By Duane Cochran
For the Times West Virginian
It was a bit ironic that a player named Kasper ended up haunting Fairmont State’s football team here Thursday night on Halloween at Duvall-Rosier Field.
West Virginia Wesleyan junior kicker Kasper Bernild nailed a 41-yard field goal in overtime to give the visiting Bobcats a 40-37 victory over the Falcons.
Bernild, who earlier in the game missed an extra point, redeemed himself in a big way when he split the uprights with his game-winning kick to foil Fairmont’s outstanding bid for a come-from-behind victory in a wild offensive shootout of a game.
“I’m extremely proud of every guy on our team for their effort tonight,” said a disappointed first-year FSU head coach Jason Woodman, who saw his squad fall to 2-6 overall and to 1-6 in the Mountain East Conference with its fourth straight loss.
“That’s the first time we’ve been in that kind of a situation. We try to prepare our guys for that, but until they’re in it you never really know how they’re going to react and respond. To see them fight and fight, even when it looked like at one point we might not have a shot, is encouraging. They came back, tied it up and gave us a shot at a win, and I’m extremely proud of them for that.”
Trailing 37-27 with 11:47 remaining in regulation, Fairmont mounted an impressive comeback which tied the game and sent it to overtime.
First, FSU marched 67 yards in 12 plays and trimmed the margin to seven on a 33-yard field goal by Johnny Dearstine with 7:10 left to play.
After forcing only the second Bobcats’ punt of the game on their next possession, Fairmont got the football back at its own 20 with just 2:01 left to play and went 80 yards in nine plays to tie the game in the waning seconds.
On the drive the Falcons had to overcome some serious adversity. Facing second-and-10 from the Wesleyan 27, FSU true freshman quarterback Cooper Hibbs was sacked by Bobcats’ defensive end Billy Hatten for an 11-yard loss which put the Falcons in a third-and-21 situation from the Wesleyan 38.
On third down, Hibbs, who finished 23-of-31 passing for a career-high 268 yards and one TD, connected with redshirt freshman receiver Nick Alvaro for 13 yards to put FSU in a manageable fourth-and-eight situation at the Wesleyan 25. Alvaro, who starred at Clarksburg Notre Dame High School, also enjoyed a career-best performance in the loss. He hauled in 10 catches for 122 yards.
On fourth down Hibbs found junior Daniel Marc-Spears in heavy traffic on a crossing route, and Marc-Spears broke several tackle attempts around the 15-yard line en route to the end zone for the game-tying touchdown with just 54 seconds left to play.
The score was sweet redemption for Marc-Spears, who one drive earlier had dropped a sure touchdown pass from Hibbs in the end zone.
“That was pure determination on his part,” said Woodman. “I told him when he dropped that one to keep his head up because I was coming back to him. For him to make that fourth-down play literally saved the game for us and got us to overtime.”
In overtime FSU had the football first. After a first-down seven-yard completion from Hibbs to Sharmarte Banks, Falcon running back Daniel Monroe, who enjoyed his best game of the season with 170 yards rushing and two touchdowns, ripped off a seven-yard run for an apparent first down at the Wesleyan 11, but while fighting for yardage he fumbled the football and it was recovered by the Bobcats’ Ed Hasis to end the Falcons’ possession.
“I feel bad for him because he’s really upset,” said Woodman. “What can you say? He rushed for 170 yards and was having his best game of the year and he was fighting for an extra yard there and the guy just made a good play, put his helmet on the ball and it came out. Unfortunately that’s the game of football. It just didn’t bounce our way tonight.”
Wesleyan then got its possession and got the game-winning field goal from Bernild.
The contest was a battle of offenses. The Falcons rolled up a season-high 535 yards of total offense, including a season-best 267 on the ground led by Monroe and Dawrence Roberts, who finished with 71 yards rushing and one TD on 15 attempts.
Wesleyan, on the other hand, compiled 471 yards of total offense, including a season-best 237 yards on the ground led by running back Michael Anderson, who rushed for a career-best 224 yards and one touchdown on 32 carries. Bobcat quarterback Jeremy Musselman completed 17-of-30 passes for 234 yards and three touchdowns. LaVaughn Hughes caught seven of those passes for 95 yards and one score.
The win, Wesleyan’s second in a row and the Bobcats’ third in their last four games, improved them to 4-5 overall and to 4-4 in the MEC.
FSU will attempt to bounce back Saturday, Nov. 9 when it visits the University of Charleston for a 1 p.m. game at UC Stadium.