West Virginia State’s football team hasn’t gotten off to an ideal start this season, as the Yellow Jackets dropped their first two games against Shippensburg and Frostburg State.
WVSU is looking to turn things around on the road against Fairmont State at 1 p.m. Saturday.
In the Yellow Jackets’ loss to Frostburg last week, Falcons quarterback Graham Walker threw for three first-half touchdowns, completing 9 of 14 passes for 193 yards to help the Falcons down State 34-21.
“Too many big mistakes,” WVSU coach John Pennington said. “If you look at the stats, we outgained them, had more first downs, we didn’t turn the ball over on offense, we got a turnover on defense. Those things usually lead to a victory but we gave up some big plays. Offensively, we’re just not getting enough points on the board.
“I love how our guys fought and battled to the end and the sideline was great, their energy was great. Such a mentally tough group. They’re unfazed. They keep fighting and keep scrapping. That’s a sign of a great football team but we have to execute better.”
State quarterback Donovan Riddick was given some trouble by Frostburg State’s defensive line as he was sacked six times for losses totaling 48 yards.
“Frostburg has one of the best D-lines, if not the best in the country, I think,” Pennington said. “We knew that was going to be an issue. I thought our tackles did a great job.”
Riddick showed resilience, though, as he finished the game 14 of 27 passing for 199 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed 16 times for 22 yards and a touchdown.
“[Donovan] took some shots [downfield] and he stood in there and stared down the gun barrel and made some big time throws, he ran the ball in,” Pennington said. “Just a gutsy performance. Still we missed on some deep balls where guys were open. That happens.”
Looking forward, Fairmont (0-2) is a team that has struggled equally, losing to California (Pennsylvania) and Charleston to start its season.
One Falcon to watch is wide receiver Shawn Harris. He’s caught six passes for 62 yards and two touchdowns so far this season. Quarterback Connor Neal has completed 21 of his 44 pass attempts for 220 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions. Neal has been sacked 10 times in two games.
“They’re talented, they’ve played two really good teams,” Pennington said. “Their offense is struggling to put points on the board but I think a lot of that is they’re playing two really good defenses. Their defense looks good.”