By Jordan Nicewarner, Panhandle News Network Sports
One of the biggest questions in Division 2 football from last week was if Shepherd could win without Bagent.
Well, they can.
It might not have been the prettiest win but a 27-26 win over Southern Connecticut State University at home to open up the season still counts all the same.
Let’s address some of the other questions about the Rams going into week 1:
- Are the Rams really as good on defense as they were hyped up to be? – Well, that is somewhat still to be determined. The Rams defense gave up 300 yards of offense in 56 plays. The defensive front did a decent job of stopping the run and did a great job keeping SCSU Quarterback Keith Ridley uncomfortable in the pocket. They were missing a major piece in the middle with linebacker Dewayne Grantham out for the game, but sophomore JT Kouame-Yao stepped up in a big way leading the team in tackles with 12 total.
The secondary looked stout coming up from the second level and stopping the run with Sophomore’s Omari Terry and Donte Harrison but the secondary as a whole looked a little out of synch in pass coverage giving up 266 yards and a touchdown. All in all, I’d give the Defense a C grade for week 1
- Will Seth Morgan be able to fill the spot that Tyson Bagent left behind? – Team 94 led by senior transfer Seth Morgan is going to look a little different than years past. We saw a lot of the same plays and schemes made popular with Bagent, but Morgan isn’t Bagent. We saw that Morgan has the big arm, connecting with Jeremiah Taylor downfield a few times. What I believe to expect from Morgan and the Rams offense will be sustained drive eating up clock and working station to station downfield and not the “big play ever drive” fans have come to expect. I’d give Seth Morgan a B+ on the day thanks to his fourth-quarter game-winning drive.
- Will Shepherd be able to run the ball? – redshirt Junior Malaki Brown looked more than capable Saturday rushing for 94 yards and a touchdown. He looked reminiscent of Ronnie Brown last season, able to take his time finding a running lane up the middle and having the burst to beat defenders around the corner. Overall, Brown gets an A on his game last week.
- Can Shepherd’s offensive line protect Morgan? – SCSU, I think, was a little undersold going into last week. Their defensive line was more athletic than I previously anticipated, but the Shepherd O-Line did a decent job of keeping Morgan clean, giving up only two sacks that can be partly attributed to the coverage downfield. With the first test of EPAC play coming this week, we should start to get a real feel for how this unit works. For the O-Line, I’d give a B+ grade.
One other big takeaway for me last week was how good the special teams play was for Shepherd. It’s hard to miss the 86-yard punt return that gave the Rams the momentum to win later on. But what I want to focus on is the punting from redshirt Junior Ryan Barrick. When the offense was struggling to find something that stuck, Barrick was able to flip the field time and again to give the defense a shot. Out of five punts, Barrick covered 196 yards, averaging 40 yards per punt. He repeatedly put SCSU’s offense in a hole and set the defense up for success. The entire special teams unit gets an A+.
It was a nervy start to the season, but a win is a win and I think this Rams team will settle into still being a team contending for a PSAC title.
.@SURamsFootball took the week 1 win 27-26 over SCSU! Listen back to the radio highlights from @RadioNice_ heard only on your radio home for the Shepherd Rams, 95.9 The Big Dawg #D2FB@_sethmorgan_ @JTABeast5
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— Panhandle Sports Live! – Panhandle News Network (@EPSportsNetwork) September 2, 2023
Shepherd hit the road to play Edinboro Saturday, September 9th at Noon. Tune into the Rams Pregame Show starting at 11am on 95.9 The Big Dawg