FROSTBURG — Chad Palmer passed for one touchdown and ran for another to lead Frostburg State over Wheeling 27-20 in the season opener for both teams Thursday evening at Bobcat Stadium.
The Bobcats, who never trailed, built a 20-0 first-half lead with defensive help and then held on for the seven-point victory.
Originally scheduled to host Alderson Broaddus, the Bobcats’ opponent for the postponed game was switched after the Mountain East Conference made several schedule adjustment’s last week due to COVID-19 protocols at other MEC universities.
Palmer, who finished with 201 yards overall, got the scoring started on the game’s opening possession by completing a 38-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Kyle Belack for the 6-0 lead after Dayne Koontz missed his only extra-point attempt of the game with 8:44 left in the quarter. The 10-play drive covered 78 yards in 6:10.
The Bobcats got the ball back on Wheeling’s next play when quarterback Brennon Norris was hit in the backfield and fumbled with FSU’s Zach Strand recovering at the Cardinals’ 28.
Frostburg State capitalized five plays later on Malcom Facey’s 2-yard run for a 13-0 lead with 5:20 to go in the first quarter.
Facey finished as the team’s second leading rusher behind Palmer’s 63 yards with 62 on 12 attempts.
Midway through the second quarter, another turnover cost Wheeling when Norris was sacked by Carl Igweh and fumbled to the Bobcats’ Ryan Shelton who raced 44 yards for the score and 20-0 lead with nine minutes to go before the half.
Wheeling closed the first half when Jalen Lea, who replaced Norris, found Ryan LaFollette in the back of the end zone for a 7-yard TD pass with six seconds to play and a 20-7 halftime deficit.
On Wheeling’s second second-half possession, the Cardinals pulled to within six on a 1-yard run by Lea with 7:14 left in the third quarter. The 12-play drive traveled 64 yards and took 5:32 to complete.
The 20-14 score stood until early in the fourth when the Bobcats marched 60 yards in 10 plays capped by Palmer’s 3-yard touchdown run.
Wheeling pulled to within seven with a minute to go on Jaquaun Davidson’s 30-yard touchdown pass from Lea. FSU’s Akyian Loney blocked Matthew Greenwood’s extra point.
Frostburg State then recovered Wheeling’s onside kick and ran out the clock for the 27-20 victory.
Defensively, the Bobcats harrassed the Cardinals’ passers with seven sacks and recovered two of Wheeling’s four fumbles. Frostburg State recovered its only fumble.
The Bobcats outgained the Cardinals 337-282, rushing for 201 yards to 138. Palmer passed for 138 yards, completing 8 of 13 with one toucdown. Graham Walker was 2 of 3 for 26 yards.
Graham also rushed for 29 yards on nine attempts and Josh Maxwell gained 33 on 11 rushes.
Wheeling’s Lea passed for 176 yards on 12 completions out of 26 attempts and gained 23 yards on 11 runs. Like Palmer, he also passed and rushed for a score.
Sy Alli was the Cardinals’ leading rusher with 83 yards on 15 attempts with a long run of 15.
Both teams combined for 27 penalties and 245 yards. FSU had 15 for 152.
Frostburg State will play two consecutive Saturday road games. The first will be at Notre Dame (Ohio) beginning at 2 p.m. to be followed with a trip to West Liberty, West Virginia, for a 1 p.m. kickoff.
Wheeling (0-1) plays at Alderson Broaddus on Thursday at 7 p.m.