By Mike DeFabo
Times West Virginian
After a five-game losing streak that dates back to the beginning of October, the Fairmont State University football team finds itself with one game remaining on the schedule.
Playoffs are out of the question. A winning season, too.
So when Fairmont State takes to Duvall-Rosier Field today at 1 p.m. for its final game of the season against The University of Virginia’s College at Wise, what do the Falcons (2-7, 1-7 Mountain East Conference) have left to play for?
For one: The seniors.
“We have nine guys who have been here for a while. They have played a lot of football and have been through some tough times,” Fairmont State football coach Jason Woodman said. “We want to send them out the best way that we can.”
Beyond that, it’s come to the point where the Falcons are playing for themselves.
“It’s kind of a pride thing,” quarterback Cooper Hibbs said. “2-8 doesn’t sound too good. We’re trying to get that final win and go into the off-season on a high note.”
After a pause he added.
“A slight high note.”
The added qualifier “slight” at the end of the sentence is reflective of how the rest of the team and coach Woodman feel about their year.
The Falcons acknowledge that the season hasn’t been what they had hoped. But with a first-year coach, a freshman quarterback and multiple injuries at key positions, it wasn’t entirely unexpected.
The emphasis this season has been on building the program, changing the culture and striving to get better.
UVa.-Wise (2-8, 2-6 MEC) presents the final chance turn that progress into a tangible result on the field. And a rather good chance, at that.
Last week, Fairmont State fell in decisive fashion to a University of Charleston team that is ranked near the top of the conference in both rushing offense and rushing defense. This week, the Falcons face the polar opposite.
The Cavaliers’ defense has surrendered an average of 37.2 points per game, the second most points in the MEC. They are also giving up an MEC-worst 194.4 yards per game on the ground.
Does that mean the Falcons running game may find a spark?
“I sure hope so,” Hibbs said. “(Daniel) Monroe (who missed the first five games with a knee injury) is coming back to full strength in my eyes. The offensive line is doing a pretty good job. Hopefully that will open up that pass game a little bit, too.”
Offensively, the Cavaliers are also the bottom feeders on the ground. They are dead last with 62.7 yards per game rushing.
They do, however, posses weapons at the wide receiver positions, most notably James Long. The senior has tallied an MEC-best 1,200 yards on 79 receptions to go along with eight touchdowns.
“They have a couple threats on the edges,” Woodman said. “Their two receivers are athletic and can score and are threats every snap. We’re going to have to know where they’re at all times.”
But as Woodman has said each and every week, the Falcons are more concerned with their own performance, not their opponent, and surely not any rankings or numbers.
That goes for this game, as well as those well down the line.
“The whole season hasn’t been what we all hoped it would be. But there are good things happening,” Woodman said. “It’s going to take work and it’s going to take a lot of dedication, and some things are going to have to change around here. Overall, I think that we’ve improved, and I think that the future has a chance to be really good.”
Email Mike DeFabo at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow on Twitter @MikeDeFaboTWV.