Shepherd hosted its second ranked opponent of the 2019 DII football season and this time, walked away victorious in upset fashion. The Rams took down the 6-0, No. 12-ranked West Chester Golden Rams, 35-23.
It was a big win for Shepherd — which moved from the Mountain East Conference to the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference for the 2019 DII football season — keeping its PSAC championship game hopes alive, still with an outside chance to win the East Division. Here's how the Rams pulled off the big win.
Tyson Bagent had another 300-plus yard day
Bagent entered the season on our Harlon Hill Award watchlist and he has certainly filled the role. Entering Saturday's game against West Chester, Bagent had played in five games. He went for more than 300 yards in each one of them.
That trend continued on Saturday as Bagent had over 300 yards passing and three touchdowns at the end of the first half getting the Rams out to a 21-10 lead. It gave the Rams a big cushion to overcome some early turnover trouble to start the second half. Bagent finished with 413 yards for his second 400-yard, three-touchdown game of the year.
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Bagent spread the wealth as four receivers had 45 or more yards. Devin Phelps led the way with 109 yards receiving and two touchdowns, including a nifty 25-yarder that he hugged the line and sped in for the score. Bagent found Ty Hebron for a 70-yard touchdown for his longest play of the day.
Shepherd's pass defense steps up
The Rams had allowed 2,194 yards passing through six games, an average of 365.7 per game. That pass defense also allowed 21 touchdowns in 2019.
It was quite the opposite on Saturday.
Shepherd held West Chester's Mike Piperno — the Golden Rams hero last week — to 121 yards on an 11-for-22 day. Forty-three of those yards came in the finals minutes when the Rams had the game in hand. The Rams defense got to Piperno six times in the sack column and forced two interceptions from Piperno and another from second-string quarterback Yahmir Wilkerson. Simply put, the pass defense was utterly dominant. This was beneficial since the Rams had no answer for West Chester's Ja'Dean McKenzie, who ran for 179 yards and two of the Golden Rams touchdowns.
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What it means in the race for the PSAC
There are now just two undefeated teams in the PSAC: Kutztown in the East and Slippery Rock in the West. The win improves Shepherd to 5-2 on the season, and 3-1 in the PSAC, meaning the Rams — although need some help —are still very much alive.
Kutztown sits atop the PSAC East for now — currently playing Lock Haven Saturday afternoon — and controls its destiny, especially should the Golden Bears win out. While everyone is now chasing Kutztown, the Rams need to keep pace with West Chester and East Stroudsburg — the other one-loss teams in the East — as well. The big advantage for Shepherd is the fact that West Chester has both East Stroudsburg and Kutztown remaining on the schedule while the Rams have only East Stroudsburg left.
The PSAC East is a big cluster, and from here on out, every win matters. Saturday's upset should make for a very exciting finish.