The Golden Rams nearly did the unnthinkable Saturday at Shippensburg-lose a game they once led by 24 points. To say the club completely fell asleep in the second half would not do justice to the pain those in attendance suffered through in the final 30 minutes. West Chester failed to establish any semblance of an offense in the second half, and all but stood on the sidelines defensively, as Shippensburg quarterback Gabe Maiocco led his team on three consecutive scoring drives to finish the third and open the fourth quarters.
Yet somehow, someway, West Chester survived and emerged victorious, winning 34-29 and improved their record to 3-1 in the process.
Getting a member of this team to admit to looking past Shippensburg to their arch nemesis Bloomsburg Huskies this coming Saturday would be like asking President George W. Bush to admit to mistakes being made in the Iraq war.
The reality is, that no matter how much they deny it, how often they tip toe around the issue, the Golden Rams have had this Saturday’s homecoming date with Bloomsburg circled in red since that disappointing November afternoon when 2006 came to a crashing halt.
The Huskies have beaten the Golden Rams three times in the past two seasons, including the aforementioned heartbreaking 21-20 defeat in the second round of the NCAA playoffs the Saturday after Thanksgiving. The last time West Chester managed to notch a victory against its division rivals to the west was 2004.
What was so different three years ago when WCU routed the Huskies 35-24? For one, that Golden Ram squad accomplished something that this year’s edition has hopes of attaining: a trip to the NCAA National Final Four.
And, oh yeah, that showdown against the Huskies happened to be played at Farrell Stadium.
This series has become more about who has home field advantage on a given Saturday, then about which team puts the most crooked numbers on the scoreboard. It’s been eight years since a visitor escaped the lion’s den of its opponent with a victory, and the Golden Rams did it in emphatic fashion, downing the Huskies 35-17 at Redman Stadium in 1999.
On Saturday, the Golden Rams have the unique opportunity not only to avenge last year’s playoff defeat, seize control of their own destiny in the PSAC East Race but also essentially end the Huskies, who are currently 2-2, season before the calendar turns to October.
“We owe them” sophomore linebacker Dell said. “We finally have them at our place, if we play our game and get a good turn out from students and alumni, we should be able to get a win.”
There is certainly no love lost between these teams, and the Golden Rams would like nothing more then to drive the first nail into the Huskies’ coffin.
However, if the Golden Rams have any thoughts of even winning this homecoming game on Saturday, the mistakes that have been so prevalent over the past two weeks must be eliminated. Or else, the pain felt by many Golden Ram backers in attendance at Shippensburg this past weekend might just linger for weeks and months to come.
Matt Lombardo hosts a weekly sports talk radio show on Saturdays from noon-2P.M. on 91.7 FM WCUR and is simulcast worldwide at www.wcur.fm