By Duane Cochran
Times West Virginian
BOWIE, Md. —
With 11:46 left to play Saturday afternoon here at Bulldogs Stadium, Fairmont State University’s football team appeared to be well on its way to its first victory of the 2012 season.
Bowie State, however, proved appearances can be deceiving.
The unbeaten Bulldogs (3-0) thrilled their fans and shocked the Falcons by scoring 24 unanswered points, including 17 in the final 11 minutes of regulation and seven in overtime to record a wild 24-17 come-from-behind victory over winless FSU.
“Hats off to Bowie,” said FSU senior linebacker Daniel Strosnider, who finished with seven tackles, including a sack in the loss. “They stayed the course, made the plays that they had to down the stretch and finished the game. We didn’t finish, plain and simple. We’ve got to be able to finish games. We definitely learned that lesson today.”
After Bowie State rallied to tie the game at 17 with 2:15 remaining, Fairmont had a golden opportunity to end it in regulation but couldn’t covert on it.
The Falcons quickly marched 63 yards in five plays thanks to a 20-yard run by tailback Daniel Monroe, who finished with 112 rushing yards on 18 attempts, and a 44-yard pass completion from quarterback Bobby Vega to wide out Mark Sampson, which took the ball to the Bulldogs’ 10. Two plays later, however, on the final play of regulation, FSU true freshman kicker Johnny Dearstine, who had made a 22-yarder in the first half and missed a 38-yarder early in the fourth quarter, was wide right on a potential game-winner from 29 yards out.
In overtime, Bowie had the football first and overcame three big penalties to take its first lead of the game at 24-17 on a 12-yard swing pass from backup quarterback Tyrae Reid to running back Corwin Acker. Acker, a transfer from James Madison University, caught six passes for 59 yards and a pair of touchdown passes in the victory and rushed for 105 yards on 26 carries.
On Fairmont’s opportunity in overtime the Falcons quickly got a first down at the BSU 10 on a 15-yard completion from Vega to backup tight end C.J. Sanders. However, three passes to the end zone, sandwiched around a run for zero yards, fell incomplete and Bowie escaped with the win.
The loss drops FSU to 0-3 for the first time since 2009.
With Fairmont nursing a 3-0 advantage late in the third quarter, Falcon cornerbacks Scott Davidson and Ryland Newman combined to make what looked like it was going to be the play of the game when Davidson blocked Bowie’s 41-yard field goal attempt and Newman scooped up the ball and outraced everyone to the end zone to make it 10-0 with 3:39 left to play in the quarter.
“They were driving on us there and we only had the 3-0 lead and our mentality was bend, but don’t break,” said Davidson, who finished with seven tackles and an interception that helped lead to another FSU TD. “We held them to a fourth down and they lined up for a tying field goal and I just looked at the team and said, ‘If we can block this we can take it back and put some points on the board.’ On that play everybody just laid it on the line and went after it and it turned out exactly how we wanted it to.
“After I blocked it I was looking for the ball and couldn’t find it and the next thing I knew Ryland had it in his hands, broke a tackle attempt and was off. I was so happy. He’s a player who can make plays when the ball’s in his hands.”
The blocked kick return for a TD was the first of that kind for Newman, who has returned three interceptions and two punts for touchdowns during his FSU career.
“Give Scotty the credit for that play. If he hadn’t blocked it, I could have never gotten the return,” Newman said. “It was just lying there and I picked it up and took off. I felt really good about scoring there because we needed a lift of some kind at that point. We were only up 3-0 and we needed points.
“Later Scotty got a pick for us, which led to another touchdown and a 17-0 lead, but give Bowie credit. They never quit. They made the plays they had to at the end and showed the game is a 60-minute one.”
Early in the fourth quarter Davidson picked off a Bowie pass and returned it 10 yards to the Bulldogs’ 42. After an offsides penalty on BSU, Monroe ripped off a nifty 33-yard run to take the ball to the four and two plays later Vega connected with running back Collin Alford on a three-yard scoring pass to make it 17-0 with 11:46 remaining. Vega finished 14-of-27 for 175 yards and one TD. He was intercepted twice.
Instead of folding, though, Bowie swiftly struck back, scoring on its next three possessions to knot the game at 17 with just 2:15 left to play. Reid, the catalyst for the Bowie comeback, connected on 23-of-38 passes for 329 yards and three touchdowns. He threw scoring passes of 12 yards and 31 yards for the Bulldogs in the fourth quarter.
“My objective is to keep the guys positive and to keep them working,” said FSU coach Mike Lopez. “This is a test of character for us. We’ve got to maintain our poise and our character and continue to grow as human beings.”
FSU returns to action Saturday when it opens its home schedule in a 1 p.m. game against West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference rival West Liberty University at Duvall-Rosier Field.