By Mike DeFabo
Times West Virginian
The Fairmont State defense has faced more than its fair share of adversity in the young season, and each time the unit has risen to the occasion.
In the first game, the Falcons offense turned the ball over twice in as many minutes to give Seton Hill a short field but the defense stepped up to limit the Griffins to a field goal. And in game two, the Falcons held Shepherd, the top-ranked team in the Mountain East Conference, to just 171 yards of total offense, including just 23 yards in the air.
Thursday the Falcons (1-1) will face perhaps their biggest challenge thus far when they travel to Glenville State (0-2) for a 7 p.m. game at Morris Stadium.
The Pioneers boast one of the most potent offenses in the Mountain East Conference. Sophomore quarterback Steffen Colon is second in the conference with just shy of 500 passing yards. But perhaps more dangerous is running back Rahman Lee, the MEC’s leading rusher with 122.5 yards per game.
“Rahman Lee is the key to everything,” Fairmont State coach Jason Woodman said. “The key to it is going to be shutting down Lee. If you can shut him down and make them one-dimensional, you’ve got a better chance at containing the quarterback.”
Easier said than done. The 6-foot, 184-pound sophomore is a dual-threat in the backfield. Not only can he pound the ball on the ground, but he also has the hands to grab screen passes and create mismatches in the secondary. He has proven his prowess in both aspects of the offense by scoring as many rushing touchdowns (2) as receiving. He also leads the Pioneers in receiving with 156 yards.
“You can see it on film. When they struggle, they force the ball to him, and they find specific ways to put it in his hands and he makes plays,” Woodman said. “He's the key to a lot of the stuff that they do. We have to figure out a way to contain him. I don't know if you can stop him, but at least contain him a little bit.”
The Falcons have been able to contain — and in a lot of ways, shut down— their first two opponents. In total the defense has allowed an average of 285 yards per game, putting them squarely in the top 25 defenses in Division II. The unit is also third in Division II with five interceptions and leads the MEC with 9 sacks.
“The defense is taking it as a challenge, as a call out,” said FSU senior linebacker Garrett Davis. “We’re trying to show up and prove ourselves that we're better.”
Despite the challenges that the Pioneers present on offense, Woodman likes his chances when Glenville State’s prolific offense squares off against Fairmont State’s shutdown defense.
“Their effort has just been tremendous,” Woodman said. “I keep telling them as long as you play hard good things will happen.
“I like our matchup against anybody with our defense."
Email Mike DeFabo at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow on Twitter @MikeDeFaboTWV.