By Duane Cochran
For the Times West Virginian
The West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference football coaches knew what they were talking about when they selected Fairmont State to finish fifth this fall in the nine-team league’s annual preseason poll.
Because that’s exactly where the Falcons ended up — tied for fifth with West Liberty University.
Coming off last fall’s 7-4 campaign, which was the program’s most successful one in terms of victories in 11 years, sixth-year head coach Mike Lopez and his staff had high expectations for the 2012 Falcons.
Those expectations, however, never came to fruition. A rash of early season-ending injuries to key players like senior free safety Dewey McDonald, senior defensive end Jordan Greathouse, junior wide receiver Mark Sampson, promising true freshman linebacker Trevor Malnick and others no doubt hampered FSU’s productivity on the field as Fairmont finished 4-6 overall and 4-4 in the WVIAC.
The good news is all those players will be back next season, including McDonald, who didn’t participate in a single game this fall, and Greathouse, who played in just two. They both received medical redshirts.
“We did have a lot of injuries this season and we didn’t want to talk about them, dwell on them or use them as excuses, but now we can talk about them,” Lopez said. “They hurt us. We had five medical redshirts this season. I don’t know if we’ve ever had five in my career here. That’s not counting the guys who got banged up here and there and missed one or two games.
“We started this season 0-3 and it was ugly. I wasn’t sure how we were going to respond to that, but we bounced back and went 4-4 in the league and I’m proud of the guys for doing that. They found a way to win some games and go .500 in the league.”
The Falcons lost both of their nonconference matchups, 7-0 to Clarion (Pa.) University in their season opener and 24-17 in overtime to Bowie State (Md.) University in a week three matchup in which FSU blew a 17-0 fourth-quarter lead.