Eager to put last season's 1-9 finish behind, West Virginia State launches its season at home today against Johnson C. Smith.
Kickoff at Lakin Field in Institute is 1 p.m.
The Yellow Jackets have not enjoyed a winning season since they went 7-3 in 2008, and they'll have to start their quest by reversing a rout from last season. In Charlotte, N.C., the Bulls rolled up 630 total yards and forced four turnovers in a 64-27 runaway.
State coach Earl Monroe knows it won't get much easier.
"They're big, athletic. They do a lot of pulls up front and they're good at it," he said. "They've got really good receivers, athletes out there. They throw a lot of bubble screens to make you defend the perimeter and tackle well.
"We moved the ball quite a bit against them last year, but we had to work to get up and down the field and score. Their speed and size is a big concern for us."
A better performance is paramount, considering State's two subsequent contests - North Carolina A&T and Elon, both Division I FCS schools, both away. The Yellowjackets' eight-game West Virginia Conference schedule commences Sept. 22 at home against Concord.
Ricky Phillips is back behind center for State, fresh from throwing for 2,460 yards last year. He has Ervin Kent (34 catches, 580 yards) back, but needs rushing help from Fairmont State transfer Aubrey Taylor, LeFloyd Phillip and a trimmer Felix Mollett.