Shepherd defeated West Virginia Wesleyan by a 58-35 final score on hall of fame weekend to make it two wins in a row after the loss to Fairmont State on Oct. 13. Saturday’s win brings the Rams season record to 6-2 with two more regular season games remaining, which leaves the team with no room for error to get into the post season.
The Ram offense carried over their momentum from last weekend’s road win against Urbana, jumping out to an early lead and never taking the foot off the gas. The Rams held a lead for the entirety of the contest and at multiple points were up by 30. Shepherd handed West Virginia Wesleyan their eighth loss on the year as they now sit at 1-8 and at the basement of the Mountain East Conference.
It was arguably the best game of the season for freshman tandem number nine Tyson Bagent and number 20 Antwan Squire, as they were the catalysts for the 58 points put on the scoreboard. Bagent went 29-37 for 306 yards and seven touchdowns through the air, with Squire adding 174 yards rushing and a touchdown on just 15 carries, which equates to just under 12 yards per carry.
The seven touchdown passes from Bagent went to five Ram receivers, as junior tight end number 11 DJ Cornish was the recipient of three of them. Cornish finished with four catches for 50 yards and the three scores, his best game of the season.
A 12-yard pass from Bagent to Cornish kicked off the games scoring just 10 minutes into the game and before you knew it the Rams were up 19-0 with seven minutes remaining in the second quarter. Junior running back number 29 Deonte Glover was the receiver for Bagent’s second touchdown pass from seven yards out with just over 11 minutes to go in the second quarter, then Glover finished off a five play 54-yard drive with a touchdown run from a yard out. If it wasn’t for a 99-yard kick-off score by Wesleyan returner Jujuan Linzy midway through the second quarter, the Rams defense would have had a shutout first half.
However, the Rams responded by scoring twice in under three minutes to go into halftime nursing a 32-7 lead. The 25-point gap allowed the Shepherd defense to play free and with aggressiveness as one big play by West Virginia Wesleyan wasn’t going to bring them back.
Cornish caught his second touchdown pass of the game with 2:43 remaining, and after forcing a quick punt the Rams marched down the field on a 13 play 75-yard drive that took just 1:53 off the game clock. The drive resulted in a 13-yard Bagent touchdown pass to junior receiver number 14 Greg Leonard with eight seconds left.
The Rams came out just as hot in the second half with a 19-point third quarter after Wesleyan scored on their opening second half possession to briefly close the gap at 32-14. Squire started it off with a 37-yard run for his lone touchdown on the day, which was followed by Cornish’s third touchdown catch, a 16-yard connection from Bagent on the Rams very next possession.
West Virginia Wesleyan running back Lawrence Brown was able to score just before the end of the third quarter after the offense took possession on a short field, needing just 17 yards to get into the endzone. The 10-yard touchdown run by Brown brought the score to 44-21 for a very brief moment as Bagent connected on a 50-yard catch and run to senior receiver and team captain number three Ryan Feiss with just 10 seconds left in the third quarter.
The touchdown pass to Feiss marked Bagent’s sixth of the game, with the seventh going to senior receiver number 13 Wanya Allen at the 9:26 mark in the final quarter to put the Rams up 58-28. The final Rams score came after Wesleyan quarterback Matt Vinson found receiver Elijah Nelson on a six-yard connection with 12 minutes to go in the fourth.
West Virginia Wesleyan added one final touchdown to get the 58-35 final score on a four-yard touchdown pass from Vinson to Linzy after a 12 play 53-yard drive that took over seven minutes off the game clock. Wesleyan kicked the ball back to the Rams with under two minutes remaining in the game and Shepherd proceeded to run the clock out to secure the victory.
It was a complete team win for the Rams, who improved the series record against the Bobcats to 36-7-1 all time. The Shepherd defense was able to force five turnovers, something that head coach Ernie McCook and the entire coaching staff repeatedly harp on as a key reason for many of their wins. Freshman linebacker number 20 Ahmad Jones paced the Rams with eight total tackles and two forced fumbles, with sophomore linebacker and team captain number 10 Chrys Lane adding five total tackles including one for a loss of yards.
An interesting Ram stat from today’s win is that with Bagent’s seven touchdown passes, he now has sole possession of the Rams single game record that was previously in a five-way tie at five TD passes. Saturday’s game was also a career day for Allen, who now has 105 receptions and 20 touchdown catches in his Rams career.
“These last two wins just give us reassurance that were a great team, and it is always great to get a home win,” Rams junior defensive back Justin Cole said following the game. “I believe we will finish the season strong, and hopefully everything plays out in the region, so we will have a chance in the playoffs.”
The Rams will be back in action looking to make it three straight wins on Saturday Nov. 3 when they head on the road to take on University of Charleston. Kick-off is set for noon.
Vaughn is the sports editor of the Picket. He can be reached at