It’s been seven years since Fairmont State University’s football team has been victorious in its second game of the season.

This afternoon at Younts Stadium in Tigerville, S.C., the Falcons are hoping to change their second-game fortunes.

FSU (0-1) and North Greenville University (0-1) will square off at 1:30 p.m. for the first time in history. The Falcons are coming off a season-opening 26-9 loss to No. 17 California (Pa.) University, while the Crusaders will attempt to bounce back from a 48-35 opening-game loss to Virginia-Wise.

In the past Fairmont State has faced the likes of California, Slippery Rock and Bloomsburg in second games of the season. All of those schools have enjoyed a high level of success the past several years.

North Greenville, on the other hand, was 3-8 overall last year, but FSU head coach Rusty Elliott says his team won’t take the Crusaders lightly.

“Defensively, they play a 4-3 with a cover two, and their safeties do a great job of coming up strong and filling,” said Elliott. “They actually remind you a bit defensively of the Slippery Rock teams we used to face. They’re athletic and talented, and they play very hard and aggressive.

“Offensively, they have a good quarterback. Last week they threw for over 200 yards and rushed for over 200 yards and they put 35 points on the board. They’re very balanced, and they’re going to present us with some problems.

“The one thing we know for sure is that we’re going to be in for a dogfight. It’s their home opener. They have a new field, and they’re going to be pumped up and ready to go. We’ve got to travel eight hours. When we step off the bus Saturday at their field we had better be ready to play.”

Elliott says one of the keys to Fairmont’s fortunes will be getting its running game going with senior Wendell Johnson, who has rushed for 2,594 yards in his Falcon career. Johnson passed Robert Davidson for fifth place on the school’s all-time leading rusher’s list in the loss to Cal.

“For us to be successful we’ve got to be able to run the football,” he said. “We’d like Wendell to carry the ball 25 times. That’s how we want to control things on offense.

“Now (quarterback) John (Rahl) is very capable of throwing the football. He proved that for us late in the season last year, and he proved it in our opener this year. He’s still young, though, and he’s going to make mistakes. He threw three interceptions last week. Two of them weren’t his fault; one was. I’ve told people he’s going to make mistakes as he learns. Wendell, though, is our calming effect on offense. If we can get him involved and in a position to have success then we’re going to be in a good position to win.”

Another key will be turnovers. Both FSU and North Greenville suffered three more turnovers than their opponents in week one.

“The most important thing about this game is controlling things we can control,” said Elliott. “We can control turnovers. Don’t drop the ball on the ground. Throw the ball out of bounds instead of trying to force it into a bad situation. Those are things we can control.

“We also need to start creating turnovers on the other side of the ball. We need to pull the ball out, and we need to take a chance now and then by stepping in front of the receiver. You gotta have turnovers. It’s a known fact that the team that comes up with the most turnovers is usually the team that wins.”

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