Shepherd looks to establish win streak against Glenville
GLENVILLE – Spiffy Ike and Sue Morris Stadium at Glenville State will be Shepherd’s football destination this weekend.
After holding off Notre Dame, 54-49, to open its season on Sept. 2, the Rams had an open date last week and this will be only the second game of the 2017 season.
Glenville has gouged out considerable offensive yardage in its two games, but hasn’t stopped the offense of either Virginia-Wise or Notre Dame in consecutive losses to begin its season. Virginia-Wise defeated the Pioneers, 41-29, in Glenville and then Notre Dame topped the Pioneers, 35-10, in South Euclid, Ohio.
The Pioneers had 467 yards of total offense and 303 passing yards last week in the loss at Notre Dame. In its first game, Glenville amassed 311 passing yards, but threw 50 times, in its loss at home to Virginia-Wise. The Highland Cavaliers intercepted two Pioneer passes.
Shepherd strafed the Notre Dame defense with the accurate passing of Connor Jessop and the receiving of both Ryan Feiss and Hakeem Holland. Jessop threw for 476 yards and five touchdowns; he also ran for two scores and was given the Offensive Player of the Week honor in the Mountain East Conference.
Feiss and Holland accounted for 21 receptions between them and four of the five touchdowns Jessop threw for against the Falcons.
However, the Rams could never find the answers to the questions posed to them by Notre Dame quarterback Malik Grove and the Falcons’ offense.
Once ahead, 54-35, the Rams survived the late-game touchdowns manufactured by Grove and company.
With James Gupton and Myles Humphrey each getting credit for 10 tackles, the Rams had their meaningful plays, but the interior of Shepherd’s defensive line was pierced in the second half by Notre Dame’s runners. Other than Gupton, no Shepherd linebacker distinguished himself.
Also causing Shepherd to reel at times was its youthful defensive secondary and its problem-filled special teams.
Notre Dame is possibly the second-best team in the Mountain East Conference, behind only Shepherd, but the two weeks between games could be a change-some-things blessing for the nationally-ranked Rams.
Even in scoring 54 points, Shepherd did not impress with its ground game. Jessop was the leading rusher with his 50 yards.
Expectations at Shepherd may be at an unrealistic level, especially after the Rams waded through unbeaten regular seasons in both 2015 and 2016. Shepherd reached the national championship game in 2015 with a 13-0 record before falling to Northwest Missouri State. Then in 2016, the Rams took another 13-0 record into the national semifinals before dropping a 23-13 verdict to North Alabama.
But with Jessop at the helm, the Rams could again flail its conference opponents and come through 2017 with a third-straight unbeaten regular season showing.
Jessop is the irreplaceable player on Shepherd’s qualified roster.
Gupton, Humphrey and Jessop are all all-America prospects, but it could be their surrounding cast that gives Shepherd its chances of continuing to get the attention and the eye of the football-watching people in the NCAA Division II ranks.