FAIRMONT, W.Va. – A wait that lasted 658 days finally ended on Thursday for Jason Woodman and the Fairmont State football program.
It’d been nearly two years since the Fighting Falcons last played a regular season football game.
After more than 600 days between games, and replacing nearly all starters on the offensive side of the ball, it’s no surprise that it was a slow start for Fairmont State, which trailed by thirteen heading into the locker room at halftime.
A kickoff return for a touchdown, and a beautiful pass to the back corner of the end zone by Connor Neal nearly erased the Falcons’ 20-point third quarter deficit.
California University of Pennsylvania proved to be the better team, fending off Fairmont State’s comeback attempt, and kicking a field goal in the fourth quarter that effectively put the game out of reach for Fairmont.
The Vulcans, behind Noah Mitchell’s 301 passing yards and a stout game defensively by the entire Cal U unit, defeated Fairmont State by a score of 23-14.
Neal, making his collegiate debut, looked good at times. A almost completely brand new offensive line, with very little collegiate experience, allowed Neal to be sacked five times in the game. When Neal had time, however, he made some excellent throws.
Neal completed the first pass of his collegiate career on the Falcons’ first series of the game. He later completed a 36-yard pass along the far sideline to Jeremiah Taylor that moved the Fairmont offense in a way it hadn’t to that point in the game.
A few plays later, the former Fairmont Senior Polar Bear Kennedy Award winner, floated a pass into the back-left corner of the end zone that Shawn Harris leaped up, grabbed, and was able to tap his left foot down in bounds for an exciting touchdown grab.
That touchdown pass pulled Fairmont State back to within six points, at 20-14.
Fairmont State first got on the board in an equally exciting way. Buster Griffin, a sophomore wide receiver, returned a third quarter kickoff 95 yards to the house for a touchdown.
Prior to the kickoff return by Griffin, Fairmont State trailed by 20.
California (PA) kicked a pair of field goals in the first half, and scored a touchdown on the ground courtesy of a two-yard touchdown run.
Cal U tallied 347 yards of total offense in the game. Fairmont State, meanwhile, was held to just 145 yards.
Neal finished his collegiate debut 9-of-19 passing for 103 yards.
Neither team was able to run the ball well, Thursday, as the Fighting Falcons managed just 42 yards rushing, while the Vulcans run for just 46 yards.
Fairmont State’s schedule doesn’t let up, as they begin conference play next Thursday on the road at the University of Charleston.