By Duane Cochran
Times West Virginian
Fairmont State’s football team snatched victory from the jaws of defeat here Saturday afternoon against Seton Hill (Pa.) University on a rainy homecoming at Duvall-Rosier Field.
After watching a 23-point fourth quarter lead evaporate to nothing, the Falcons rallied in the final minutes for a thrilling 54-47 victory over the Griffins thanks to a 19-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Bobby Vega to Matt Wilmer with just 1:20 remaining.
“I was just doing what I was coached to do,” said Wilmer, who also had a crucial 17-yard catch on the last drive to convert on a critical third-and-nine situation and earlier in the contest had a 44-yard TD run. “I really didn’t do anything special. On that one at the end Bobby just put the ball in the right spot. Last week my position coach challenged me and I like challenges. I just went up, got it and came down. I just made a play like playmakers are supposed to make.
“The defender and I were fighting the whole way down the field. I guess that’s why they called pass interference on him. I jumped up after the catch, saw the flag and looked at the ref and he said ‘It’s a touchdown don’t worry.’ I was relieved because we almost let this one get away.”
The victory, Fairmont’s second in a row, improved the Falcons to 3-4 overall and to 3-2 in the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Seton Hill, meanwhile, fell to 0-8 overall and to 0-6 in the league.
After a four-yard touchdown run by Collin Alford gave FSU a 47-24 lead with 12:31 left to play it looked as if Fairmont could put it on cruise control and coast to the win. But looks, as the Falcons have found this season, can be deceiving. The Griffins quickly answered the TD with one of their own to trim the margin to 47-32 and then in the span of just two minutes put two more touchdowns on the board on freak plays to knot the score at 47 with 8:36 remaining.
First, Fairmont’s Daniel Monroe fumbled the football after a hard hit at the Seton Hill 37 and the Griffins’ Johnathon Feagin alertly scooped up the loose football and outraced everyone 63 yards to the end zone to close the gap to eight. Then, after a three-and-out series by Fairmont’s offense Falcon punter Chris Kish mishandled a snap at his own nine and the ball rolled into the end zone where Seton Hill’s Darius Turner recovered it for a touchdown.
The Griffins’ first attempt for a two-point conversion after their last TD fell incomplete but Fairmont was flagged for pass interference giving Seton Hill one more chance at the two points and the tie, which it cashed in on when quarterback Andrew Jackson connected with Sean Kelley.
The Griffins got the ball back with 5:56 left to play and were driving near midfield when receiver D.J Carter, who finished with a game-high 13 receptions for a game-high 138 yards and one touchdown, couldn’t handle a pass from Jackson and Fairmont cornerback Scott Davidson picked off the deflection at the Falcons’ 48 setting the stage for the game-winning drive.
“We’re just thankful for the opportunity we had there at the end to have the chance to put up points,” said Vega, who completed 14-of-26 passes for 245 yards and three touchdowns for the Falcons in the victory. “It’s football and you never know what you’re going to get or what’s going to happen.
“The funny thing about the touchdown pass is we originally called something else and coach at the last minute wanted to change it and take a shot at the end zone. Chris (St. Hillaire) our receiver on the other side didn’t hear it and I never let him know. I had pre-determined I was going to go to Wilmer and trusted him that he’d make a play. I tried to look off the safety and get him in a one-on-one situation which is what you want with him and he got it done for us.”
The Griffins had one more crack at the Falcons in the final 1:20 but Fairmont true freshman linebacker Lance Fullwood ended any hopes of a Seton Hill comeback with an interception at the FSU 44 which he returned 22 yards with just 43 seconds left to play. The pick was the fourth of the game for the Falcons against Jackson, who completed 32-of-61 passes for 432 yards and three touchdowns. The 432 passing yards were the second-most ever allowed at Duvall-Rosier Field by FSU’s defense. Glenville’s Jed Drenning threw for 577 yards in a win over the Falcons back in 1991.
Monroe, FSU’s sophomore running back, enjoyed another big day in the victory. He accounted for 239 of the Falcons’ season-high 528 yards of offense. Monroe rushed for 136 yards and three touchdowns on just 19 carries and caught four passes for a team-high 103 yards.
“It’s not just me out there it’s our offense as a whole which is getting it done,” said Monroe, who posted his third 100-plus yard rushing game of the season Saturday. “Everyone is starting to step up for us which is what we were lacking on offense earlier this season.
“Seton Hill, I’ll tell you I feel for them. They don’t deserve to be 0-8. They’re a good football team with a lot of talent. Those boys came out today, played hard and never quit. We just refuse to lose, though. Our mindset on offense is we’re going to produce and never quit. That’s how we got it done today.”
Fairmont, which ran for a season-high 283 yards in the win, also got 98 yards on 11 carries from true freshman tailback Shad Alexander and 65 yards and one TD on 13 attempts by Alford.
FSU will return to action Saturday, Oct. 27, when its visits Athens for a 1 p.m. conference showdown with Concord University.