Shepherd offense explodes for 54 points
An adage that’s been around for years says, “Victory has many fathers, while defeat is an orphan.”
Shepherd’s offensive binge last Saturday, that brought it a 54-49 win over Notre Dame, had so many fathers that neckties, dress shirts and golf balls will be in short supply come Father’s Day.
Showing a laundry list of new starters to the 4,326 people in attendance at Ram Stadium, Shepherd needed every touchdown it could manufacture to trim the Ohio-based Falcons, a team coming off a 9-2 season in 2016.
Connor Jessop, this season’s highly productive quarterback, gouged the Notre Dame defense with his five touchdown passes, 476 yards of overhead offense on 35 of 48 passes, and two rushing touchdowns. Receivers Ryan Feiss – 10 catches for 196 yards and one score – and transfer Hakeem Holland – 11 catches for 134 yards and two scores – continually burned the Falcons as Jessop stood tall behind the quality protection of his offensive line. Shepherd finished with 561 yards of total offense.
Another receiver, Wanya Allen, had eight receptions for 74 yards.
So efficient and effective was Shepherd’s pass offense that the Rams accepted the opening kickoff and strafed their way down field for a 7-0 lead without ever running the ball.
Shepherd had 80 offensive plays in the marathon game televised nationally by ESPN3. There were 34 first downs and at least 15 plays that went for more than 20 yards.
Mascot “J.C.,” a ram viewing his first football game, must have wondered if the team that adopted him gorges itself every week with such a scoreboard-searing showing.
Although they surrendered 49 points, the Rams had linebacker James Gupton with 10 tackles and defensive end Myles Humphrey with another 10 tackles. The three sacks Shepherd achieved against slippery quarterback Malik Grove all came from Humphrey and Gupton.
Grove was 21 for 29 through the air and threw three scoring passes. D.J. Greene ran 22 times for 121 yards and scored twice for the Falcons.
The Rams never trailed. But with specialist Zach Wise missing two extra point tries and a 37-yard field goal attempt, they were never really safe, either.
Shepherd was penalized 10 times for 118 yards, while Notre Dame was flagged eight times for 102 yards.
First-game mistakes were strewn across the field. Notre Dame lost two fumbles, but kept itself on Shepherd’s heels when Greene fumbled into the Ram end zone where a Shepherd player tried to pick up the ball, and Notre Dame’s Tay Johnson finally claimed it for a seldom-seen touchdown.
Near the rapid-paced end, Shepherd’s 54-35 lead had shriveled to 54-42 when a snap to punter Ryun Venter glanced off a blocker stationed in front of the would-be kicker with Notre Dame getting control inside the Shepherd 30. Greene scored on two runs, and the Rams had to field a second straight onside kick to avoid more misery.
Grove could prove to be the most potent quarterback Shepherd sees this regular season. And Greene will be one of the most dynamic runners.
Shepherd’s restructured offensive line comprised of Jaime Colon, Levi Lloyd, Lavonte Hights, DeLonte Murray and Keandre Batson zealously protected Jessop and provided enough passing room to help win the offensive day over the Falcons.
The Shepherd victory had many fathers. It needed every last one of them.