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Coyle operated Barr’s run-oriented offense; was three-time Player of the Year

By Staff | Sep 30, 2016

Mike Coyle held passing records at Shepherd when the Rams were winning with a ground-oriented offense that had Walter Barr’s teams challenging for conference championships nearly every season.

There were many games where the left-handed quarterback — who was just as much a game-breaking runner as an accurate passer — threw eight times and the Rams unleashed shifty All-WVIAC halfback Anthony Crenshaw more than 25 times in winning by two or three touchdowns.

Coyle had the ingredients to be a successful quarterback. And Coach Barr knew it.

He was blessed with innate football intelligence and had a distinct “feel” for the game. He knew what was going on around him even if forcefully chased from his pocket and made to improvise. Coyle’s accuracy with the mid-range passes the Rams favored was at times unerring. And he could run . . . and run away successfully before being downed by opponent’s rushmen.

Coyle was athletic . . . and smart . . . and often played nearly error-free football.

As a sophomore in 1982, Coyle and his teammates had a 7-2-1 overall record and were the WVIAC (West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) champions.

Coyle’s postseason reward came when he was named the league’s Offensive Player of the Year.

Then as a junior in 1983, Shepherd marched through the WVIAC with an 8-0-0 conference record and a second consecutive league championship. That Ram team was 9-2-0 overall and was invited to the NAIA playoffs.

Coyle’s postseason reward after that season was to be again named as the WVIAC’s Offensive Player of Year.

As a senior in 1984, Coyle helped Shepherd to a 7-3-0 overall record, but no league title. Those in the WVIAC didn’t look sideways when the Rams didn’t take the league’s most prized honors . . . and again honored Coyle with his third straight Offensive Player of the Year award.

Some of Coyle’s records have been surpassed. Others may be erased from the burgeoning book of Shepherd passing records this season.

In one win in 1982, Coyle threw nine times and had eight completions against West Virginia Tech. His completion rate that afternoon was tied for the highest single-game percentage in school history.

For his star-studded career, Coyle launched 610 passes and completed 353 of them for a completion percentage of 57.9 percent, an imprint of accuracy that has lasted until the 2016 season . . . but now might be eclipsed.

In Coyle’s three seasons of being named the WVIAC Offensive Player of Year, the Rams had an overall record of 23-7-1 and two conference championships.

The sturdy left-hander is in Shepherd’s Athletic Hall of Fame, along with his coach and at least a dozen teammates. And his passing records on mostly run-reliant teams are to be remembered as some of the best statistics ever produced by Shepherd quarterbacks.