Fairmont State had hoped to soften its schedule a bit when it agreed earlier this year to a deal with NCAA Division II Independent North Greenville University.

But on Saturday afternoon here at beautiful Younts Stadium the Falcons found out they got much more than they bargained for.

Upstart North Greenville dominated in nearly every phase yesterday and rolled to a convincing 28-7 victory over FSU. The win improved the Crusaders to 1-1 on the year, while Fairmont fell to 0-2. The loss marked the seventh straight time that Fairmont State has been beaten in the second game of the season.

Things went bad for FSU right from the start. The Falcons’ first two offensive possessions ended with interceptions which led to Crusader scoring opportunities.

First, NGU linebacker Doug Wilson picked off a John Rahl pass after his arm was hit in the backfield. The turnover led to a 44-yard field goal attempt by the Crusaders which was wide left.

On Fairmont’s next possession, North Greenville defensive back Derrick Miller stepped in front of a Rahl pass and returned it to the FSU 16. This time NGU would make FSU pay for its miscue.

Crusader quarterback Eric Moeller, who would prove to be a thorn in Fairmont’s side all day, connected with Travis Talbert on a 11-yard pass to convert on third-and-eight and take the ball to the Falcon three-yard line. One play later NGU running back Rashad Cummings scored on a two-yard run and after the first of Adrian Escalona’s four extra points the Crusaders led 7-0 with 5:04 remaining in the first quarter.

Five minutes later Talbert, NGU’s leading receiver, ran an end around and capped a six-play, 99-yard scoring march with a 12-yard TD jaunt to make it 14-0 as the first quarter clock expired. Two big factors on the drive were a 34-yard pass from Moeller to Brandon Dobbins and a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on FSU which was tacked on to the end of the reception.

“We got in a hole because of good plays by them,” said Fairmont State coach Rusty Elliott. “You’ve got to give them credit for making plays. The game hadn’t even got started yet and we were behind the eight ball. To our guys credit, though, we stayed in there and battled, but we could never get anything started. We tried to establish the run and never really got that going. We didn’t get anything going with our passing game and we didn’t do a good job of stopping them in crucial third down situations.

“They also won the field position battle. I had said before the game that would be critical in a game like this. We had them pinned back a few times and let them out of it. When they have the ball on their own one we need to get a three-and-out and get the ball back in good field position for us. Instead, they completed some long passes against us. They pounded us a little with the run and picked up first downs and they completed some short passes which went for eight, 10 or 12 yards at critical times. Their kids played extremely hard from start to finish on both sides of the ball.”

Moeller, NGU’s 6-2, 216-pound junior signal caller, didn’t throw a single touchdown pass in the win, but played pitch and catch all afternoon against Fairmont’s weak pass defense. He finished 18-of-24 for 256 yards and time after time came up with completions in crucial situations. At one point in the opening half Moeller completed eight straight passes.

In two games opponents have completed 70.3 percent of their passes against Fairmont’s defense for an average of 241.5 yards per contest.

North Greenville held a seven-minute advantage in time of possession, but most of that came in the final quarter when the Crusaders were attempting to run out the clock.

The Crusaders outgained Fairmont by 256 yards. NGU finished with 453 yards on 68 plays, an average of 6.7 yards per play. North Greenville, which got a game-high 108 yards on 19 carries from Matt Moore, rushed for 197 yards in the win.

FSU, on the other hand, only had 197 total yards on 52 plays, an average of 3.8 per play.

The Falcons were limited to 67 yards rushing on 27 carries. Wendell Johnson led the way for Fairmont on the ground with 56 yards on 18 attempts. He scored FSU’s lone touchdown on a two-yard run in the second quarter to make it 14-7 with 12:17 left to play in the half.

The TD was set up by Seth Amos’ 56-yard kickoff return which put the Falcons in business at the NGU 30.

The momentum, however, for the Falcons was short-lived. On North Greenville’s next drive Moeller hooked up with Talbert on a 51-yard pass on the Crusaders’ first play which took the ball to the Fairmont 18. Three plays later Moeller scored on an 11-yard quarterback draw to make it 21-7 with 10:20 left in the opening half.

NGU finished its scoring on its initial drive of the second half. The Crusaders marched 61 yards in just five plays and scored on a five-yard run by Cummings. Once again Moeller and Talbert made the big play on the drive to set up the TD. They hooked up on a 31-yard pass which took the ball to the FSU five. Talbert finished with four catches for 103 yards.

Fairmont attempted to rally back on its next possession, but an eight-play drive ended at the NGU four-yard line when it was ruled that Ben Gum didn’t pick up the required one yard on a fourth-and-one play when it appeared that he had. That turned the ball over to the Crusaders with 5:36 left to play in the third quarter and Fairmont was never able to seriously threaten again.

“That was tough for us, but you can’t leave it in the referees’ hands,” said Elliott. “You can’t leave any doubt. That’s just the way it goes.

“We’ve got a lot of work and a lot of improving to do. We made a lot of mistakes. Hopefully we learned from them today and we’ll do better next weekend when we load up the bus again and go to Concord.”

FSU will visit Concord Saturday for a 1 p.m. game. It’s the West Virginia Conference opener for both squads.

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