Statistics show Shepherd’s unbeaten domination
Averaging 45 points a game to their three opponents six points per outing is just part of the statistical dominance Shepherd has shown this season.
With a 3-0 record, the Rams have tamed West Liberty, Fairmont and Urbana (Ohio) in their early-season games. On Saturday at Ram Stadium, Shepherd will see its fourth straight Mountain East Conference rival in West Virginia Wesleyan.
Shepherd’s offense has averaged 464 yards a game, while opponents have averaged only 155 yards per loss. None of the three subdued opponents has scored a rushing touchdown.
The Rams have earned 72 first downs and the opposition has 26. Along the ground, Shepherd averages 223 rushing yards and the opponents have just 56 yards a game. Shepherd quarterbacks Jeff Ziemba and Caleb Dembeck have combined to complete 50 of their 63 passes, most of that damage inflicted on opponents by Ziemba.
In the “time of possession” category, the Rams have a decided 38:39 to 21:21 edge. West Liberty, Fairmont and Urbana have combined to make only 3-of-34 third-down conversion attempts.
The Rams have cut their penalty yards per game back to just 63 after being tagged with over 110 yards per game while wading through an unbeaten 2013 regular season schedule.
A much-revamped Shepherd defense still features linebackers Octavius Thomas, Levi Barber, James Gupton and De’Ontre Johnson. The entirely new front wall of the defense has seen highlights produced by Shaneil Jenkins, Bernard Wolley, Demetrius Dixon and Jonathan Durrett. The mostly new secondary has featured C.J. Davis, Phillip Rhoden, David Carter and Tre Sullivan.
Winning by comfortable margins has allowed the Shepherd coaches to substitute liberally, and the team’s defensive and offensive depth have played many minutes so far.
Lavonte Hights and Brandon Wooten are the two new starters on the offensive line where they joined 2013 holdovers Hussam Ouri, Dameon Hairston and Isaiah Shelton.
Shepherd’s prized “run by committee” has loosed Jabre Lolley, Allen Cross, Malik Harleston and Trenton Cannon on its three conference opponents.
Ziemba has been pitching his many completions to a wide assortment of receivers including his running backs and wideouts Will McKenzie, Billy Brown, Dalton Boyd and Tony Squirewell.
West Virginia Wesleyan comes to Shepherdstown with a 1-2 record that has seen the Bobcats lose to Charleston and Notre Dame College and beat UVa.-Wise.
Last week, the Bobcats fell 47-44 at home to Notre Dame College. Notre Dame had 29 first downs, 491 yards of total offense, completed 25-of-45 passes and had 95 offensive plays against the beleaguered Bobcat defense.
Jeremy Musselman, who missed last year’s game in Buckhannon when Shepherd drilled the Bobcats 41-10, regularly lofts up 40 passes a game. West Virginia Wesleyan used a four wide receiver offense and only one running back. Zach Schademan had four TD receptions last week when he had nine receptions for 141 yards.
Notre Dame shredded the 3-3-5 defense presented it by the Bobcats.
Shepherd continues to be highly ranked in the Division II coaches poll . . . and needs to be there all season long because the Mountain East Conference champion does not receive an automatic bid to the national playoffs. Being in only its second year of existence, the conference will not receive an automatic bid until the 2015 season.
Only the Northeast-10, CIAA and Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference have automatic bids to the six-team Regional playoffs.
Keeping an unbeaten pace in the conference with Shepherd are Notre Dame, Concord and Charleston.
Shepherd will be at Laidley Field in Charleson next week to face the Golden Eagles in a game that should be the most important Mountain East Conference meeting in the season’s early going.
Saturday at 12-noon it’ll be Shepherd chasing after another pass-happy quarterback and trying to keep the Bobcat offense off the field with its own balanced offense that has so far dominated the time of possession in all three of its wins.