The Rams’ were on the road for the opening game of their 2018 season to take on the Notre Dame Falcons but fell just short of victory with a 35-33 finish.
Notre Dame was able to get out to a quick start offensively, which helped to put added pressure on the Rams. Falcons’ wide receiver Marvelle Ross was a primary reason for the Falcons 14-10 early lead. He had two touchdowns before the end of the first half, with the first coming on a nine-yard pass from quarterback Chris Brimm to finish off an eight-play 70-yard drive with 12 minutes to go in the first quarter. Ross’s second touchdown could be labeled as a busted coverage for the Rams punt unit as he took one 57 yards back for a TD.
The self-inflicted errors were something Rams head coach Ernie McCook harped on post game. “The biggest thing we were disappointed with was the mistakes we made, they were self inflicted in all three phases of the game, offense, defense, special teams,” McCook said. “Any one of the three phases we could have made a play and maybe changed the outcome of the game.”
The Rams lone touchdown in the first half came on a 29-yard touchdown pass from Tyson Bagent to junior wide receiver Greg Leonard. It was the freshman quarterbacks’ first TD pass of his Rams career. Leonard finished the game with five catches for 80 yards and the TD. Rams kicker Hayden August-Scriven added three points with just under two minutes to go in the second quarter to keep the score close at 14-10.
It was a third quarter explosion for the Falcons, which saw them put up 21 points in just over a 5 minute span between the 13 minute and 8 minute mark.
Ross’s third touchdown came with 13 minutes to go in the third quarter when he caught his second TD pass from Brimm, a 24-yard strike to cap off a four play Falcon drive. With just under 10 minutes in the third, Notre Dame running back Jale McLaughlin took a hand-off 76 yards to the house to extend the lead to 28-10. The Rams were able to counter with a long play of their own on the very next possession with senior wide receiver Wanye Allen the recipient of a 68 yard touchdown pass from Bagent.
With the score as close as it had been since halftime at 28-17, McLaughlin took a second hand-off 75 yards for a score on the first play of the drive. He totaled 312 yards on 22 carries to the tune of 13.7 yards per carry.
The fourth quarter was dominated by the Rams on all fronts, with the comeback bid coming slightly too late. The Shepherd offense scored 16 points in the final 8 minutes but were unable to come up with a two-point conversion after the last touchdown with just over a minute to go in the game. “We have a young football team that completed to the very end,” McCook said. “There was no quit in them, they didn’t look at the scoreboard, they didn’t look at the clock. They just kept playing.”
The first Rams’ score cut the lead to 35-24 and came from the arm of Bagent to senior wide receiver and team captain Ryan Feiss for 31 yards at the end of an 84 yard drive, taking just over a minute of clock time. The defense was able to get a stop late in the fourth, but the Rams’ drive stalled and they could only put three points on the board with a second August-Scriven kick at the 2:48 minute-mark. August-Scriven went 2-3 on field goal attempts on the day, which stings a bit more looking back at the final score despite the miss coming early in the first half.
At the 1:10 mark in the fourth quarter, freshman running back Zyan Sturdiviant punched the ball in the end zone from six yards out, but needing a 2-point conversion to tie the game, Bagent was stuffed trying to run the ball in.
“I think the biggest thing we weren’t successful with was red zone chances and turnovers,” McCook said. “You can’t turn the ball over four times and not get a turnover from your opponent and hope to be successful. And when you are in the red zone you have to score points. I think we were 3-5 or 3-6 in that area.”
For the game, Tyson Bagent completed 36 of 56 passes for a whopping 518 yards, three touchdowns, and three interceptions. Receivers Feiss and Allen both had big games outside for the Rams with Feiss totaling 13 receptions for 172 yards and one touchdown with Allen finishing with 11 catches for 165 yards and a touchdown. Finishing on the defensive side of the ball, sophomore linebacker and team captian Chrys Lane had 15 total tackles one sack, and one forced fumble. Fellow sophomore linebacker David Eppard registered seven tackles in the Rams’ loss.
Game two against Glenville State will be the first home game of the year for the Rams and also a white out game for the fans. Kickoff is Saturday, Sept. 15 at 12 p.m.
Vaughn Brewer is sports editor for The Picket, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org