Late Push Not Enough as Football Falls on The Road vs. Charleston
Charleston, W. Va. – During the season, the Wheeling University Football team (5-5, 5-4) has been a really good second-half team, orchestrating come from behind wins in back-to-back weeks. They made another late push against The University of Charleston on Saturday, but the deficit was too great to overcome as they fell to the Golden Eagles 28-20.
Coming out of the halftime break, Wheeling trailed 24-0, and was looking for a way to get the offense going. The defense would get the stop they needed on the first drive if the half, and now it was Wheeling's turn to get something going on offense. With the offense set up on their own 23 on a 2nd and five, Chad Palmer completed his longest pass of the season, a 60-yard bomb to senior Ryan LaFollette and the Cardinals were set up at the Golden Eagles 17-yard line. An Interception nearly put the drive on hold, but a personal foul penalty gave the Cardinals new life.
Sy Alli Iv would cap off the drive with a nine-yard touchdown that brought the Charleston lead down to 24-7. However, the Golden Eagles tacked on two more scores in that third quarter and the game swelled to 38-7 as the third quarter clock ticked away. Over the last two weeks, Wheeling has been a fourth-quarter team, scoring 25 points in the fourth quarter combined in their previous two wins. This was a tall order with the team down 29 points, but the Cardinals kept fighting throughout the night to get back in the game.
It began with Wheeling's first drive of the fourth quarter, as they set up on their own 33-yard line. The offense drove the ball down to the Golden Eagle 10 yard line on 12 plays, thanks to runs by Palmer and Elijah Young. Wheeling would go with a little bit of trickery to get on the board as wide receiver Jace Keenan took the ball from Palmer and connected with fellow senior Chris Canadayin the end zone for a touchdown. It was the first collegiate touchdown pass of Keenan's career and brought the score to 38-14. The defense got on the field and made a stop, giving Wheeling the ball back with four minutes left on the clock.
The Cardinals started driving down the field again as Palmer started the drive with an 11-yard pass to Jaquan Davidson, and the Cardinals began moving the ball from their own 15-yard line. Two plays later, Wheeling was set up 3rd and one on their own 35-yard line, needing just a yard to move the chains. However, Young had different plans breaking off a 65-yard touchdown run to get Wheeling back on the board. The Cardinals would go for two, but the try ended up failing and the score would remain at 38-20. Wheeling would not get the ball back for the rest of the game and eventually fell by that same 38-20 score.
In his first collegiate start, Palmer finished the day 12-27, throwing for 146 yards, while rushing six times for a net gain of seven yards. Young's big touchdown run gave him the title of leading rusher on the day, carrying the ball 11 times for 114 yards and a touchdown on the day. Fellow running back Sy Alli IV carried the ball 16 times for 73 yards and a touchdown. With one game remaining on the schedule, Alli needs 63 yards in his final game against Fairmont State to be the program's first 1,000-yard rusher. LaFollette led the receiving corps, making two catches for 63 yards, and Keenan ended the day with one catch for 15 yards and one passing touchdown.
The Wheeling University Football team wraps up their 2021 season on Friday when they head to Fairmont State for a 7 PM kick-off.