by Duane Cochran for FightingFalcons.com
Mike Lopez did something he's never done in his six years as head coach of Fairmont State University's football team Saturday afternoon at halftime of the Falcons' game against visiting West Virginia Wesleyan at Duvall-Rosier Field.
“I've never done what I did at halftime out there on the field,” said Lopez. “I called the team together on the field before we went in and told them I was embarrassed. I don't know if I've ever said that to them before, but that's just what I was feeling.
“After that I didn't talk to them at halftime, but I walked by outside of our locker room and heard Joe Angotti (FSU's senior offensive guard) giving someone the business. The message was understood.”
Was it ever.
Fairmont State's football team played its best half of football of the season in the final 30 minutes against the Bobcats and turned a 12-point, 21-9 halftime deficit, into a convincing 49-32 victory.
The win improved the Falcons to 2-4 overall and to 2-2 in the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
“You saw us huddle up there before we went in at halftime and coach Lopez gave us a little speech and told us in pretty straight forward terms that he felt like we weren't playing at the level we were capable of playing at,” said FSU senior receiver Matt Wilmer. “I don't know, but something clicked. We went in at halftime talked to our coordinators and position coaches and my position coach (Josh Brown) specifically called me out. He told me I was the top receiver and that I needed to show up and do something. I took that personally and as a challenge. I told him I was going to prove something to him in the second half and every time I caught a pass I told him I wasn't done yet.”
Wilmer enjoyed a great second half for the Falcons. He caught three second-half passes and all three went for touchdowns. He finished with seven catches for 163 yards and three scores – all career highs.
But on this afternoon Wilmer was just one of many stars for the Falcons. In fact, take your pick.
* FSU junior quarterback Bobby Vega finished 15-of-30 passing for 275 yards and a career-high five touchdowns. He didn't suffer any interceptions. In the second half Vega connected on 8-of-14 pass attempts for 145 yards and all five TDs.
* Sophomore running back Daniel Monroe rambled for a season-high 147 yards on the ground and one touchdown on 25 carries – an average of 5.9 yards per carry. His rushing TD was the first of the season for the Falcons.
* Junior receiver C.J. Goodwin caught three passes for 55 yards and a pair of second-half touchdowns, while senior tight end Sean Marion tallied a season-high four receptions for 60 yards.
* FSU's offensive front. Wesleyan's defense entered the game leading the league and third in the nation in NCAA Division II in sacks. Fairmont's offensive line had allowed 19 sacks coming into the contest and surrendered three to the Bobcats in the first half. In the second half the Falcon front line allowed zero sacks and helped FSU roll up 233 of its season-high 431 yards of total offense.
* Senior cornerback Ryland Newman intercepted a pair of second-half passes and returned them for 39 yards. In addition, he also returned one punt for 29 yards which led to an FSU touchdown, three kickoffs for 144 yards (an average of 48 yards per return) and made five solo tackles.
* Junior linebacker Garrett Davis who continued his terrorizing of opposing offenses since his return from injury in week three. Davis finished with a game-high 11 tackles, including one for a loss and eight solo stops.
* Defensive end Jake Kelly who enjoyed his best day in a Falcon uniform. The junior from Charleston recorded a career-high eight tackles, including one sack and a crucial forced fumble in the second half which fellow defensive end Andre Revere recovered deep in Bobcat territory. The turnover led to an FSU touchdown and an 11-point lead early in the fourth quarter.
* FSU's defensive unit which held West Virginia Wesleyan to 11 points and just 135 total yards in the second half on 38 plays – an average of just 3.6 yards per play.
* True freshman kicker Johnny Dearstine who had the most productive day of his young collegiate career. Dearstine was 3-of-4 on field goal attempts and a perfect 4-of-4 on PATs. He connected on field goals of 21, 35 and 38 yards for FSU in the first half and just missed on a 39-yard attempt in the second half.
* Redshirt freshman punter Chris Kish who punted five times in the victory for an average of 38.8 yards. He had a long punt of 49 yards and placed two of his kicks inside of Wesleyan's 20-yard line.
Sophomore Daniel Monroe enjoyed his best performance of the season against a West Virginia Wesleyan defense which came into the contest ranked third in the WVIAC against the run. Monroe carried the football 25 times for a season-high 147 yards and one touchdown. The Bobcats were holding opponents to just 104.6 yards per game on the ground.
Monroe's touchdown run was the first of the season for the Falcons. Last year he finished third in the conference in rushing TDs with 13.
“We take a lot of pride in running the ball and we know for us to really be effective in the passing game we've got to run the football with success,” said Monroe. “Our goal is to be a balanced football team and up to this point we've been pretty one dimensional and it's hurt us. We finally just all came together and said enough is enough. Let's play the way we know we're capable of playing.
“I know I've been criticized. The fans and media were saying I wasn't the same back as I was last year and to be honest it felt great for me to prove them wrong with my performance today. I'm still here and I'm still fighting for this team. We've had some issues, but we're solving them and hopefully this performance will be a building block for us. I think Fairmont is going to be an issue for teams the rest of the year.”
Monroe is currently third in the WVIAC in rushing with 433 yards on 90 carries.
Sophomore Jephte Leveille has really begun to emerge as a solid player for the Falcons on the defensive front.
The 6-1, 255-pounder from Port St. Lucie, Fla. is currently second on the team in total tackles (33) behind standout junior linebacker Garrett Davis (34). He also leads Fairmont in sacks with three and is tied for second on the team in tackles for losses with five.
“Honestly on the defensive front we really just all feed off of each other's play,” said Leveille. “We try to make it fun with each other and have success through that. I'm just a small part of our defensive front. Anthony Domico, Andre Revere, Jarick Gee and Jake Kelly we all communicate really well with one another. I'll tell you I was real impressed with Jake's play against Wesleyan. He's somebody we're learning we can always count on.
“When we come off of the field we tell each other what we're seeing and what we think we can do to help each other out. Our senior Jordan Greathouse, who is medically redshirted, also really helps coach us up.
“As for me I do feel a lot more comfortable this year than I did last year and I really think that's because I'm starting to trust the system. I'm believing in it. I still have a lot more work to do to become better though, but day-by-day and week-by-week I'm trusting the system more and more and doing what I'm coached to do.”