By Duane Cochran
Times West Virginian
From the get-go, first-year Fairmont State University football coach Jason Woodman and his staff were kind of behind the eight-ball so to speak heading into the 2013 season.
Woodman wasn't hired as the Falcons' head coach until right before Christmas, and it was the second week of January before he had most of his coaching staff assembled with him in Fairmont.
The late start and subsequent late delve into the recruiting wars no doubt hampered the Falcons a bit this year as did a number of injuries to key players early on once the season actually began. As a result, FSU limped to a 3-7 finish overall and a 2-7 and ninth-place showing in the 11-team Mountain East Conference football standings.
“We did have a bit of a late start,” said Woodman a few days after his team ended the year with a thrilling 47-44 victory over Virginia-Wise. “Once I finally got the staff here, we literally had four weeks until signing day. It was a scramble for us.
“Then when the season did start, we got hit pretty hard early on with some injuries, and our lack of depth really became evident. We had eight of our 22 starters in our first game not finish the season for us. At this level, that’s a lot. The last few weeks we were playing guys at some positions who maybe weren't quite ready to play yet, but we had no other options.”
Despite those trials and tribulations, Woodman refuses to use them as an excuse for the somewhat disappointing 3-7 season
“I hate to lose,” he said without hesitation. “In fact, I despise it. I’m not here to make excuses for our season. I’m here to find solutions and figure out how we can get things corrected and get this program headed in the direction we want it to go.
“We lost close games with (West Virginia) Wesleyan (40-37 in overtime) and West Liberty (27-21) and we had halftime leads against Glenville and Concord. For the most part this season, other than Charleston, the second half of the Urbana game and Glenville, I thought we at least competed. One thing we have to get corrected is our performance on the road. I don’t know what it was, but we absolutely did not play well at all on the road this year. That has to be fixed.”
FSU was 3-3 in home games this fall, but 0-4 away from Duvall-Rosier Field.
The Falcons finished seventh in the MEC in both total offense (312.6) and total defense (347.9) this season. Fairmont averaged 24.1 points per game (sixth) and allowed 32.1 points per contest (ninth). The Falcons had the league’s fifth-best passing attack (189.0) and were also fifth-best in defending the pass (198.4). On the ground, FSU ranked seventh in rushing (123.6) and seventh in defending the run (149.5).
Fairmont’s offense ranked next-to-last in the league in both total first downs (164) and third-down conversions (42-of-156, 26.9 percent) and was ninth in the conference in red-zone efficiency, scoring on just 69.2 percent of its chances in the red zone.
Fairmont’s defense ranked fifth in the league in total sacks with 25, but allowed opponents to convert on 37.7 percent of their third-down chances (ninth) and was ranked last in the conference in red-zone defense, allowing opponents to score 82.5 percent of the time they were in the red zone.
Fairmont State was also next-to-last in the conference in turnover margin with a minus-4. The Falcons threw 11 interceptions and fumbled the ball away 12 times. Defensively, the Falcons intercepted 11 passes and recovered eight fumbles.
The Falcons lose nine seniors, the majority of whom played major roles for the team on defense. Gone are starting defensive linemen Anthony Domico, Jordan Greathouse and Jake Kelly, linebackers Garrett Davis and Ryan Watts, and safety Bryan Wilson.
Davis, a four-year starter, finished his career third all-time in FSU history in career tackles with 356.
Offensively, FSU loses guard Nick Schrader, backup tackle Jon McNemar and running back Dawrence Roberts, the team’s leading rusher this fall with 668 yards and four touchdowns on 151 carries.
“We do have a lot of needs, especially on defense where we're losing some key players,” said Woodman. “The challenge for us as coaches is going to be being able to bring in all of the players that we need with the limited amount of scholarships and resources we have available.
“Offensively, we definitely need some running backs who can take the pounding and who will give us the ability to do what we want to do on offense. Right now, we’re looking for pretty much everything.
“We feel like we’ve got some good veterans returning, some young, talented players who got experience this year and some young guys in the program who were redshirted and who we expect to contribute next season, but the bottom line is we’ve got to get better. Our number one goal in recruiting is to bring better talent in here. If we’re going to compete and be successful, we have to have better talent. I also want guys competing at every position next year because I believe competition really brings out the best in players.”