SHIPPENSBURG, Pa. — And then a quickly formed rain storm sent its unwelcomed contents at the Shepherd football team.
The fourth-quarter rain was only the last of in a series of troubles that visited the Rams as they opened the 2012 football season with an uncomfortable and un-Shepherd-like, 38-28, loss to the Red Raiders.
When the rain came, Shepherd already trailed by three points. The game’s tide had already turned firmly in favor of Shippensburg. And when the last of two special teams’ fumbled returns was recovered by the eager Red Raiders, the afternoon was doomed for the Rams.
In losing by 10 points in the so-called Great Valley Classic, Shepherd had a seven-game win streak against its Pennsylvania neighbors snapped.
To find another Shepherd game with so many unusual happenings harming the Rams would take much research and hours of diligent work.
The Rams fell to a Shippensburg comeback that had the offensive-minded Red Raiders score the game’s last 24 points.
Quarterback Zach Zulli completed 26 passes and had four touchdown throws as he riddled the Rams on short, intermediate, and long completions that went for a combined 392 yards.
Even when they were carrying a 14-point, first-half lead, the Rams were at times being immobilized by a string of penalties. When the indigestible loss was complete, Shepherd had been penalized 10 times for 111 yards.
But when was the last time any Shepherd team could rush for only 48 yards? Finding that answer might take researchers back to the days of Coach John Newcome or even A. D. Kenamond in 1920 or Withrow Legge in 1923.
Even when it had a 28-14 lead, finding running yardage was becoming more and more difficult.
When the second half opened with the Rams still in front(28-17), even the pass protection for quarterback Bobby Copper was slowly eroding. Cooper began releasing his throws more quickly. And with less success. And Shepherd would not score at all in the second half.
Both sides had their special teams be responsible for important mistakes and important scoring opportunities.
Shepherd’s Corey Washington tackled Shippensburg punter Nate Schmidt for a loss as Schmidt’s planned run on his team’s first series was turned into the Rams’ first points after a 26-yard drive.
Dom Dixon blocked a short Shippensburg field goal try. D. J. Scott had a 95-yard kickoff return that set up Shepherd’s third score.
Washington partially blocked a Schmidt punt that set in motion a 38-yard drive to Shepherd’s final points.
But Keon Robinson fumbled away a return and so did Scott. Scott’s came when the rain was falling in the last period. Counting another lost fumble and the Rams had three turnovers and the Red Raiders had none.
Neither side lost an interception.
Shepherd once led by 14 points. It could not score in the second half. And the Rams could never establish any sort of Shepherd-trademark run.