By Duane Cochran
For the Times West Virginian
Fairmont State's performance here Saturday afternoon against Concord University at Callaghan Stadium was about as dismal as the gloomy weather.
FSU's defense continued to allow opponents to play pitch and catch against it with ease and the Falcons' offense, which looked like it finally found its stride the past two weeks in back-to-back wins, never got on track here yesterday against a stingy Mountain Lions' defense.
As a result, Concord cruised to a convincing 41-10 victory in a game which was never really close after the midway point of the second quarter.
The win, Concord's fourth in a row over Fairmont State, improved the Mountain Lions to 5-4 overall and to 4-2 in the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
The loss, which halted FSU's modest two-game winning streak, dropped the Falcons to 3-5 overall and to 3-3 in the league. Fairmont also fell to 0-5 in road games this season.
“I can't say I'm too happy with this one,” said FSU junior linebacker Garrett Davis, who finished with seven tackles. “We played hard, but they played harder. They did things better than we did. We didn't execute in a lot of areas. They did.”
The numbers for Fairmont were by no means pretty. The Falcons were held to 148 yards of total offense, including a paltry 78 through the air and a mere 70 on the ground. Concord receiver Ansel Ponder accounted for 141 receiving yards and three touchdowns himself on nine receptions.
FSU's offense had just nine first downs, three of which came off of Concord penalties. The Mountain Lions rolled up 19 first downs.
Concord amassed 358 yards of total offense, including 140 on the ground and 218 through the air on 18-of-27 passing. The Mountain Lions averaged 4.5 yards per play, Fairmont managed just 2.4 yards per attempt.
CU also was plus-two in the turnover department in the win. The Mountain Lions recovered three FSU fumbles and picked off one pass.
Third downs were a nightmare for the Falcons on both sides of the ball. FSU's offense converted on just 1-of-13 third down attempts in the loss, while Concord was an efficient 10-of-18 on third down, including a 7-of-9 performance in the first half as the Mountain Lions opened a 21-3 lead at the break.
“Third downs today just killed us,” said FSU coach Mike Lopez. “Our goal was to stop the run and I really felt for the most part we did a good job of that, but we were awful on third down. They were 7-of-9 on third downs in the first half. We were 1-of-7.
“We knew this was going to be a field position game and a game that could be controlled by whoever could run the ball and control the clock. Ultimately we just made too many mistakes today. We had too many breakdowns in the secondary and offensively we just never were able to get anything established.”
Midway through the third quarter and into the early part of the final period Concord scored on three consecutive drives to open a 41-3 lead with 11:09 remaining. Two of those drives began inside the FSU 35-yard line.
Fairmont's offense, on the other hand, did virtually nothing in the final 30 minutes. The Falcons were held to just 42 total yards in the second half, 22 of which came on a run by backup quarterback Tyler Pate late in the fourth quarter.
“One of our big downfalls today was we couldn't convert on third down,” said FSU senior receiver Matt Wilmer, who had combined to catch 10 passes for 210 yards and four touchdowns in the Falcons' two previous games, but was held to just four catches for just 18 yards Saturday. “It seemed like they were getting pressure on us when we wanted to pass and we never really got the running game going.
“I mean we always play hard, but today it just didn't click for us and I really don't have an answer as to why. This one's over though and now we've just got to look forward to next week.”
The lone bright spot for Fairmont in the game came with 7:41 remaining when Concord punter Brad Cox batted down a high snap, recovered it and then had it stripped from him by Fairmont's Collin Alford. The football was recovered by FSU's Matt Griffin at the Mountain Lions' four-yard line. On the next play the Falcons' Shad Alexander rumbled in for his team's lone touchdown of the game. He finished with a team-high 31 yards rushing on just six carries.
Junior defensive end Jake Kelly enjoyed a big day for the Falcons. He ended up with a game-high 14 tackles, including four for losses.
Fairmont State will attempt to regroup Saturday, Nov. 3 when it hosts West Virginia State for Senior Day at 1 p.m. at Duvall-Rosier Field. The Falcons are a perfect 3-0 at home this fall.