Rams go to unbeaten Notre Dame after beating UVa.-Wise
Try as it might, Shepherd just couldn’t hold the score down against UVa.-Wise. Playing 54 people and being as conservative as possible at times, the unbeaten Rams amassed 649 yards of total offense, had 40 points by halftime and finished with a 64-13 conference win over a Highland Cavalier team that had beaten Tusculum and lost by six points to unbeaten Notre Dame.
Two Shepherd quarterbacks — Jeff Ziemba and Connor Jessop — combined to throw for 467 yards while wide receivers Billy Brown, C.J. Davis and Ryan Feiss all caught enough passes to see each go over the 100-yard mark.
Shepherd’s offensive line provided near leak-proof protection while its quarterbacks picked apart the Highland Cavalier secondary.
The crowd of about 4,500 that was on hand for the last festivities of Athletic Hall of Fame weekend was treated to an offensive and defensive show that kept many cheering and clapping their appreciation almost non-stop. UVa.-Wise is located in the far southwest corner of Virginia and over 300 miles from Shepherdstown . . . so there weren’t that many fans following the team to Ram Stadium.
A sack of UVa.-Wise’s quarterback on the game’s second play from scrimmage set much of the tone for the football-pleasant afternoon.
And when C.J. Davis made an acrobatic catch of a Ziemba pass, Shepherd’s game-long offensive hi-jinks had been set in motion for the duration of the lengthy three hour-twenty-eight minute adventure of a game.
It was free safety Tre Sullivan who was Shepherd’s cover-the-field tackler and overall statistical leader with his team-high 10 stops. But it was first-year starter DeAngelo Niles and several linemen — Myles Humphrey, Shaquille Melvin, James King and Marshall-Lee Mundin among them — that applied steady pressure on UVa.-Wise quarterbacks and either dumped them, hurried them or forced nothing but short patterns from the visitors.
Overcoming 16 penalties for 173 yards didn’t prove to be more than a hindrance for the Rams who were flagged for nearly everything from excessive celebration to personal fouls and offensive pass interference. The Highland Cavaliers were penalized 10 times for 89 yards and nearly every flag seemed to require a minutes-long conversation between all seven officials.
Fumble recoveries by the Rams on consecutive UVa.-Wise plays led to quick touchdowns during the break-out second quarter. Billy Brown had his two touchdown receptions in short order . . . and the Rams had a full 40 points by halftime.
When Davis made still another twisting catch against two defenders in the early going of the third period, the dial was still pointing in a straight-upward Shepherd direction.
Even pulling back hard on the reins, the Rams still scored 24 points in the last half.
Next for Shepherd is a date in South Euclid, Ohio against Notre Dame, now 3-0 after tripping non-conference foe, Malone, last weekend.
It was Notre Dame in 2014 that gave Shepherd one of only two losses the Rams have eaten in three-plus seasons in the Mountain East Conference.
The Hall of Fame weekend had concluded with 649 yards of Shepherd total offense . . . and 3-0 record for the nation’s fourth-ranked Rams.