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Bluefield Rams look for initial win in Kentucky

One week after Bluefield (0-5, 0-2) traveled nine hours to lose at Bethel 56-28, the Rams will cut that trip in half with a 4 1/2 hour voyage to Union, Ky., on Friday, with kickoff slated on Saturday for noon.

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

September 29, 2012

Original content provided by Brian Woodson of the Bluefield Daily Telegraph

 

BLUEFIELD — Opponents of Bluefield College have averaged 52 points a game against the Rams through five games.

 

Union (2-2, 0-1) has scored a total of 59 points in four games, but they have won two of them behind a stingy defense. The Bulldogs have already equaled last year’s win total, having finished 2-9 in 2011.

 

“They run a little bit different defense than we have seen the last two weeks,” Bluefield College head coach Mike Gravier said. “They are a 30-stack team, kind of like West Virginia’s old defense, and they are pretty aggressive with it.

 

“They play a good bit of man coverage, they will blitz just about every play sending that fourth person. Their defense has really allowed them to win a couple of ball games.”

 

One week after Bluefield (0-5, 0-2) traveled nine hours to lose at Bethel 56-28, the Rams will cut that trip in half with a 4 1/2 hour voyage to Union, Ky., on Friday, with kickoff slated on Saturday for noon.

 

Gravier was fairly pleased with Bluefield’s overall play last week at Bethel in at least two aspects, with Greg Hampton throwing for 201 yards and three touchdowns.

 

“We did better offensively, the second half we scored three touchdowns which is the first time we have scored that many points in the second half,” Gravier said. “We scored every time we were in the red zone which is a positive, and our special teams were much better as well so two phases got better.”

 

Yet, it was the defense that was torched by the Wildcats. While Cordarious Mann had 121 yards and two scores, it was quarterback Will Masoud who completed 24-of-28 passes for 300 yards and six touchdowns.

 

“The defense, which had been playing pretty well, ran into a quarterback that had a career day, he was 24 for 28 and two of his incompletions were drops,” Gravier said. “We kind of went into that game thinking we would make them throw the ball because the running game was their strength and he has a career day, it was bad timing on our part.”

 

Up next is Union, which has been led on offense by Mike Brinkley, the Bulldogs’ all-time leading passer, who has thrown for 776 yards, five touchdowns and five interceptions. His favorite targets are Tyler Ross (10-176) and Domonique Jefferson (9-241). Rob Brown leads the Bulldogs with 355 yards on the ground.

 

Yet, they’ve struggled scoring points, winning 14-13 after blocking a late field goal attempt by Campbellsville and defeated Webber International 10-7 last week, with the Bulldogs having the advantage in yards 342-153, but needing a 15-second spurt in the third quarter to score their 10 points.

 

Union has lost to Lindsey Wilson (36-21) and Cumberland, Tenn. (48-14).

 

“They haven’t put up a lot of points so we are hoping we can keep that trend going,” Gravier said. “They have a pretty quick little running back and they try to throw the ball.

 

“They are pretty multiple in what they are trying to do offensively. They are kind of like us, they just haven’t had a lot of success with it yet.”

 

Defensively, the Tommy Reid-coached Bulldogs are paced by Zach Engler with 32 tackles and Isiah Anderson, who has 17 stops, 2 1/2 for loss and one sack.

 

“I think we have got some schemes that we can move the ball on them,” said Gravier, whose Rams had just one turnover at Bethel. “We were much better last week at protecting the football...

 

“If we can do that and our special teams can be solid again, I know our defense is going to rise up. That was kind of an anomaly, they have been playing well and will continue to do so. If that third piece can fall into place for us, I think we have just as good a chance to win it as they do.”

 

Hampton continues to lead Bluefield on offense, having completed 50.8 percent of his passes for 669 yards, seven touchdowns and five picks. Twelve different receivers have caught passes, led by Rodrell Smith (21-238, 4 td, 18th in total receptions in NAIA), Michael Nesmith (14-154, 1 td) and PikeView product Joel Calfee (11-121, 1 td). Josh Wells (81-230, 1 td) and Marion Harris (33-137, 1 td) pace the Rams on the ground.

 

Harris is first in NAIA Division I with 417 kick return yards. Mikel Hawks is tops in field goal (1-1) and extra point percentage (12-12).

 

Gravier, who also serves as offensive coordinator, was able to win the chest match with the opposing coaches at times last week against Bethel, but not often enough.

 

“We were fortunate to call plays where you call a play and you hope they play a particular defense and we fell into that on two (touchdowns) for sure...,” said Gravier, who has a pair of players questionable for Saturday, including Bland County product Dylan Kidd (muscle pull) and Keith Dunn (hip pointer), the long snapper from Graham. “As a coach you hope you guess right and as a coach you hope the players execute properly.

 

“If they both don’t go hand in hand, you are not going to be successful... It is a little bit of a chest match, and you are trying to figure out what they are thinking.”

 

The same goes on defense, where the Rams have been led by Tarrell Starkey, who has 54 tackles, including seven for negative yardage. He is 14th in total tackles in NAIA and 18th in tackles per game (10.80).

 

Anthony Herring has 37 tackles, while Wesley Washington has 24 stops, and 4 1/2 for loss. Anthony Rivers is rank fourth in the nation with three interceptions for Bluefield.

 

Bluefield will return to Mitchell Stadium to face the University of Virginia’s College at Wise next Saturday in the Rams’ first night game of the season.

 

Gravier would love to return from Kentucky with the program’s first win since Bluefield defeated Rio Grande (Ohio) 30-7 in November of 1941.

 

“We’re trying to keep them together,” Gravier said. “They are continuing to work hard, and we just keep telling them to stick together because our day is going to come.”

 

—Contact Brian Woodson at

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