Undefeated Rams get stylish win over Notre Dame
Both teams were undefeated. Both had shown high-powered passing offenses. Shepherd had lost a stinging one-point verdict the last time it visited Notre Dame in South Euclid, Ohio.
This time, the Rams didn’t allow the game’s balance to come down to a last-minute, win-or-lose situation.
This time, Shepherd scored first . . . scored often . . . and used the pitch-catch duo of quarterback Jeff Ziemba to wide receiver Billy Brown to dominate the homestanding Falcons and get a satisfying 38-17 win that will keep it high among the nationally ranked NCAA Division II teams in the nation.
Brown had nine more catches — to give him 32 on the season — for 209 yards and two long touchdown receptions on plays that carried 74 and 61 yards.
Ziemba completed 21-of-35 throws (no interceptions) for 354 yards with pass completions being the main instrument in Shepherd’ amassing 489 yards of total offense.
Not to be outdone, the Shepherd defense registered three sacks, limited the Falcons to only 257 yards of total offense, including just 52 ground yards on 41 tries (or a 1.3 yards per run showing). The Rams had 11 tackles for lost Notre Dame yardage, four of those stops by linebacker DeAngelo Niler.
Niler and fellow linebacker James Gupton each had eight tackles.
Brandon Hlavach scored the game’s first points on a two-yard run and would eventually carry 20 times for 103 yards.
Malik Harleston boosted Shepherd’s early lead to 14-3 with a seven-yard touchdown carry.
Brown’s 74-yard catch/run brought the Rams a 21-3 lead at halftime.
After the Falcons scored first in the last half, Ziemba connected with the 6-foot-4, 238-pound Brown on a 61-yard scoring play that had Shepherd leading, 28-10.
The Shepherd defense next moved the scoreboard when Myles Humphrey returned a fumble recovery 77 yards for a 35-10 Rams’ lead.
Zach Wise, who made all five of his extra point attempts, was true on a 38-yard field goal try for a 38-10 advantage.
Besides Brown’s immense contributions, receivers Ryan Feiss (five catches for 100 yards) and C.J. Davis (four receptions for 34 yards) helped themselves to Ziemba completions.
Shepherd punter Ruan Venter kept up his season-long consistency with four punts for a 45-yard per boot average.
The Rams were 4-0 overall and 4-0 in the Mountain East Conference and remained ranked No. 4 in the country, while the Falcons dipped to 3-1 overall with their first loss of the season.
After an open date this weekend, the Rams are at home on October 8 when once-beaten Glenville provides the conference competition.
An early lead had snowballed at Notre Dame . . . and the Rams kept their name on the lips of those national voters accounting for the polls and the high ranking and rating Shepherd has again achieved.