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Fake punt sparks Golden Eagles in shutout win

Chip Ellis
Charleston's John Knox (center) breaks through the line for a big gain during Saturday's win over Fairmont State.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- As if to signify that it would be a big day of efficiency, domination and fun, the University of Charleston offered a fake punt early in the second quarter and picked up 24 easy yards.

The Golden Eagles faced a fourth-and-7 at the Fairmont State 48-yard line and, after positioning themselves for what looked like an obvious punt, snapped the ball to the blocker, Zach Wellman.

Wellman, a linebacker, then scurried untouched through the right side and might have scored except for a tackle by the return man. As Wellman jogged off the field, UC coach Pat Kirkland greeted him, smiled and said good-naturedly, "You can't get tackled by the return man.''

The Golden Eagles scored on the next play and, from there, didn't allow Fairmont the faintest of hopes en route to a 45-0 victory Saturday afternoon at UC Stadium. A crowd of about 500 attended.

After Wellman's jaunt to the Fairmont 24, quarterback John Knox promptly hit Davon Henry in the end zone to not only give UC a 21-0 lead but apparently leave the Falcons reeling psychologically.

"I don't think we were ever in it mentally to begin with,'' said first-year Fairmont State coach Jason Woodman.

Wellman, a 6-foot, 230-pound junior and former Marshall walk-on, had never carried the ball as a collegian but led Spring Valley High School with 11 rushing touchdowns in 2009.

In his 24-yard carry on Saturday, he had plenty of help, he noted.

"It was all blocking. No one touched me,'' he said. "We had 'em outnumbered on the right side. Coach was just waiting for the right time to call it. I was trying to get in the end zone, but I did my job. I was happy with the first down.''

 Said Kirkland, "It was something we saw on film. We worked on it all week. I thought Zach Wellman did a great job of executing it. He made a nice cut and set up his blocks.''   

UC (6-4, 6-2 Mountain East Conference) totaled 439 yards of offense, including 311 on the ground, and did not allow the Falcons past midfield until they recovered a Golden Eagle fumble at the UC 48 late in the first half.

The Golden Eagles also picked up Torie Wagner's 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to open the second half. That made the score 33-0.

The Falcons (2-7, 1-7), who averaged 305 yards offensively through their first eight games, finished with just 141, including only 19 on 22 rushing attempts. They completed 15 of 29 passes for 122 yards. At halftime, they had just 52 total yards.

"It was probably the best full game we've played this season, just four quarters,'' said Kirkland. "That's special teams, offense, defense, I thought they did a nice job. We had some guys down, and so some of the young kids stepped up and did a great job.''

Sophomore quarterback John Knox, playing in place of the injured Maurice Leak, carried 16 times for 115 yards and hit 7 of 14 passes for 104 yards, including two TD throws to Henry. Before he suffered a leg injury early in the game, Leak connected with Knox on a 24-yard scoring pass to open the game.

Leak, a senior, is day-to-day with the season finale on Saturday at Urbana.  

"I felt bad for Maurice,'' said Kirkland. "It was senior day, and he's put in so much time, and he's dedicated a lot to this football program and I really wanted him to see him have a great day.''

Reach Mike Whiteford at mikewhiteford@wvgazette.com.


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