by Duane Cochran for FightingFalcons.com
BUCKHANNON, W.Va. – Thursday afternoon's practice session started like any other this season for Fairmont State true freshman backup quarterback Nevin Honeycutt.
For first 45 minutes of the workout it was business as usual. Then lightning struck both literally and figuratively in Honeycutt's life.
The first strike forced FSU's football team off the field and into the locker room in the Joe Retton Arena to wait out the impending storm. However, because a rash of lightning and storms were predicted to be in the area for quite a while the Falcons' practice session that day for their Saturday showdown on the road with unbeaten and nationally-ranked West Virginia Wesleyan was canceled.
Shortly after the Falcons had gotten back to the locker room another shock wave hit close to home with the team when it was announced that doctors had deemed sophomore starting quarterback Logan Moore unable to play due to a concussion he had suffered in FSU's win over Bowie State on Oct. 6.
Thus Honeycutt, who last fall quarterbacked Class AA Scott High School to a 4-6 record, was thrust into the starting job and the proverbial hot seat in arguably Fairmont State's biggest football game in the last decade.
“That's a tough position to be put in and because Thursday's practice was cut short coach (Bryan) Fisher (the team's offensive coordinator) really only had one practice to get us prepared without Logan,” said FSU head coach Mike Lopez. “We were out there trying to do some things with Justin (Hughes) and Damon Waters in the wildcat, but at the end of the day we just didn't have enough prep time.”
Honeycutt performed admirably in a difficult situation. He engineered a pair of scoring drives for Fairmont State's offense and completed 10-of-24 passes for 71 yards. He was intercepted twice, but one of those came late in the contest off a tipped pass. In the end the Falcons, who twice had short-lived leads in the game, fell 21-14 to the nation's 21st-ranked team.
“That's a tough defense to go against,” said Lopez. “They play cover zero and blitz on every single down. I thought our offensive line played well. We ran for 170 yards on them and we didn't have really any foolish penalties on offense.
“Nevin's a great kid and in the future he's going to be a good quarterback. As for the Logan situation. We would've loved to have had him, but we're just hoping right now we can get him back for next week.”
Still Plenty Out There For The Falcons
With four weeks remaining in the regular season Fairmont State's football team, which is 5-2 overall and 2-2 and in fifth place in the nine-team West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference standings, still has much to play for. Another win will secure only the second winning season for the program in the last 10 years. In addition, the squad hasn't won seven games since 2000 and hasn't enjoyed an eight-win season since 1999. The last nine-win campaign, which is still a possibility for the 2011 Falcons, came 30 years ago in 1981.
Fairmont's two losses this fall have come by a combined total of 13 points and one was a triple overtime setback against Glenville State.
“Our objective is to become a closer group coming out of this game,” said Lopez after the seven-point loss to the unbeaten Bobcats this past weekend. “We don't like losing and believe me we expected to win Saturday, but you can't always go 11-0. It just doesn't happen very often in college football.
“Look at the Glenville game. We lost, but we became closer and better as a football team. That's our objective this week. We've got four weeks left and the potential to do good things for us as a team in those next four weeks is there.”
FSU's players agree.
“This is our year to bring Fairmont back into the mix in the league for good,” said Falcon senior offensive tackle Pat Halpin. “We've been down for a little while, but never out. Now is our chance to prove to the conference that we're here and we're back.”
Fairmont State can secure its first winning season since 2007 when it returns to the field Saturday, Oct. 22 on the road in Greensburg, Pa. against Seton Hill University in a 6 p.m. game at Offutt Field.
Orange Leads Receiving Corps
Florida State University transfer Tim Orange, a 5-11, 185-pound junior from Miami, Fla., leads Fairmont State in receptions this fall with 19. He has 227 receiving yards and averages 11.9 yards per catch.
Orange had a nifty 34-yard reception this past weekend against West Virginia Wesleyan which helped lead to an FSU touchdown. To date, Orange himself hasn't reached the end zone this season but don't expect that streak to continue much longer. The youngster, who is widely considered to be one of the hardest working FSU receivers both on and off the field, has shown signs in recent weeks of really settling in and getting comfortable in the Falcons' offense.
“I'm just trying to get better each and every week,” said Orange. “Last week I was in the film room a lot watching film and trying to see what I was lacking on the field. I was looking for simple things I could correct. Coach (Bryan) Fisher always says its the little things that count. I try to put the work in each and every day before and during practice to make myself better.
“I've got to thank Logan (Moore) and our offensive line for helping me. It's a team effort. The guys on this team have done a great job of uplifting my spirits and keeping me positive.”
Doing It On 'D
Fairmont State's defense has intercepted nine passes this season, but no player on the defense has more than one interception. In Saturday's loss to West Virginia Wesleyan, defensive end Luke Black and cornerback Raynell Hall both recorded picks. For both Black, a 6-6, 280-pound senior, and Hall, a 5-9, 155-pound senior, the interceptions were the second of their college careers.
The Falcons' defense turned in another solid performance in Saturday's game with the Bobcats. FSU held Wesleyan's potent offense, which was ranked 16th in the nation in total offense and 11th in scoring offense, 100 yards below its season average and 19 points less than what it was averaging on the scoreboard. The 21 points scored by Wesleyan was its lowest offensive output of the season.
As a unit Fairmont's defense ranks third in the WVIAC in all four major defensive categories. The Falcons are allowing 19.1 points per game and 312.7 total yards. FSU gives up just 99.3 rushing yards per outing and 213.4 passing yards.
“The difference, I think, this year is when you've got 11 guys out there on the field no matter what 11 it is they're going to lay it on the line for each other,” said FSU junior outside linebacker Daniel Strosnider, a three-year starter who is tied for sixth on the team in total tackles this fall with 26. “When the heart of an individual comes into play and he'll lay it on the line for his brother it makes a big difference. If the ball's on the one inch line our mentality is we're not going to break.
“As far as the odd stack goes I think we have the personnel to run it well. It's a matter of us playing tough and getting after it.
The Falcons are first in red zone defense, tied for first in sacks (23) and third in allowing opponents to convert on third downs (31.3 percent).
“We've always been a good defensive team since I've been here, but in the early years we had problems getting off the field on third downs,” said junior free safety Dewey McDonald, who is fourth on the unit in tackles with 38. “Now we're doing a much better job of that. That's been a big progression we've made as a defense since I've been here.
“I love this defense and the coaching staff. It's the fastest defense. I mean you put that name on your chest and you know what type of defense we've got.”