By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
BLUEFIELD — Kentucky Christian led 21-0 with all of 3:08 gone in the opening quarter, and didn’t run an offensive play until nearly two minutes later.
“I didn’t know if we were going to call a play offensively in the first quarter,” Kentucky Christian head coach Gene Peterson said.
Neither did anyone else.
The scoreboard read 38-7, but the result was deceiving, as Bluefield College allowed just 10 points on defense, but managed just one big play on offense, dropping a Mid-South Conference decision in the Rams’ home opener on Saturday night at Mitchell Stadium.
What cost the Rams was the opening three minutes, which wasn’t the way Ordell Walker wanted to begin his home debut as Bluefield’s head coach.
“That was the craziest start I think I have ever seen,” Walker said.
How crazy? Just look at the first play from the scrimmage of the game.
Bluefield (0-3, 0-2) took possession at the 19-yard line. Freshman Josh Erby was calling signals and looked to the right when center Mike Tufaro snapped the ball, which rolled into the end zone.
Kentucky Christian Andrew Vannatta fell on the ball for a touchdown. Drew Slikker followed with his first of five extra point kicks and the Knights led 7-0 just 12 seconds into the game.
“I don’t know what happened, we just snapped the ball,” Walker said. “He thought he heard a snap count. It was just a crazy start, but we just have got to learn from it and continue to focus on the process each week and try to get better.”
The craziness continued. Bluefield, which finished with just 36 yards rushing on 38 carries, had a pair of zero yard attempts, with Erby following with a pass attempt on third down, but he never got the ball off.
Kentucky Christian’s Josh Cobb sacked Erby, the ball came loose and 280-pound Marvin Newkirk picked up the pigskin and rumbled 11 yards for another score, and a 14-0 lead after the kick by Slikker.
How about one more time? Bluefield netted no yards on three plays, leaving Daniel Griffin to punt for the first of nine times in the game. It was caught by Darrell Givens, who was able to elude tacklers and maneuver his way untouched 65 yards for a touchdown.
That made the score 21-0 with 11:52 still left in the opening period, with the Knights taking advantage of what the Rams gave them.
“That is what we do and that is what we needed to do,” Peterson said.
While Kentucky Christian — which was down to its fourth string quarterback in the second half against the Rams — managed just 197 total yards to 162 for Bluefield, a win is a win, and the Knights (2-2, 1-0) needed it after last week’s 19-14 loss to first year program Reinhardt.
“It was a win,” Peterson said. “We just needed a win coming off the tough loss we had last week against Reinhardt, but it was a good win.”
Kentucky Christian finally had its first offensive play with 9:03 on the clock after forcing another Griffin punt. An 11-play drive culminated in a 43-yard field goal by Slikker for the 24-0 lead with 3:18 on the clock.
That is 24 points, and the Rams had allowed only 43 yards, all on that drive.
“I think our defense only gave up 10 points, special teams and offensive scores killed us,” Walker said. “I saw some improvement there, but we continue to shoot ourselves in the foot and we have got to grow up and grow up fast.”
Bluefield, which used four quarterbacks, one as a running back on offense, simply couldn’t move the ball against the Knights, who were led by Cobb, who had three sacks, and Darryl Jones who had one. Andrew Stewart paced the visitors with five tackles.
Kentucky Christian finished with 16 tackles for loss and four sacks.
“Their defensive ends, hats off to those guys,” Walker said. “They are aggressive, talented and we struggled all night to move the ball. We didn’t give ourselves many chances with the mental mistakes that we made.”
The Rams never threatened the red zone against the Knights, getting its lone score on a quick slant by Cory Mabry to speedy Rodrell Smith, who got behind the Kentucky Christian defense and sped the rest of 78 yards for Bluefield’s only points of the game.
Caleb Frye added the extra point kick to narrow the lead to 24-7 with 2:27 left in the opening quarter.
“That guy (Smith), he has some wheels, he is really fast so we worked one on one and we were able to hit that,” Walker said. “We missed some other ones that were close, they give you opportunities and you capitalize on one, that is just not enough right now.”
Kentucky Christian then put together its second extended drive of the game, going 64 yards on 14 plays with the Knights answering the Rams’ score with a 1-yard scoring pass from Shaun Jones to Marcus Hicks.
The Knights took a 31-7 lead into the break.
“I thought our defense played very, very well, they pretty much shut them down pretty much all night and that is what we wanted to do,” said Peterson, who had already lost two quarterbacks this season to a torn ACL and a broken foot. “We lost our third string quarterback tonight and ended up with our fourth string quarterback.
“Offensively, we are still not where we need to be.”
Defense ruled after the break, with the first 10 possessions all resulting in punts. Marco Vereen recovered a Kentucky Christian fumble on the Knights’ next chance with the ball, but Bluefield quarterback Ashton Dixon promptly gave it back, having a pass picked off by Jachovi Hardge, who ran it back 65 yards for the final points of the game.
“The defense continued to play well and get stops, but we just could not get in any kind of rhythm offensively,” Walker said. “We started to eliminate the turnovers, but just not enough today to get first downs and move the chains.”
Mabry led Bluefield with 109 yards through the air, although 78 of that was on the pass to Smith, who had 103 yards on three receptions. Backup receiver David Gianesin led the Rams with 31 yards on the ground.
Defensively, the Rams were paced by Cordell Johns with 10 tackles, followed by seven each from Harry Hollins, Ernest Moore and Frank Brooks. Hollins had Bluefield’s lone sack, and the Rams finished with eight tackles for loss.
That unit limited Kentucky Christian’s leading rusher Jamuel Jones to 54 yards, while Jones threw for 74 yards. Hicks had five receptions for 51 yards.
“We thought we matched up well, our defense to their offense, but we have to clean some things up,” Walker said. “I am really proud of our defense, unfortunately the scoreboard doesn’t show it, but they played great.
“It is what it is, but we just have got to get better.”
Up next for the Rams, who are now 0-14 since reinstating its program in time for the 2012 season, will be a visit to Mid-South foe Cumberland, Tenn. next Saturday.
“It is really refocus, we have to process this right now and Monday go back to the grind, watch the film, try to improve and we have got to forget about this and move forward and not let this get in the way of our progress as a program,” Walker said. “Focus on the process, just keep focusing on the process every day.”
Walker liked what he saw from the recorded audience of 716 fans who watched the game, the first time he had seen a game at Mitchell Stadium.
“It was great, the rain passed through so that made for a nice atmosphere with the crowd and cheerleaders, it was super,” said Walker, whose Rams have just three more home games this season. “I am really excited for when we really get it going for what kind of climate we can have here.”
By BRIAN WOODSON
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