Shorter bat­tles mis­takes in sharp loss to open sea­son

The Standard Journal - - LOCAL SPORTS - By Tommy Ro­manach RN-T Sports Writer

The first col­lege foot­ball game of the sea­son can be seen as a bea­con of hope for a team’s fans. That hope got a strong work­out in Shorter Uni­ver­sity’s sea­son opener Satur­day.

The Hawks com­mit­ted three turnovers and couldn’t stop vis­it­ing Mars Hill’s pass­ing game as Shorter fell 40- 14 at Bar­ron Sta­dium. The game marks the Hawks’ 18th straight loss and 13th straight home loss.

“We just need to clean up the lit­tle men­tal mist akes t hat we have,” Shorter head coach Aaron Kel­ton said. “I think the guys played hard, but we are a bet­ter team than the one that was out here to­day, and we need to show that.”

Shorter sopho­more quar­ter­back Tyler Pul­lum fin­ished 19-of-28 for 244 yards pass­ing and a rushing touch­down. Run­ning back B. J. McCoy, back from an in­jury that kept him out all of last sea­son, fin­ished with 76 yards and a touch­down.

“Tyler has done a great job learn­ing from the games he played last sea- son,” Kel­ton said. “The en­tire team has re­ally put in work learn­ing the sys­tem over the sum­mer.”

The Hawks (0-1) suf­fered the same types of mis­for­tune which plagued them through­out 2016, in which the team went 0-11.

Whether it was turnovers, penal­ties or missed field goals, crit­i­cal mis­takes put Shorter in a 21-0 hole in the first quar­ter from which it couldn’t es­cape.

One is­sue arose Fri­day when Kel­ton was informed that 16 of his play­ers were ruled aca­dem­i­cally in­el­i­gi­ble for the game. The group in­cluded start­ing de­fen­sive backs Ne­hemiah Red­dish and Brodie Gon­za­lez.

Mars Hill (1-0) ex­posed that lack of depth quickly as quar­ter­back David Salmon hit Ke­shaun Tay- lor for a 61-yard touch­down pass on the third play of the game. Salmon would fin­ish with 257 pass­ing yards and three touch­downs.

“More than any­thing, we suf­fered due to the loss of play­ers on the de­fen­sive side of the ball,” Kel­ton said. “The depth is­sues are cer­tainly trou­bling for us as a staff.”

Shorter’s first two drives re­sulted in a missed field goal and a lost fum­ble by McCoy, both lead­ing to Mars Hill touch­downs to put the Moun­tain Lions up by three scores after one quar­ter.

The Hawks got into the red zone on their third drive, only for Pul­lum to be picked off by Chris Lea­mon, who took it back 85 yards for a touch­down.

The lone bright spot in the day came with three min­utes left in the first half, when the Hawks scored on a 1-yard dive by McCoy, end­ing a stretch of 22 quar­ters with­out Shorter scor­ing a point.

Shorter opened the sec­ond half with a touch­down to make it 27-14, but Salmon quickly re­sponded with a touch­down pass to Craig Rucker to go back up 33-14 mid­way through the third. The Hawks failed to record a first down the rest of the game.

“We need to work on putting points on the board when we have the chance, and we have to get more phys­i­cal as well,” Kel­ton said. “We’ll be back at prac­tice and we’ll keep plug­ging along, that’s all we can do.”

The Hawks travel to Greenevill­e, Ten­nessee, next Satur­day to play Tus­cu­lum.

Steven Eck­hoff / Rome News-Tri­bune

Shorter’s Rod­ney Jack­son (left) breaks up a pass to Mars Hill’s Javon Har­bi­son at the goal line dur­ing Satur­day’s game.

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