The Urbana University football team will close out its first season under head coach Tyler Haines on Saturday against a formidable opponent in fifth-ranked Shepherd. Kickoff at Ram Stadium is slated for noon, with video and audio coverage available through ShepherdRams.com.
The undefeated Rams (9-0, 9-0 MEC) pose a major challenge for the Blue Knights (2-8, 1-8 MEC), but Haines and company are not backing down.
“At the end of the day we want to score points and play fast,” Haines said. “We’ve had issues at the quarterback position, but we’re not going to just run the ball and play conservative. We’re going to try and spread the ball around and see what we have moving forward.”
UU is coming off a 47-30 loss to Notre Dame College in its home finale last week. Senior captain D’Gary Wallace registered a school-record 27 tackles, as he now holds five program records entering his final game as a Blue Knight.
UU got to within 10 points in the fourth quarter, but the Falcons scored late to put the game out of reach.
Tajuan Green, a redshirt sophomore from Columbus, made his first career appearance when he replaced Eric Pelfrey at quarterback in the fourth quarter last week. Listed as a wide receiver, Green stepped into the QB role, and immediately led the Blue Knight offense down the field and threw a 35-yard touchdown pass on his first drive.
Green, who transferred from Ohio Dominican after scoring eight touchdowns as a freshman in 2013, struck again on his second drive, with a 14-yard strike through the air but it was too little, too late. He finished 7-of-13 for 95 yards, and has now earned the start this week for the Blue Knights. It will be his first career start in Blue and Grey.
Shepherd, which is tuning up for a playoff run, is coming off a 41-14 road win over Fairmont State. The Rams have dominated this season, scoring at least 41 points in eight of nine games.
They are also impressive on the defensive side of the ball, limiting opponents to a meager 16.6 points per game.
“They’re a very good football team. To be honest with you, we have our hands full on every side of the ball. I don’t really see a weak spot in anything that they do. I’m impressed with their defensive line, and a big focus for us will be protecting our backs and trying to establish a run game,” said Haines.
Haines knows his team has to play to near perfection this week for a chance to knock off the Rams. This season hasn’t gone according to plan, but the Blue Knights have shown glimpses of what’s to come under their young head coach.
“It’s been exciting and bumpy at the same time,” Haines said. “We’re a two-win football team and that’s not where we want to be, but we’ve done a lot of growing up since the beginning and I’m proud of that.”