Rest over, Shepherd takes unbeaten record against Glenville State
If football history is any predictor of the future then Shepherd’s open date last week will be beneficial again as the undefeated Rams are at home on Saturday against conference opponent Glenville State.
Last year, the Rams opened in similar unbeaten fashion, had an open date with a 4-0 record, and then reeled off six more wins in the regular season to complete their conference record with a 10-0 mark.
An open date can heal minor injuries, give the coaching staff some time to do some tinkering and mean additional preparation for the next opponent . . . in this case Glenville State, now 3-2 overall.
Shepherd has made its case to a national audience. That dozier of statements came last season when the Rams carried a 13-0 record into the NCAA Division II national championship game in Kansas City.
Now ranked fourth in the country by a coach’s poll, Shepherd has beaten West Virginia Wesleyan, Charleston, Virginia-Wise and Notre Dame of Ohio in its four games. Glenville State began its season with a 3-0 record before incurring losses against Virginia-Wise and Notre Dame of Ohio.
In its last game — a 38-17 win over Notre Dame — the Rams had wide receiver Billy Brown and linebacker D’Angelo Niler chosen by the conference as the league’s Offensive and Defensive Player of the Week.
Brown had two long TD receptions on passes from Jeff Ziemba and now has 32 catches for 529 yards, seven touchdowns, 16.5 yards per catch and 133 yards per game.
Niler started his second game of the season and recorded 10 tackles, some for lost yardage.
Ziemba has completed 66.7 percent of his throws (78-for-117 with 11 touchdowns and two interceptions.). Receivers Ryan Feiss (24 catches, 386 yards and 96.5 yards per game) and C.J. Davis (three touchdowns and 83.8 yards per game) have also been productive as Shepherd has averaged 41.5 points a game to their opponents’ 16 points a game.
As the season nears its mid-point, the Shepherd defense has shown constant improvement and now allows only 100 yards rushing per game.
James Gupton, Tre Sullivan, Octavius Thomas, Myles Humphrey and Niler ave been the most disruptive of the defenders with Humphrey even scoring with a fumble return.
The Pioneers come to Ram Stadium after suffering a 34-28 loss at Ike and Sue Morris Stadium on a last-play Hail Mary pass. In that game, quarterback Dante Roberts threw for 325 yards and four touchdowns while completing 28 of his 42 throws. Thomas Bole ran 10 times for 95 yards and Earon Settles was credited with 12 tackles.
Last season, the Rams were given another open date weekend following the 10-0 regular season showing when the Super Region One playoffs began. Shepherd was the No. 1 seed in the seven-team regional playoffs and then opened at home following a first-round where three games were played.
Playing before overflow crowds for three straight weekends, the Rams defeated Indiana, Slippery Rock and Grand Valley State to reach all the way to the national championship game.
That same scripted schedule could be in Shepherd’s future this year if it continues to master the entire Mountain East Conference roster of teams . . . starting on Saturday against invading Glenville State.