UC bounces back, beats Fairmont State 30-10
CHARLESTON -- The safety the University of Charleston scored late in the second quarter was more than just happenstance. It was by design.
The Golden Eagles added a touchdown 18 seconds later and, from there, more big plays followed, a school record fell and a freshman quarterback distinguished himself as a worthy backup.
The defense, meanwhile, contributed by not allowing Fairmont State's offense inside the Golden Eagle 14, and UC defeated the Falcons 30-10 Saturday afternoon at UC Stadium. A crowd of about 500 attended.
Equally important, the Golden Eagles (4-1) recovered from last week's 16-10 loss to Shepherd - a loss that snapped a seven-game winning streak that began last year and elevated UC to conference contender.
"This game taught us how to bounce back,'' said quarterback John Knox, a redshirt freshman from Salisbury, N.C. "We needed this game. We lost to Shepherd, but we're trying to win out.''
Knox, who's filling in for the injured Maurice Leak, threw a 56-yard touchdown pass to Chris Maxwell on the Golden Eagles' first possession and hit Darrell Byrd on a 55-yard TD pass late in the third quarter, giving UC a 30-10 advantage and virtually sealing the victory.
Knox, who also scored on a 1-yard run, completed 10 of 18 passes for 172 yards with one interception and rushed 15 times for 93 yards, including a 71-yarder to the Fairmont 20.
"He continues to improve and get better,'' said UC coach Pat Kirkland. "He's been put in a role where he has to lead this offense, and he's handling that.''
Leak, a junior, wore a protective boot Saturday for his sprained ankle, and his status, said Kirkland, is still up in the air.
Saturday's game was competitive, tied at 7-7 in the second quarter, until running back Jordan Roberts, playing on the special-teams unit, blocked a Fairmont punt out of the end zone for a safety.
With the Falcons punting out of their end zone, the Golden Eagles knew they had a chance for a block.
"We thought we had an opportunity to go after it,'' said Kirkland. "It was something that [UC assistant] Coach [George] Shehl worked on all week, and he felt good about it, and he called it, and the guys executed.''
On the second play after Fairmont's ensuing kickoff, Roberts broke free on a 45-yard touchdown run, breaking assorted tackles along the way, to give UC a 16-7 edge and move him closer to a school record.
Roberts, a senior from Madison, rushed 24 times for 148 yards to break DaRante Hunter's career rushing mark of 2,292 yards. Roberts' total stands at 2,338 with six games to go.
UC, which entered the game ranked eighth in West Virginia Conference total defense with a 443.5 per-game average, permitted just one serious Fairmont threat.
The Falcons (1-4), who defeated West Liberty last week, drove to the UC 14 in the third quarter but settled for a 31-yard Johnny Dearstine field goal.
The Falcons scored their only TD on Ryland Newman's 38-yard punt return in the first quarter and finished with just 229 yards of offense.
The Golden Eagles led 16-7 at halftime and scored on their first possession of the second half, a 16-play, 68-yard drive capped by Knox's 1-yard run.
"They're in full swing,'' said Fairmont coach Mike Lopez. "I give all the credit to Pat and George. I know those guys pretty well, and they do a great job. I hope they continue to do well. Internally, we've got a great group of guys. The guys are really playing hard and giving us all they've got. It just wasn't enough today. We had some costly mistakes, and we're just continuing to grow up.''
Reach Mike Whiteford at firstname.lastname@example.org.