The challenge is clear.
When Fairmont State University (2-4, 1-4 Mountain East Conference) travels to Urbana (5-2, 5-1 MEC) for a noon game today, the Falcons will be trying to contain the Blue Knights’ top 10 passing offense led by quarterback D.J. Mendenhall, a preseason All-American who has thrown for more than 2,300 yards and 24 touchdowns this season.
“He’s the real deal,” first-year Fairmont State coach Jason Woodman said. “He has a really good arm. He can make every throw. And they do some stuff schematically that puts him and their offense in advantages, whether it’s play action or using matchups on certain guys.”
What isn’t so clear is how to deal with this challenge.
The Falcons may count on senior linebacker Garrett Davis, the heart of the defense who ranks 13th in the nation with 46 tackles … Or defensive end Jake Kelly, who is 12th in the country with seven sacks ... Or linebacker Ryan Watts or defensive back Dominik Mensah, two players who lead the team with two interceptions each.
But they won’t.
Though Woodman said, “The one thing I continue to be happy about is the desire and determination that we’re playing with on defense,” he is looking elsewhere.
Instead of putting the pressure on Davis or Kelly or Watts or Mensah or any other player from the defense that is ranked second in the Mountain East Conference against the pass, he’ll instead count on his offense.
“More than what our defense does, I think the key to it is what we can do offensively and what we can do to keep (Mendenhall) off the field,” Woodman said.
That pressure naturally falls on the quarterback Cooper Hibbs. Like the rest of the offense, he’s experienced a bit of an up-and-down season.
Look no further than the Falcons’ last outing against West Liberty in which Hibbs threw for a season-high 257 yards and two touchdowns, but also three interceptions.
“Cooper is just like the rest of the young guys on our team in the sense that he continues to get better each week. It doesn’t always show on game day,” Woodman said. “I think he’s improving, and he’ll get better. He’ll just have to work like the rest of the team.”
It doesn’t help Hibbs much that wide receiver Chris St. Hilaire, who ranks eighth in Fairmont State history with 1,676 receiving yards, has been sidelined with a foot injury since the second quarter of week two.
Freshman Fabian Guerra has begun to step up in his absence, catching nine balls for 114 yards and a touchdown against West Liberty.
But still, Hibbs admits that he and the offense are a work in progress.
“We’re starting to get that chemistry down a little better every single week. But we’ve got to get better,” he said. “I feel that I should be at a different level than I’ve been recently. I feel like I plateaued a little bit.”
Junior running back Daniel Monroe will help take some of the pressure off Hibbs. After missing the first five games with a knee injury, he returned against the Hilltoppers to rush for just 39 yards on 21 carries.
Woodman said that the bye week helped Monroe to continue to get healthier and get closer to the form that helped him rack up more than 1,700 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns in two seasons at Fairmont State.
“For him specifically, the bye week was seven more days to get back into football playing condition,” Woodman said. “He wasn’t quite up to game condition. And at times you could see it. He didn’t really have legs when he was in the game for a longer period of time.”
Despite the challenges that the Falcons face, they said they are looking to make improvements today.
And for Hibbs, maybe even more than that.
“We’re looking to make a statement,” Hibbs said. “Granted we’re 2-4 and we don’t have the best record. But we can still play with the best of them.”
Email Mike DeFabo at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow on Twitter @MikeDeFaboTWV.
The challenge is clear.
- Fairmont State Sports
Falcons home to face West Virginia State
The Mountain East Conference schedule is heating up for Fairmont State.
Two days after traveling to the University of Charleston, the Falcons are back in action today against another MEC foe in West Virginia State.
Lady Falcons rally past UC in OT
It took an extra five minutes ,but Fairmont State’s Lady Falcons accomplished their goal Thursday evening at the Eddie King Gymnasium.
FSU outscored the University of Charleston 12-9 in overtime to record a wild 78-75 Mountain East Conference victory.
Charleston holds off FSU, 75-71
An undermanned Fairmont State University men’s basketball team took the University of Charleston to the wire here Thursday night before falling 75-71 at the Eddie King Gymnasium.
The loss drops the Falcons to 5-2 overall and to 1-2 in the Mountain East Conference. Charleston, meanwhile, improved to 5-1 overall and to 2-1 in the league.
FSU set for important MEC game
While their classmates were home for Thanksgiving break feasting on turkey and stuffing and pumpkin pie, the Fairmont State University basketball team was taking second helpings of something else: basketball practice.
FSU names McGinnis first women’s soccer coach
After sorting through about 90 applications, Fairmont State Director of Athletics Tim McNeely announced Tuesday that Patrick McGinnis has been named the Falcons’ first-ever women’s soccer coach.
This isn’t the first time McGinnis will be building a program from the ground up.
FSU takes out frustrations in 91-75 romp: PHOTOS
There’s little doubt second-year Fairmont State men’s basketball coach Jerrod Calhoun was angered by his team’s lackluster performance Monday in a 94-87 road loss to Glenville State.
Falcons look to rebound against WVU Tech
After being dealt its first loss of the season on Monday, Fairmont State (4-1, 1-1) is looking to get back on track when it welcomes WVU Tech (8-2) to Joe Retton Arena today at 1 p.m.
Pioneers hand Falcons first setback, 94-87
Fairmont State dug itself an early hole it could never get out of and as a result suffered its first setback of the 2013-14 season Monday night against a charged-up Glenville State team at the Lilly Gymnasium.
GSC nips Lady Falcons on last-second three, 111-110
Glenville State’s Ginny Mills drained a 3-point field goal with three seconds remaining to help the Lady Pioneers rally for a wild 111-110 victory over visiting Fairmont State on Monday evening at the Lilly Gymnasium.
Smothering defense helps FSU remain perfect: PHOTOS
Heading into its Mountain East Conference opener with visiting West Virginia Wesleyan Saturday afternoon at the Joe Retton Arena unbeaten Fairmont State knew exactly what it had to do to shut down the Bobcats.
And the Falcons did it to near perfection in the first half as they cruised to their fourth straight victory, 70-57.
- More Fairmont State Sports Headlines
- Falcons home to face West Virginia State