Dervon Wallace. Dalevon Smith. Damian Beane. Tailwind Tommy Addison.
All breakaway runners for past Shepherd football teams. All capable of long-distance touchdown runs at any time and any place on the field.
And now the Rams have none of those type of “home run hitters”. No real breakaway types. And the Rams haven’t been able to do much running this season.
Without a 350-yard passing game each week, Shepherd has not scored much in its last two games — but both were wins. And both were provided by big-play special teams and a defense that also has made momentum-turning contributions.
The tone has been set. Shepherd’s opponents have searched through game films of the Rams and they haven’t found any team that has successfully run against the WVIAC leaders.
So, when Shepherd takes the field it sees 45 . . . 55 . . . or even 60 passes tried against its Corey Washington-less secondary, Washington being injured in the early-season win over American International.
Nothing will change this week when West Virginia Wesleyan is at Ram Stadium for its 12-noon conference game against the league-leading Rams.
The Bobcats finished both the 2010 and 2011 seasons with 9-2 overall records. So far this season they are 2-3 after winning over Seton Hill and Urbana in their last two games.
The season started on a very poor note when Millersville got its only win of the 2012 season with a 41-17 taming of the Bobcats. Next in line came a 27-16 loss to Bentley, a Massachustetts-based team in the Northeast-10 Conference. The third consecutive loss to begin the Bobcat season was a 33-16 defeat handed them by conference rival West Liberty.
A transfer from the University of Montana is the Bobcat quarterback. And since he is the son of famous quarterback Joe Montana he gets much of West Virginia Wesleyan’s newspaper space.
Nate Montana is a senior. At 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, he is much larger than his Super Bowl-winning father.
Last week against Urbana, the Bobcats threw 61 passes and completed 31. Montana was 27-for-56 for 341 yards. He had three touchdown passes and one interception. But the team had only 66 yards rushing on 29 attempts.
Every week, Shepherd readies for an all-out pass attack against its defense. Any team that “only” gets 300 yards through the air is almost assuredly going to lose.
With four straight wins coming on the heels of a season-opening, non-conference loss to unbeaten and nationally ranked Shippensburg, the Rams have surfaced at the top of the WVIAC standings with a 3-0 league record. The other win came at home in the season’s second week against American International, a team that has not lost since dropping a 34-7 decision to the Rams.
The other three Shepherd wins have come against Seton Hill, Charleston, and Concord.
Shepherd has given first-year running backs Allen Cross and Marcus Smoot a number of carries when they come in to replace starter Mike Haynes.
But there are no Wallaces, Beanes, Smiths, or even Addisons on this 2012 team.
A defense that may allow streams of passing yardage, but not many points. Secondary players who make interceptions and then run them back for touchdowns. Special teams that block field goal attempts, block extra point attempts, block punts.
Special teams that turn games decidedly in Shepherd’s favor.
And this weekend comes another opponent whose anchor is its passing offense.
How many passes will Montana and the Bobcats launch? How many will Shepherd steal? And will youngsters Cross and Smoot join with Haynes to give the Rams a useful ground game?