No. 25 ranked West Chester University (1-1, 0-0 PSAC) kicked off their season inside of John A. Farrell Stadium on Thursday, Sept. 7 with a 51-9 route of Bentley University (1-1), led by quarterback Paul Dooley, who went 12-15 for 183 yards and three touchdowns in the victory.
WCU put on a show for the 3,000 Golden Rams faithful in attendance, starting off their 2017 campaign with a dominant win over an opponent that they scrapped for a victory over last season. The 42-point margin of victory is the largest for West Chester since they smacked Lock Haven University by 43 points in their opener in 2007.
West Chester’s balanced yet explosive offensive attack led to 478 yards of total offense, 265 through the air and 213 via the ground.
Dooley connected with a host of receivers throughout the night, including Tyler Karpinski (six receptions, 80 yards, one touchdown), Jordan Banks (four receptions, 67 yards, one touchdown) and Rasheem James (two receptions, 68 yards, one touchdown).
Mark Dukes scampered for 82 yards and a touchdown on seven rushing attempts, and Jarel Elder picked up 68 yards and a touchdown on his 13 touches. Overall, WCU running backs collected 213 yards all together on the evening.
Bentley drew first blood via a field goal, but after that the Golden Rams ran ramped over the Falcons’ defense, getting whatever they wanted and exactly how they wanted it. WCU scored on six of their first eight possessions, with the last one being of the defensive variety as DE George Shipp returned a Falcons fumble for a touchdown.
West Chester edged Bentley in basically all statistical categories, as they won first downs (23-12), time of possession (34:40-25:20), and redzone conversions (3-2).
A.J. Long also made a cameo at quarterback, coming in to go 3-5 for 82 yards and one touchdown. Long looked to do most of his damage on the ground, using his athleticism and quickness to elude the Falcons’ defense.
Long finished the night with 11 rushes, but only managed to rack up eight yards due to a loss of 31 yards on those attempts.
When speaking to a representative for West Chester University’s athletic website after the win, head coach Bill Zwaan called the outing “a total team effort both offensively and defensively.”
Those that stuck around after the game were treated to fireworks, but the most impressive sparks that night came from West Chester, who set the tone for what they hope is a championship-christened season with a dominant win over Bentley.
West Chester then ventured to Slippery Rock University (2-0) to take on The Rock in another non-conference clash. Despite being down big, the Golden Rams mounted two valiant comeback efforts, but still fell short despite their push.
WCU cut into a 14 point first half deficit, and then carved into a 21-point second half deficit, but still couldn’t walk away from Slippery Rock with a win and a perfect 2-0 record.
It appeared as if the Golden Rams had captured the momentum when they knotted things up at 42 apiece with 6:42 left in the final frame, but The Rock responded with a nineplay, 81 yard drive to avoid blowing their huge lead.
Marcus Johnson proved to be the star for Slippery Rock, as he scored three touchdowns on the afternoon. One of Johnson’s touchdowns was a 96 yard kickoff return and he also ran pack a punt for 47 yards. His last score of the day came through the air, as he hauled in a 37 yard touchdown pass from Tanner Garry.
Garry had a strong showing, finishing the game with 304 yards and four touchdowns on 16-29. Dooley held his own as well, as he went 19-38 for 261 yards and three touchdowns. Dooley was mistake free in terms of turnovers on the day, in contrast to Garry who threw two interceptions.
Elder ended the loss with 148 yards and three touchdowns on 25 carries, leading the rushing department on the day.
Karpinski and James were Dooley’s favorite targets on the day, as Karpinski finished with five receptions, 107 yards and one touchdown, and James grabbing seven passes for 95 yards and two touchdowns.
Despite the loss, most major metrics tilted in WCU’s favor, including first downs (25-19), total rushing yards (237-90), total yards (498-394) and time of possession (35:58-24:02).
WCU won’t be thrilled that they had to expend copious amounts of energy to get the score back within striking distance, but they can find solace in the fact they performed at an optimal level offensively, something they hope continues to carry over into next week.
West Chester will return home this Saturday, Sept. 16 to take on Edinboro University (2-0) at 12 p.m. The Golden Rams will be celebrating Family Day, so be sure to invite your relatives to check out some WCU Football action. After their game against Edinboro, WCU will open conference play as they travel to Lock Haven University.
B.J. Boyer is a third-year student majoring in communications. He can be reached at WB806695@wcupa.edu.