MARSHALL - Stifling, turnover-creating defense and timely passing finally earned Fairmont head coach Mat Mahoney's his first victory in five tries against the Marshall football team.
Linebacker Jay Ruen produced two of the Cardinals' four turnovers, linebacker Tim Tow notched 10 tackles and quarterback Spencer Chirpich threw for 139 yards and two touchdowns to pace the Cardinals' 15-2 nonconference victory over the Tigers on Friday night at Mattke Field.
"I'm 1-for-5 against (Marshall mentor) Terry (Bahlmann), so it feels unbelievable to finally beat a quality program like this," said Mahoney. "We knew they (the Tigers) were a physical team, so we (coaching staff) told our guys to match that intensity.
SEAL?BLOCK — Fairmont’s Luke Becker (3) finds running room along the sideline by eluding Marshall’s Hunter Greve (middle) as teammate Joe Weber blocks the Tigers’ Max Roelfsema during nonconference football action Friday night at Mattke Field in Marshall. Fairmont lineman Zach Brown (51) watches the action. (Photo by Leanna Becker)
"We played a very physical 48 minutes of football tonight. Our guys fought through the early adversity, and our defense bent only a little, but it didn't break."
Indeed. Marshall was awarded two points via a safety when Fairmont's snap out of the shotgun formation skidded out of the back of the end zone with 5:37 remaining in the opening quarter before Ruen and the Cardinal defense caged the Tigers' potent offense.
Fairmont safety Luke Becker slammed the brakes on Marshall's opening drive by slinging Tiger receiver Andrew Hmielewski to the artificial turf after a 35-yard catch near the Cardinals' 10 before Becker scooped up the fumble at the 5.
Marshall cornerback Nick Saugstad countered by intercepting Chirpich on the series following the Tigers' safety before Ruen countered just before the end of the first quarter.
Ruen tore the football free from Tiger running back Sam Marshall before Cardinal defensive back Matt Lytle pounced on the fumble.
Fairmont then proceeded to log seven of its 11 penalties to bog down any offensive progress as Marshall started first-half possessions at the Cardinals' 44, its own 47, midfield and the Fairmont 47. Tow, tackle Kory Brown, Ruen and defensive coordinator Brad Johnson's alignment denied Marshall access to the end zone - including Ruen's interception - to trail 2-0 by intermission.
It was more defense by both teams as Tiger defender Sam Marshall delivered a drive-halting open-field tackle before Cardinal freshman linebacker Chris Fausch recorded a key quarterback sack on fourth-and-5 at the Fairmont 30.
The Cardinals finally ended the game's offensive drought during the fourth frame's initial stages. Nick Roggow dropped the Tigers' punter for an 11-yard loss at the Marshall 16 to put Chirpich & Co. in business at the doorstep.
Chirpich spotted Becker for a 6-yard strike to the 10 before finding Cole Emler in the left flat to cover the distance for a TD. Chirpich then delivered the key 2-point conversion pass to the sure-handed Becker in the left corner of the end zone for an 8-2 edge with 10:02 left in regulation.
Kory Brown and Ben Abel combined for a sack to stymie Marshall's next possession before Tow and Luke Peterson dropped Tiger quarterback Brad Bahlmann again during the following series.
A short Marshall punt gave the football to Fairmont on the home team's 38. Chirpich converted a pivotal fourth-and-2 with a 22-yard spiral to Ruen before Joe Weber and Ben Abel combined to pound the ball to the 4. Chirpich then spotted Becker for the 4-yard TD before Kolin Kelly kicked the PAT with 1:27 left in the game.
Ruen then sealed the game by recovering the ensuing Tiger fumble on the kickoff return.
Josh Eversman made seven catches for 61 yards to top the Cardinals, while Becker garnered six receptions for 40 yards and one TD.
Fairmont (2-0) plays host to Dassel-Cokato at 7 p.m. next Friday night at Mahoney Field.
Marshall (0-2) opens Southwest Conference action against Luverne at 7 p.m. next Friday night back at Mattke Field on the Southwest Minnesota State University campus in Marshall.
F 0 0 0 15 - 15
M 2 0 0 0 - 2
M - Safety, Fairmont snap out of end zone, 5:37.
F - Cole Emler 10 pass from Spencer Chirpich (Luke Becker pass from Chirpich), 10:02.
F - Becker 4 pass from Chirpich (Kolin Kelly kick), 1:27.
First downs: Marshall 10; Fairmont 9. Rushing: Marshall 43-73; Fairmont 23-58. Passing: Fairmont 17-36-1-139; Marshall 6-11-1-108. Fumbles-lost: Fairmont 2-2; Marshall 4-3. Penalties: Fairmont 11-75; Marshall 4-45.
Offense: Rushing: Ben Abel (F) 8-36, Joe Weber (F) 11-29; Jack Bock (M) 10-51, Sam Marshall (M) 12-33. Passing: Chirpich (F) 17-36-1-139; Brad Bahlmann (M) 6-11-1-108. Receiving: Josh Eversman (F) 7-61, Becker (F) 6-40, Jay Ruen (F) 2-28, Emler (F) 2-10; Andrew Hmielewski (M) 4-93, Marshall (M) 2-15.
Defense: Interceptions: Nick Saugstad (M) and Jay Ruen (F). Fumble recoveries: Luke Becker (F), Matt Lytle (F) and Ruen (F).