By Duane Cochran
Times West Virginian
The scene here Saturday afternoon at Callaghan Stadium was a bit too familiar for first-year Fairmont State University head coach Jason Woodman.
For the second time this season, Woodman watched his FSU football team take a lead into the halftime locker room only to see it completely disappear due to poor play in the final 30 minutes.
Fairmont turned the football over three times in the second half, was penalized 11 times for 90 yards in the final two quarters and got outscored 24-3 by Concord after the break in a 34-17 loss to the Mountain Lions.
“This game is some ways is a direct reflection of where our program is right now,” said Woodman. “Obviously, we’ve got a ways to go to be able to finish games. We’re not at a point right now where we can make the kinds of mistakes that we made in the second half and overcome them.
“Every day in practice we harp on doing things right, finishing drills and finishing practices. Until we figure that out, we’re going to have a hard time finishing games and competing against teams as good as Concord.”
The win was the fifth in a row for Concord over Fairmont State and improved the Mountain Lions to 4-1 overall and to 3-0 in the Mountain East Conference. Fairmont, which also saw a halftime lead disappear in a 31-14 loss to Glenville State earlier this season, fell to 2-3 overall and to 1-3 in the league.
Concord came into the contest with the nation’s second-ranked defense in NCAA Division II, holding opponents to an average of just 228.8 yards per game. Yesterday the Mountain Lions’ stingy defense kept FSU’s offense in check for the most part, holding it to just 226 total yards and one big play – a nifty 50-yard pass play from tight end Brandon Ashenfelter, who took a lateral from quarterback Cooper Hibbs and connected with Kenny Washington.
The play gave FSU a first down at the Concord 10 with a minute left in the first half. Three plays later running back Dawrence Roberts capped the seven-play, 80-yard drive with two-yard touchdown run to give the Falcons a 14-10 lead at intermission.
The second half, however, was a different story. On Fairmont’s first possession of the second half, CU cornerback Mike Carey picked off his first of two Hibbs’ passes to put the Mountain Lions in business at the FSU 31. One play later, running back Calvinaugh Jones, who finished with a game-high 209 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 25 carries, raced virtually untouched to the end zone to put his team ahead 17-14.
“He did an excellent job of running the ball on us today,” said FSU senior linebacker Garrett Davis, who led the Falcons with 12 tackles. “All the credit goes to him and Concord. They played well today.”
The Falcons answered the touchdown with an impressive 14-play, 75-yard scoring march of their own which took over eight minutes off the third-quarter clock and culminated in a 27-yard field goal by Johnny Dearstine which tied the game at 17 with 4:01 left in the third.
But that would be the last drive of any impact that Fairmont’s offense would have in the game.
Concord, on the other hand, would score on its next three possessions to put the contest out of reach. The Mountain Lions first got a 48-yard field goal from Andy Ellington, then a 33-yard scoring pass from quarterback Brian Novak to Tony Miller on a fourth-and-two play and finally a seven-yard scoring scamper from Novak himself on a third-and-three play. The final score was set up when FSU’s Daryl Copeland mishandled a punt at his own 45 and Concord’s Russell Bailey recovered at the Falcons’ 44.
“We made a lot of mistakes in the second half and I, myself, was guilty of some penalties which cost us,” said FSU junior offensive tackle Chris Barfield. “There’s times when our youth on this team shows. Adversity is going to happen in games, and we’ve got to find a way to deal with it and get through it.
“It’s disappointing. We were playing well and tied with them going into the fourth quarter and then we just kind of gave it away at the end. Give Concord credit. They’re a good team and they played well and took advantage of our mistakes, but right now I know we’ve got a lot of guys hurting in that locker room. We just have to find a way to clean things up and bounce back next week.”
Perhaps the most disappointing penalty for the Falcons, who were not flagged one time in the first half, came just after Concord had taken a 20-17 lead early in the fourth quarter. On the ensuing kickoff, FSU’s Copeland took the ball at his own two, broke to the outside and out-raced everyone 98 yards to the end zone. The touchdown, however, was nullified when Fairmont was flagged for holding at its own 31 – well away from where Copeland was running.
“That big kick return for a touchdown by Cope was huge and came at the exact time that we needed it and to have it called back was a shame,” said Barfield. “I hated to see that happen because it really kind of knocked the wind out of us and we never really recovered.”
Concord finished with 406 yards of total offense in the victory, including 238 on the ground and 168 through the air. As noted, Jones led the way on the ground with 209 yards, Novak finished 9-of-19 passing for 168 yards and one score. He was intercepted twice – both of which came in the opening half. Tiko Henderson had a game-high five catches in the contest for CU for 109 yards.
FSU was led offensively by Roberts, who finished with 75 yards rushing and one TD on 23 attempts. Hibbs, meanwhile, was just 6-of-16 passing for 57 yards and was intercepted twice.
Fairmont State will attempt to rebound next Saturday at 2 p.m. when it hosts West Liberty for homecoming at Duvall-Rosier Field. Concord, on the other hand, will visit Urbana University for a noon MEC contest.