BUCKHANNON -- West Virginia Wesleyan's defensive gameplan was darn near perfect against Fairmont State quarterback Bryan Harman Saturday at Cebe Ross Field.
Well, for one half anyway.
The Bobcats kept Harman in the pocket, limited his opportunities and left the field at intermission with a 10-6 lead. But Harman rallied the Falcons for three second half touchdowns and a 27-17 victory over their West Virginia Conference rivals.
The win evened FSC's record at 3-3 overall and 2-2 in the league. Wesleyan fell to 1-5 overall and 1-3 in league play.
Harman gave credit to Wesleyan's defense, which kept the Falcon offense out-of-sync most of the first half.
"They really screwed up our timing," Harman, who ended the day with 288 yards on 26-of-45 passing, said. "They forced me to step up in the pocket and that made most of my throws too late or I'd rush and they'd be too early."
Still, Harman accounted for all of the yardage in the Falcons' lone touchdown drive of the half, a four-play, 33-yard march which he capped with a 10-yard pass to wideout Todd Anderson with 14:48 remaining in the first half. His 13-yard scramble was a key play in the drive.
This gave FSC a 6-3 lead.
But the Bobcats came back to take the lead just before the intermission with an eight-play, 40-yard march capped by Chris Cormier's 18-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Andrew Silva with 1:10 left before halftime.
Ironically, it came on a fourth-and-four play. Earlier, Cormier hooked up with tight end Josh Westfall on a fourth-and-one play to keep the drive alive.
"We really felt good about things at halftime," Wesleyan coach Bill Struble said. "We wanted to do two things.
"Keep Harman in the pocket and possess the football and we had done that. I think we had the ball nearly 18 minutes in the first half."
But the Falcons found a soft spot in the Wesleyan defense in the third quarter and exploited it with draw plays to speedy tailback Khalil Anthony.
Fairmont struck quickly on its second possession of the half, covering 52 yards in three plays. Anthony had back-to-back runs of 13 and 30 yards, the final for a touchdown with 9:46 remaining in the third period.
After forcing a Wesleyan punt, a 26-yard pass from Harman to Devin Nickerson gave FSC a first down at the Bobcat 25. Three plays later, Anthony burst through the Wesleyan line again for a 15-yard touchdown.
This made it 20-10 with 7:09 remaining in the third period.
The Bobcats responded with their best drive of the game, a 10-play, 77-yarder that was capped by Cormier's 16-yard pass to Richard Shinners. This made it 20-17 with 2:01 left in the quarter.
Wesleyan drove to the Fairmont 24 on its next possession, but a holding penalty stalled the drive and punter Barton Chasler pinned the Falcons at their own three with a 30-yard punt.
But Harman came out firing, hitting Anderson for 41 yards down the right sidelines. This was the start of an 11-play, 97-yard march that was capped when Harman and Nickerson hooked up for a two-yard scoring pass with 8:54 to play.
"That long pass was the play of the game," FSC coach Doug Sams said. "They had done a good job of containing Bryan from the outside-in.
"But Bryan gunned it in there on that play and Todd made a great catch."
Added Harman, "I couldn't believe Mike (offensive coordinator Mike Kellar) called that play down there. I threw it a bit too far but Todd made a great diving catch."
Anderson ended the day with eight receptions for 123 yards while Anthony had 89 yards on just seven rushes to lead the Falcon ground game.
Cormier was 19 of 38 for 218 yards with Silva latching on to nine of those completions for 149 yards. Duriel Cobb led the Wesleyan ground attack with 77 yards on 24 carries while fullback Luke Struble added 50 yards on eight attempts.
"I was proud of the way my kids played out there today," Struble said. "We're just a play here and play there from getting it done."
Sports writer Greg Talkington can be reached at 626-1444 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org