State's last gasp comes up short vs. Glenville
INSTITUTE, W.Va. -- Finally, in a season that had been both winless and virtually devoid of highlight-reel plays, West Virginia State pulled off a jewel.
It was, in fact, the Yellow Jackets' final play of the year, a 54-yard pass from Tyler Seals to Shanin Bennefield that moved the ball to the Glenville 6-yard line with four seconds left in the game. A touchdown would have won the game.
But in his haste to spike the ball to stop the clock on the ensuing play, Seals fumbled the snap, picked it up and then spiked it, resulting in an obscure penalty in which 10 seconds are run off the clock. The rule says that once a quarterback drops the ball, he loses the right to spike it.
Thus, the game ended on the violation, leaving the shaken Pioneers with a 17-12 season-ending victory Saturday afternoon at Lakin Field Dickerson Stadium but assuring the winless Jackets some valid thoughts of better days ahead.
"We can take from this that we have the ability to compete with the teams in our conference,'' said freshman linebacker Mitchell Rowell, "and once we put our minds to it, we can play four quarters and do everything right.''
Said Glenville coach David Hutchison, "They played with great effort and gave us a fight all day long. That's a tough loss for them. Obviously, their coach is doing a great job there.''
State (0-11, 0-10 Mountain East Conference) never led but twice posed serious threats in the game's final minutes.
With Glenville leading 17-12 and 5:59 left in the game, State's Dominique Matthews intercepted a pass to give the Yellow Jackets a possession at their own 20. Helped by a play that brought 30 yards in penalties - pass interference and a dead-ball foul - the Jackets moved to the Glenville 20 where they turned the ball over on downs. The situation looked bleak.
But State forced a quick three-and-out and, after a Glenville punt, took over at its own 27 with 1:36 left.
"We needed to do a better job with our offense there,'' said Hutchison. "We needed one first down [to kill the clock], and they stopped us. We decided to punt and give them the long field instead of going for it.''
By this time, the normally sedate State crowd of several hundred was on its feet and making noise.
On that final drive, a 16-yard Seals-to-Bennefield pass on fourth-and-16 kept State's hopes alive. After a 9-yard Seals-to-Bennefield pass and a Seals sack, State had the ball on its own 40 with time running out. Seals then hit Bennefield along the sideline, and the 6-foot-3 senior from Newark, Del., broke through much of the Glenville secondary.
The Yellow Jacket bench sensed victory.
"That might have been the most excited I've seen the bench this whole year,'' said Rowell. "Everybody believed we had a chance to win this game.''
"There's lots we can build on,'' said first-year State coach Jon Anderson. "But at this moment, I'm going to focus on this group of seniors that have bought in since we've been here, and they're really hurting right now. We'll find things to build on because there's plenty.''
The Pioneers (6-5, 5-4) scored on two of their first three possessions and led 14-0 with 5:56 left in the first quarter. It looked like another long day for the Jackets, who scored just nine offensive touchdowns all year.
"A team of lesser character and lesser discipline,'' Anderson added, "would have possibly looked to finish up and hang it up.''
But State consistently moved the ball and freshman Josh Reuber kicked field goals of 38, 19 and 36 yards in the second quarter. Meanwhile, the defense asserted itself, helping the Jackets to cut the Glenville lead to 14-9 at halftime.
Glenville's Ryan Cullen kicked a 32-yard field goal midway through the third quarter for a 17-9 lead, but Reuber added a 42-yarder with 10:06 left in the game, capping a drive that began on the State 26.
"We probably played our most complete game today, which is good in a sense but I hurt for these guys that hung it out there for 11 games,'' said Anderson. "What do you ask for? You ask for an opportunity to win the game at the end, and we had that. I told them I was proud of them and I loved them. We'll go back to work soon.''
In total yards, State outgained the Pioneers 365 to 234 and had 23 first downs to the visitors' 14. Seals completed 26 of 53 passes for 292 yards and one interception. Bennefield caught eight passes for 162 yards.
Glenville quarterback Sean Steele connected on just 9 of 22 passes for 76 yards and two interceptions (both by Matthews). Rahmann Lee carried 24 times for 132 yards, including a 64-yarder in the first quarter that set up the Pioneers' second TD.
Reach Mike Whiteford at email@example.com.