The season hasn’t started the way the West Chester University Golden Rams (0-3) had imagined. After last week’s heartbreaking loss in the home opener, the Golden Rams took to the road for another PSAC cross-over matchup with Slippery Rock University (3-0) and fell in another heartbreaker 33-27 in overtime. The Golden Rams never trailed in the game until overtime.”There is no question this is a tough loss,” head coach Bill Zwaan said. “I thought we did some better things and I thought we could have won the game, no question about that.”
In the first two games of the season, it was the West Chester offense that struggled, but in this matchup with Slippery Rock, the defense struggled mightily, especially against the run. The Golden Rams were also called for eight penalties, most of which occurred at crucial times, for 62 yards compared to 18 yards of penalties for Slippery Rock.
“We’re a good football team, but not a good enough football team to overcome all that kind of stuff,” Zwaan said of the penalties.
Sophomore quarterback Mike Mattei had his best game of the 2010 season so far. Mattei finished 13-24 for 222 yards and one touchdown without turning the ball over. Just like last week, the West Chester offense outgained the opposition 422 yards to 344 yards on offense.
“I think all-in-all, running and throwing the ball, this is by far the best we’ve played offensively,” junior running back Jackson Fagan said.
“Definitely game by game I am getting more comfortable,” Mattei said. “I just have to play confident and I think I’ll be alright.”
The difference in the game was Slippery Rock running back Akeem Satterfield. The sophomore entered the game in the second quarter for Slippery Rock and dashed through the Golden Rams defense for 192 yards (7.4 yards per carry) and three touchdowns. The West Chester defense, which led the PSAC in rushing yards allowed per game last year, surrendered 209 yards on the ground.
“Our defense had a little struggle against the run late in the game,” Zwaan said. “You have to give credit to [Slippery Rock]. They found what they needed to find and it ended up working for them.”
The Golden Rams got on the board first as senior running back D’Andre Webb finished off a 14-play, 72-yard drive with a four-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. Late in the first half, Mattei hooked up with senior wide receiver Dan DePalma for a 27-yard touchdown pass to end a 10-play, 76-yard drive and to extend the West Chester lead to 14-3.
Unfortunately for the Golden Rams, every time they put points on the board, Slippery Rock answered right back. Slippery Rock quarterback Ryan Sabo found tight end Josh Gardner for a four-yard touchdown pass with 49 seconds left in the half to cut the West Chester lead to 14-10.
In the third quarter, Satterfield took over. The Slippery Rock tailback scampered down the field for 43 yards to open up the running game for Slippery Rock. Late in the quarter, Satterfield tied the game at 17 with an 11-yard touchdown run.
The Golden Rams answered back four plays later when junior fullback Brian McDermott plowed his way into the end zone for a two-yard touchdown run to help West Chester take a 24-17 lead. Fagan set it up a couple plays earlier when he took a screen pass from Mattei and scampered down the left sideline for 63 yards to get deep into Slippery Rock territory.
“I caught the ball, turned around and somebody made a nice block on two guys and it pretty much opened up to go straight ahead,” Fagan said.
The lead was short lived as Satterfield scored his second touchdown of the game five and a half minutes later from six yards out.
On their next offensive possession, the Golden Rams couldn’t get into the end zone but with less than three minutes to go in the fourth quarter, redshirt freshman kicker Shawn Leo, who nearly made a 50-yard field goal to end the first half, booted a 20-yard field goal for his second made field goal of the game to give West Chester a 27-24 lead.
“There is always that temptation,” Zwaan said about going for it on fourth down close to the end zone. “I just felt like we had to get ahead. I thought that was the important thing there.”
Slippery Rock answered right back as C.J. Bahr booted a 47-yard field goal with 31 seconds left in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 27.
In the overtime period, West Chester went on defense first and Slippery Rock had the perfect recipe to get into the end zone – hand the ball to Satterfield. A couple plays into overtime, Satterfield scored his third touchdown of the game from eight yards out to give Slippery Rock their first lead of the game. Fortunately for the Golden Rams, redshirt freshman defensive tackle Nick Garcia tipped the point after attempt, which hit off the right upright.
“You’re looking for that one play to turn [the game] your way,” Zwaan said. “And I thought that was going to be the one to turn it our way.”
West Chester had an opportunity to come-from-behind and win their first game of the season, but unfortunately for the Golden Rams, they couldn’t get the ball into the end zone one final time. The big play in their final offensive possession was a Fagan fumble that pushed the ball from the 10-yard line back to Slippery Rock’s 20-yard line. On the final play of the game, Mattei couldn’t connect with freshman wide receiver LaRonn Lee.
“The corner came in and I thought he was blocked but he snuck a hand out and knocked it right on the ball,” Fagan said of the fumble. “I am never going to forget about that for the rest of the season. I’ll tell you what, I am going to be the hardest working running back in this league because of that.”
“Mike tried to check to a different play,” Zwaan said. “It was really loud and not everyone got in, unfortunately. We have freshman out there and sometimes freshmen are going to make mistakes.”
Fagan finished with a team-high 75 yards rushing and had 138 yards of total offense. DePalma finished with a game-high 89 yards receiving and one touchdown. On defense, senior strong safety Cedric Jeffries (10 tackles), senior inside linebacker Morty Hoey (nine tackles) and senior defensive end Troy Wasserleben (eight tackles) led the way.
Sabo finished 12-15 for 135 yards and one touchdown. Wide receiver Devin Goda led Slippery Rock with seven receptions for 76 yards. Andre Freeman had a game-high 13 tackles.
Next week, West Chester opens up PSAC East play as they travel to East Stroudsburg University for a 1 p.m. kickoff against the Warriors.
LJ Harrell is a graduate student majoring in communication studies. He can be reached at LH639694@wcupa.edu.