West Virginia State’s defense, a unit which had been maligned pretty much all season, came up big here against Fairmont State on a beautiful summer-like November Saturday afternoon in its season finale at Lakin Field.

The Yellow Jackets stopped a potential game-tying Fairmont State drive inside the State 10-yard line in the final two minutes, returned an interception 17 yards for a touchdown and held the Falcons to 282 yards of total offense, including a paltry 56 rushing yards in a 27-19 victory.

The win was State’s third in a row over Fairmont State, marking the first time in school history that the Yellow Jackets have ever accomplished that feat. It also allowed State to snap a four-game skid and finish an overall disappointing season with a 3-7 record and a 2-6 mark in West Virginia Conference play.

“There’s no question that I’m proud of our defense today,” said State coach Earl Monroe. “We’ve had problems stopping the run pretty much all season. We’ve got a couple of good senior linebackers and with this being Senior Day evidently the guys up front fed off of them and wanted to play well for them.

“We adjusted to some things they were doing scheme-wise and our guys just played hard. That’s how we thought they were going to play all season for us. We showed some spurts of it at times this season, but the guys showed up today and got it done for us.”

Fairmont State, meanwhile, suffered its first loss in a season finale since 2003. The Falcons, who entered the 2009 season with high expectations, finished 3-8 overall and 3-5 and in sixth place in the nine-team WVC. It was FSU’s first eight-loss season since the 1991 team finished 1-8-1.

“This was difficult for us to say the least,” said Falcon coach Mike Lopez. “Situations happen sometimes in life which leave you speechless and that’s where I am right now as the head football coach.

“We’ve got to address issues. That’s the first step for me as the head football coach leading this organization. From me all the way down to the redshirt guy who is years away and everybody in between. It’s going to take some time, but we know what we have to do. I know as the head football coach what has to be done and how we’ve got to continue to work to get better in all areas.”

Despite the fact that its offense struggled for much of the second half, FSU still had two excellent chances to possibly tie the game and send it to overtime on its final two possessions.

On its next-to-last possession facing a third-and-six situation from its own 43, backup FSU quarterback Vick Bradford executed a wrap-around hand off to running back Scott Victorio who scampered 44 yards to the Yellow Jackets’ 13 yard line for an apparent first down. The long gain, however, was nullified by a chop block penalty on the Falcons and after a third down incompletion by starting quarterback J.J. Mayer, Fairmont was forced to punt.

The Falcon defense, which limited State to just 238 total yards, forced a three-and-out giving the ball back to its offense at the Fairmont 43 with 3:10 remaining. A three-yard run by Victorio, a seven-yard run by Mayer and a 28-yard completion from Mayer to Demetrius Young gave FSU a first-and-goal at the Yellow Jackets’ nine yard line with less than two minutes to play.

On first down, Mayer threw the football away. A second-down, eight-yard run by Victorio took the ball to the one setting the stage for crucial third-and-goal play from the one. FSU went into hurry up mode, but delayed snapping the ball. When the Falcons did snap it Mayer sneaked into the end zone for an apparent score, but the play had been blown dead because FSU was penalized for a false start — an occurrence which haunted the Falcons all season.

The ball then was placed at the six and on the third down re-play, a toss to Victorio went nowhere. On fourth-and-goal, Mayer attempted to hook up with Derek Sevier in the back of the end zone, but the ball was just off of his fingertips. However, even if the pass had been caught the play would’ve been called back because FSU was flagged for having an ineligible lineman down field.

State declined the penalty, took over the football and ran out the remaining 33 seconds to record the win.

“The penalties killed us,” said Lopez, who saw his team flagged 12 times for 137 yards in the loss. “The false start on the one-yard line, the ineligible lineman down field and the chop block. It’s consistent.”

Monroe agrees that the false start penalty was huge.

“That flinch down there on the one helped us out no doubt,” he said. “It was a tough situation. They were on the line for a long time trying to get a play. We’ve done that all year so I can understand what coach Lopez is going through right now. They had a chance to maybe tie it up, but they flinched and in that situation when you’re on offense that's tough to take. It was a good football game, though. I’m sure it was pretty entertaining for the fans.”

FSU struck first in the contest when Mayer connected with running back Doug Brazill on a 36-yard scoring pass to give the Falcons a 6-0 lead late in the first quarter.

Then early in a wild second quarter State defensive end Pierre Chatman intercepted a tipped Mayer pass and returned it 17 yards for a touchdown to give his team a short-lived 7-6 advantage.

The Falcons, though, answered the score immediately when Zack Page took the ensuing kickoff and raced 87 yards aided by terrific blocks from Cody Reed and Stephan Johnson to the end zone to make it 13-7.

Later in the quarter, State took the lead for good when it marched 87 yards in nine plays and took a 14-13 lead on a five-yard TD run by LeFloyd Phillips.

The Yellow Jackets then turned another Mayer interception into points thanks to some trickery. State drove 41 yards in 10 plays and scored on a 10-yard pass from receiver Jermain King to quarterback Kevin O'Brien to make it 21-13 with just 31 seconds left in the first half.

The second quarter fireworks, though, weren't over. On the last play of the first half, FSU backup quarterback Derek Taylor was inserted into the contest and connected with tight end Stephan Johnson on a beautiful 58-yard scoring strike on the final play of the half. Fairmont’s two-point conversion run, though, failed and State took a 21-19 lead into the break.

The lone points in the second half came with 5:19 left in the third quarter when State’s third-string quarterback Robert Jackson connected with Landon Johnson on a four-yard slant pass for a TD on a third-and-goal play.

As noted, FSU’s offense struggled for much of the second half. Until its final two possessions, Fairmont managed just 22 yards of total offense on its first three drives of the final half.

“Running the ball is supposed to be our bread-and-butter and when a team takes what you do best and takes it away from you and makes you dribble left-handed, so to speak, it really limits your chances,” said Lopez. “We’re not good enough to dribble and shoot left-handed. Give State credit, though. It was Senior Day for them and they took care of business.”

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