No one likes to lose.
However, the general consensus following Fairmont State’s 26-9 loss to preseason nationally-ranked California (Pa.) University Thursday night at the Vulcans’ Adamson Stadium is that the potential is there for the Falcons to have a good season.
Many who viewed the contest saw it as a moral victory for FSU. However, coach Rusty Elliott, his staff and his players aren’t into wins that are modified by the adjective moral. Instead, they want victories that actually count in the ‘W’ column.
“We honestly felt like when we got within 10 with a quarter to play that we had a shot to win the game,” said Elliott. “To tell you how confident we were we were talking then that if we had a chance to win it would we kick it and go for the tie or try to go for two and get the win. That’s how confident we were.
“I felt like we were doing well offensively as far as moving the ball and getting ourselves into scoring position.”
Fairmont’s hopes at a comeback win, though, were dashed somewhat on Cal’s first series of the fourth quarter. The Vulcans marched 65 yards in nine plays and made it 26-9 with a 23-yard touchdown run by Brandon Lombardy.
Two key plays on that drive were early on when FSU had Cal in a third-and-12 situation and Vulcan quarterback Joe Ruggiero connected with Nate Forse on a 21-yard pass which gave the home team a first down at the Falcons’ 32 yard line. A few minutes later on fourth-and-one from the FSU 23, Lombardy busted free at the line of scrimmage and outran everyone to the end zone for the game-sealing TD.
“Defensively I think we still have a long way to go,” said FSU senior linebacker Jared Sams, who finished with seven solo tackles, including one for a loss of three yards. “We had some good plays out there and we had some bad ones. I think we’ll iron things out and put this game behind us. It was a hard game, but like I said we’re going to put it behind us and look forward to next week.”
Offensively Fairmont’s performance this fall against the Vulcans was much better than a year ago. FSU rolled up 306 total yards, averaged 5.6 yards per play and converted on 4-of-9 third down opportunities in the loss. Last year FSU was held to 126 total yards, averaged 2.3 yards per play and made good on only 1-of-13 third down conversions as it fell, 42-6.
The bulk of Fairmont’s offense Thursday night came off the arm of sophomore quarterback John Rahl. In only his fifth college game Rahl completed 20-of-32 passes for 247 yards and one touchdown — a 20-yarder to Robbie Graham late in the third quarter which allowed FSU to close the gap to 19-9. The 247 yards tied Rahl’s career high. He also completed passes to eight different FSU receivers.
Rahl was sacked twice and threw three interceptions. The first one came off a tipped pass at the line of scrimmage in the first half. The other two occurred in the game’s final 3:13.
“I feel real positive about Thursday,” said Rahl. “Things went well for us most of the time. One problem we did have was establishing the running game against them, but that’s one of the biggest teams we’re going to play.
“I think beginning next week we’re going to be a little more balanced. We’ll be able to run the ball better. I think people will see a different team. I don’t think they know how good we are and they may be surprised.”
FSU was held to 59 yards on the ground by the Vulcans, 44 of which came from senior tailback Wendell Johnson.
Fairmont State returns to action Saturday, Sept. 9 in Tigerville, S.C. where the Falcons will face North Greenville University at 1:30 p.m. at Younts Stadium.
No one likes to lose.
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