by Duane Cochran for FightingFalcons.com
Even though the ESPN crew doesn't dole out helmet stickers to NCAA Division II players for jobs well done and outstanding performances Fairmont State's Ryland Newman and Matt Griffin were certainly deserving of them this past week and weekend for their efforts.
The pair of FSU senior cornerbacks both did double duty this past weekend for the Falcons in their 25-20 victory over West Liberty at Duvall-Rosier Field playing at times for their team on offense and on other occasions on defense.
With Fairmont's top three running backs all sidelined with injuries, Griffin, a former tailback who converted to cornerback this past spring and has played in a backup role, and Newman, a starting corner for the Falcons who hasn't played tailback since his senior season at Jefferson High School in the fall of 2006, were asked to split time in the FSU offensive backfield and both responded in fine fashion.
Newman, who also played three seasons at point guard on the FSU basketball team, carried the football Saturday 10 times for 29 yards. He also caught five passes for 18 yards and defensively recorded four tackles and one pass breakup.
“Coach (Josh) Brown approached me and asked me if I wanted to play tailback and I told him I'd do anything I could to help the team,” said Newman. “It wasn't a hard decision for me. I just want to be there and do whatever I can for this team. If that meant playing tailback this week then so be it.
“To be honest I'm kinda feeling the after effects of going both ways right now, but getting a win like we did makes it all worth it. It was fun. It really was. Being back there in the backfield again and getting the ball was a good feeling. It was challenging, though. I had to learn the offense in like three days and still know what we were doing on defense against them. The bottom line, though, is I just wanted to step up for the team and I think I was able to do that.”
For Griffin the switch wasn't as difficult given the fact that he spent his first four years at Fairmont (including his redshirt season) playing offense. He carried the ball three times for seven yards in Saturday's victory, caught one pass and saw a wealth of action on special teams.
“It really wasn't a hard transition for me to go back to offense because I had just switched to playing defense this past spring,” said Griffin. “I was still pretty comfortable out there.
“I'll tell you, though, I was amazed with Ryland's performance. He literally had about three days to learn the offense and I thought he came out and played an amazing game given the circumstances. He got it done for us.
“You know we just did what was asked of us like anybody on this team would. We all came here to play football, not specific positions and if we can play more than one position and help out than that's a good thing. For me personally it's whatever I can do to get on the field. Heck, I'd play center if they needed me to.”
Both Monroe and Alford are expected to return to the FSU lineup this week for the Falcons' road game with the University of Charleston. Alexander, however, remains questionable.
Airing It Out
With Fairmont State's offensive backfield decimated by injuries, offensive coordinator Bryan Fisher turned to junior quarterback Bobby Vega and his receivers Saturday for production and they delivered in the 25-20 win over the Hilltoppers.
Vega threw the football a school-record 67 times and completed 34 to seven different receivers for an FSU career-high 361 yards and three touchdowns. His 361 passing yards ties him for the seventh-highest output in a game in school history. He also became the first Falcon quarterback other than Jarrod Furgason or Bryan Harman to throw for more than 338 yards in a single game.
Junior receiver Chris St. Hilaire enjoyed one of his most productive days in an FSU uniform Saturday. The 5-9, 175-pounder from Tallahassee, Fla. caught a career-high 12 passes for 123 yards and one touchdown.
“Honestly we lost a lot of great players due to injuries this week, but you can't let something like that stop you or hamper you no matter how much it hurts,” said St. Hilaire. “Give coach Fisher and the staff credit for coming up with a great game plan using a lot of short passes, mixed with some longs ones and some runs to try to keep us balanced. It worked pretty well.
“The receivers stepped up this week, but we can't take the credit for this win. It was a team effort. We can't catch the ball if Bobby doesn't get it to us. He did a terrific job of making reads and delivering the ball. Also, Bobby can't do his job if the offensive line doesn't do their job and for the most part they gave him great protection. All we had to do was catch it. As receivers we're kind of the last line on the food chain so to speak. Our job is pretty easy, but it definitely all starts with protection from the O-line and the right reads by Bobby.”
Defensively Fairmont turned in arguably its best outing of the season holding West Liberty to two offensive touchdowns and a season-low 161 total yards.
The longest West Liberty scoring drive of the game was a mere 39 yards. FSU held the Hilltoppers to just 16 yards rushing and sacked quarterback L.D. Crow four times. They also intercepted him twice.
“We have a lot of young kids on this team who because of injuries or whatever are being asked to step up and play key roles for us and they're doing it,” said FSU coach Mike Lopez. “I'm proud of those guys and I'm very proud of this team. They're giving us great effort every week. We're growing and how fast you grow really determines a lot.”