Six and zero. That is right. The Shepherd University Rams are still undefeated on the gridiron. Despite this fact, all is not perfect in Shepherdstown. Sure, the Rams defeated UVA-Wise soundly. The game was never really in doubt. This game definitely proves that something needs to change on the offensive side of the football. It needs to change sooner, not later.
First of all, the Rams do have a very solid, experienced offensive line. Running the football has not been an issue at all this season. To say that Allen Cross and Jabre Lolley have been able to run roughshod over the opposition would be an understatement. Hussam Ouri, Sean Hull, Dameon Hairston, Jordan Dixon and Isaiah Shelton do a fantastic job leading the way for the Rams’ superb dual-threat rushing attack. Pass blocking is another animal entirely. This past Saturday, the combination of Trae Tinsman and Jeff Ziemba were sacked five times. For a team with championship aspirations, this must change, and quickly. It can’t be for the fault of communication; offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Ernie McCook does a great job coaching up his young men.
The Rams defeated the University of Virginia-Wise 42–17. Only one of the Ram touchdowns came via the offense. That is putrid and unacceptable. Sure, the defense and special teams are scoring, but the offense needs to step it up and in a big way. Elkridge native Allen Cross rushed for an impressive 137 yards and a touchdown on the day. Maybe the team needs to start handing off the rock more often. The team seems to have little trouble moving down the field on the ground.
One thing that cannot be ignored is the quarterback play. The combination of Tinsman and Ziemba threw for a grand total of 191 yards, zero touchdowns and one interception courtesy of Newark, Del. native Ziemba. He did complete seven of ten passes, but one of them went to the opposition. For a team hoping to go undefeated and go deep into the NCAA Division II postseason, improved quarterback play is vital. Teams that win titles always have a good to great player under center; it is unclear if the current version of the Rams possesses that level of talent at that premium position.
The Rams host Notre Dame of Ohio this coming weekend. Maybe playing in Shepherdstown will allow the offense to settle in and dominate. One thing is for sure: the season is quickly drawing to a close and the opponents will only get more difficult should the Rams make the playoffs. The quicker they can address these issues, the better.