kids better. We’ve got to study film and get better. Really, that’s all we can do.”
Fairmont State returns to action Saturday, Sept. 15 when it plays its third straight road game in Bowie, Md. at 1 p.m. against nonconference foe Bowie State.