The Western Maryland College offense was in Franklin & Marshall territory most of the game yesterday afternoon, but the end zone was another matter.
The Green Terrors squandered opportunity after opportunity -- particularly in the first half -- as Franklin & Marshall's "bend, but don't break" defense made the plays when it needed to in a 16-7 win at Bair Stadium in Westminster.
It was the second straight win for Franklin & Marshall (3-4, 2-2) while Western Maryland fell to 1-5-1, 0-5 in the Centennial Conference.
In the first half alone, the Green Terrors' offense started drives on the Franklin & Marshall side of the field four times. Twice Western Maryland had first-and-goal situations only to come up with missed field-goal attempts.
It wasn't until their seventh drive of the half -- which started on the Diplomats' 19 after Dennis Walker intercepted a Bill Meekings pass -- that the Green Terrors got on the board. The Diplomats already had built a 10-0 lead on Meekings' 16-yard, first-quarter touchdown pass to tight end Adam Warcholak and a 36-yard Beau Eckert field goal in the second.
But when Western Maryland sophomore quarterback Brian Van Deusen found wide receiver Carmen Felus on a crossing pattern in the end zone for a 5-yard score with 1:15 left in the half, it appeared that would be the lift the Green Terrors needed to get their first conference win. It just wasn't to be.
"We just didn't have the answers today when we got close," said Western Maryland first-year coach Tim Keating.
"We went into halftime feeling pretty good thinking we stopped ourselves more than they stopped us. But then in the second half, they just shut us down. You have to give them a lot of credit."
The Diplomats' defense and a 10-play scoring drive early in the fourth quarter did in the Green Terrors.
Meekings, who threw three interceptions in the first half, settled down and was a key in the series that gave the Diplomats their 16-7 lead. On third-and-six on the Diplomats' 27, he called his own number with a delayed draw up the middle that went for 29 yards to the Western Maryland 44. Two plays later, he found a wide-open Warcholak along the left sideline for another 21 yards. Running back Jason Tremblay rambled 22 yards on a draw play to the Green Terrors' 1 before Paul Sorek found a hole along the right side for the score with 9:27 remaining.
Van Deusen, who threw 67 times with 37 completions (both school and conference marks) for 328 yards, ran out of answers with a swarming Diplomats defense all over him in the fourth quarter. He was sacked nine times on the day.
Junior wide receiver Alan Pietkiewicz caught 13 passes for 119 yards for the Green Terrors. He now has 55 catches for 687 yards on the season.
A big key to the Diplomats defensive effort was shutting down the Western Maryland running game, led by Rob Johnson. He finished the day with just 49 yards on 13 carries.
The Green Terrors now have a week off before traveling to Swarthmore before closing out the season at home against Johns Hopkins.
"Today was frustrating, but tomorrow gives us a chance to overcome some of these mistakes. We have a week off and then have two chances to get a conference win starting at Swarthmore," Keating said.
"Everyone's keeping a real good attitude. 'No bailing out' is how [Matt] Lecorchick put it after the game. We're in this for the long run and we'll get things turned around."
-#Franklin & Marshall 7 3 0 6 -- 16
Western Maryland 0 7 0 0 -- 7