The Shepherd Rams escaped with a narrow 28-23 victory Thursday night against the Fairmont State Fighting Falcons with the winning touchdown in the fourth quarter.
It was a battle of the top scoring offense vs. the stingiest defense in the Mountain East Conference. The Rams hit a season low after only gaining 253 yards through the air. Sophomore tight end DJ Cornish continued to exploit defenders with his combination of speed and size, as he pulled in five catches for 89 yards, including the go-ahead touchdown late in the fourth quarter. The ground game stayed its course as senior running back Jabre Lolley galloped his way to 114 yards on 27 attempts.
“It’s important in a tight game, turnovers can change momentum on either side. It can win or lose the game,” said sophomore cornerback Raughn Carter.
The Rams defense backfield showed signs of dominance as they intercepted senior quarterback JuJuan Young-Battle of the Falcons three times. Though the Falcons struggled through the air because of the countless number of overthrown passes, they were able to gain 243 yards. Senior running back Terrell Charles rushed for 72 yards in 12 attempts, while Young-Battle jetted his way to 53 yards in the game.
Entering last night’s game, the Falcons were the number one defense in the MEC in forcing turnovers per game. They continued that by forcing four turnovers against the Rams. Senior defensive back Naiquan Thomas stepped in front of a pass and sprinted 37 yards for a touchdown, which gave his team a 14-0 lead early in the first quarter.
Rams senior quarterback Connor Jessop remained confident despite the number of turnovers and pressure given by the Falcons defense. Jessop was able to lead his team to a 13 play, 87-yard drive that ended with a touchdown pass to Cornish with 5:36 left in the fourth quarter. This gave the Rams a 28-23 lead that they would not relinquish for the rest of the game.
This game kept fans on the edge of their seat. The game ended on a pass deflection from true-freshman cornerback Dillon Clary of the Rams.
The Rams continue their hot streak as they play host to the Urbana Knights on Oct. 21. The Rams are currently ranked as the number two team in the nation.
Ryan Sturdivant is a sports writer for The Picket. He can be reached by email firstname.lastname@example.org