As the Shepherd Rams head into the final stretch of the 2013 football season, the matchups look to be very interesting to say the least. The Rams have an opportunity to complete the perfect season if they can continue performing at a high level on the film and study diligently in the film room. The Rams have three games left in the 2013 regular season, and unless the Rams have a massive meltdown, they look to be on their way to winning the inaugural Mountain East Conference championship that carries an automatic berth into the NCAA Division II playoffs. So let’s go ahead and look into the rest of the teams left on the schedule and see what kind of matchup the Rams will have on their hands.
Glenville State is a team that depends on their star running back Rahmann Lee to be the cornerstone of the offense and really shift the momentum. As of week seven, Lee has 595 yards of rushing with 5 touchdowns on the season and he’s averaging 119 yards rushing per game. Their offense has struggled with turnovers in 2013 as they’ve given up the ball 11 times and they just seem to lack the offensive consistency needed to be a serious contender. It is a road game, but considering they will have two weeks of preparation because of their bye week, the Rams should emerge winners. Their defense has been solid for the most part this season, as they’ve played some of the top offenses in Division II football. Opposing offenses have been averaging 21 points per game against Glenville State. Their strength on defense has been shutting down the running game as they’ve only given up 429 yards on the ground this season. That is a telling statistic, because the Rams have the number one rushing attack in the MEC, so expect this game to be a smash mouth, hard-hitting battle that will be won in the trenches. Allen Cross could be in for his toughest game yet.
West Virginia State’s performance in 2013 has been a complete joke as the team is still win-less. Their offense and defense is just plain weak as they’ve only scored over 20 points once so far this season. West Virginia State has been outscored by opponents 259 to 59 through five games, so to say that they are struggling offensively is an understatement. Quarterback Tyler Searls has thrown ten interceptions and has been sacked 22 times in 2013. If there ever were to be an “easy” game on the schedule, this would be it for the Rams.
The season finale could be one of the toughest tests for the Rams as they will be going up against a gritty Concord team that is, right now, fighting hard to get into the Division II playoffs. Concord’s strength is their defense. They are only giving up around 270 yards of total offense per game. When you have a strong defense, then you will have a chance to squeak out a victory each week. Pressuring the quarterback has been the model of success for the strong defensive unit as they’ve forced 16 turnovers thus far, which averages out to be about three per game, so if they have any shot at beating the Rams, they’ve got to force quarterback Trae Tinsman or Jeff Ziemba, whoever maybe under center, into mistakes. The Concord offense has not been impressive at all in 2013 as they’ve been prone to turnovers. Quarterback Brian Novak has played poorly this season as he’s tossed an atrocious 14 interceptions while only having three touchdown passes. That kind of ratio simply will not get it done. The running game seems to be Concord’s bread and butter as Cal Jones leads the team with 532 yards and four touchdowns.
So as the season winds down, the Shepherd University football team has to be feeling pretty confident. The rest of their season schedule is more than manageable if they put the work in and don’t become overconfident. If Shepherd can continue playing consistent football and focus on blitzing the opposing quarterbacks often, then there really should be no reason why the Rams can’t enter the playoffs undefeated and as a potential number one seed. Shepherdstown would love to host a home playoff game or two, and right now it has a fair chance of happening.